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All reviews - Movies (8) - DVDs (2)


Posted : 16 years, 2 months ago on 20 February 2008 11:06 (A review of Once)

When going into a musical, the subtle approach is hardly ever taken. Not to say it’s better one way or the other, but Once proves without a doubt that a quiet, bittersweet, subtle approach can work wonders, and give a new level to your typical “indie film”. Not a lot of films can so easily mesh so many genres together, and make it work so well. You’ve got your basic style and presentation of an independent film, you’ve got the premise of a romance film, and then you realize that it isn’t just a musically themed movie, it’s a musical. Usually, I wouldn’t jump to see any movie under those genres, let alone one that attempts to hold all three, but I was thoroughly impressed and very happy with the outcome. These days, anybody can make a movie with just a few thousand dollars and a little effort, and after seeing just enough independent films to know that many of them are nothing more than good attempts, it’s very refreshing to find one that’s not just “good enough”. It could hold it’s own with the best of them, and it’s sad to know it will never get the recognition it deserves. The funny thing about Once is that it’s so simplistic, it’s a little challenging to provide a very detailed review. But it deserves any praise it can get, so here we go.

The characters are nameless and credited as The Guy and The Girl. While The Guy plays his music in the streets of Dublin, he meets and becomes friends with a piano playing Czech girl. After it’s established that neither of them are in any state to start a new relationship, and they both have many issues they need to work out, a strange bond is formed with the two. Helping each other move on through music, but sort of playing and writing it for each other. It creates a mood and tone that makes you realize it’s not so uncommon or hard to believe, and that maybe you’ve been there yourself before. Likable and friendly, it’s easy to feel for them, and their chemistry is perfect.

The music, as it has to be noted, is absolutely wonderful singer / songwriter style, and it’s very effective and well executed. Written and performed by the stars of the movie, a certain personalized element is introduced through the music that’s hard to miss. A non-extravagant method of filming compliments the music, giving it a feeling that you’re not watching a musical, you’re just watching people on a bus play a guitar, or you’re just watching some people on the street sing, or you’re just watching a girl play a piano. It’s not flashy, and not meant to blow you away, but it does anyway. For that, we can be thankful.

Again, the movie is simple, and it’s hard to put into words a convincing review, but it’s hard to imagine being disappointed in this film. With so many subtle touches, and so many personal moments, and so little typical elements of the genres it utilizes, it really does wonders, and is easily one of the best films of it’s year. What’s most notable, and most important to me, is how well it sticks with you. The tone, and the songs, and the sadness, and everything else just stays with you the rest of the day or night. See this film, and if you can, see it with somebody you love. It’s a great movie for those kinds of occasions.

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Posted : 16 years, 2 months ago on 11 February 2008 03:24 (A review of Across the Universe)

The idea behind this film is something that makes so much sense, I’m shocked it took so long for it to come about. A musical, set in a film, containing only renditions of popular Beatles music. Does it work? Well, I suppose that depends on what exactly it was that you wanted from the film. A lot of people responded negatively, attacking the weak story and method in which it was filmed. Others responded very positively, but their views of the movie may be more about The Beatles than the movie itself. Overall, I think it’s almost a guaranteed win for all Beatles and musical fans, and it’s really hit or miss for anybody else. That’s not really a fault, but it may end up hurting the film anyway.

The story behind the movie is very simple. A group of strangers meet up, become friends, and then struggle with their own relationships, as well as the war in Vietnam. The movie focuses most heavily on Jude and Lucy, what‘s important, and what life means to them.. With a cast of very individualized characters, all named to reference Beatles songs, the film really opens itself up to some very interesting variations of familiar songs, all now completely changed and personalized to the situation at hand. A sad thing, however, is that each character is very unique, but never really given a chance to fully develop. I guess character development, and a really engrossing story, is what you have to sacrifice to get a musical over two hours long, containing over thirty songs. In the end, it’s worth it if you love those songs, but I think this is where the rest of the audience may feel cheated. Not knowing the songs, or caring about their relevance, you might be left with a pretty bland film.

The music itself is, not surprising, the highlight of the movie. It’s easy to forget, and not well advertised, that it is a musical, just set to film, and the music sequences really show this off. All of them are done in a very excellent, obviously thought out manner. I Want To Hold Your Hand is now slower, sung by a young cheerleader, and as she walks through a football field, players tumble and jump behind her in slow motion. It gives it a much sadder feeling, and I think the shock of hearing the song done so differently may be enough to carry the entire sequence. Strawberry Fields Forever is an amazing montage of Vietnam battles, and Jude taking out his frustrations with art. Let It Be shows violent riots, African Americans being beaten and killed, all while a small child sings alone on the street. When the song is sad, the scenery that goes along with it is sad, and when the song is drug influenced, the sequence may dizzy you with bizarre visuals and inverted color effects. Every song was obviously handled with care, but unfortunately, it’s also apparent that they’re essentially a crutch to push the story along. If the music wasn’t The Beatles, I can’t imagine the story being interesting enough to hold up.

The acting isn’t anything remarkable, and neither is the dialogue. The movie really is a musical for Beatles fans, and it shows with constant details directly referencing Beatles pop-culture that may not be considered by someone not familiar with the band. It’s a shame that it’s not a more widely assessable film, but if you are somebody that enjoys musicals, if you can trade a rather bland story, and under-developed characters, for amazing music sequences, and plenty of your favorite Beatles songs, then give this movie a chance. Otherwise, you may want to steer clear of it, because it definitely isn’t for everybody.

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Posted : 16 years, 2 months ago on 10 February 2008 04:25 (A review of Brick)

Ambition might sometimes carry a film a long way, and hopefully the film itself will take it the rest of the way. Other times, once the ambition ends, the movie is left face down, and in the case of Brick, it’s the latter. It’s basically about a guy trying to figure out why his ex-girlfriend asked him for help, because she’s recently turned up dead. It’s a mystery-solving detective film that pays homage to classic film-noir, but has the unfortunate setting of high school life, including a full cast of teenagers.

The movie in and of itself isn’t bad. The acting is decent (for teenagers), the plot isn’t anything new but not so boring that it wouldn’t work, it’s shot well, edited well, and the dialogue is great. The only problem is that it’s acted out by seventeen year olds. It doesn’t exactly sound like a huge set back, as it is a neat idea, but it fails miserably and leaves the movie absolutely stained with unintentionally laughably bad scenarios; such as a kid sporting a cape, walking with a cane (without actually needing one), and having a driver (presumably his mother) take him here and there in a van. The van has a lamp in it too, in case the dome light isn’t functional. This adult-themes life style and dialogue that is presented in a teenage environment works when it’s comical, ala Rushmore, but in Brick it’s not meant to be taken lightly. In fact, I’m unsure what the tone of the film is supposed to be, but it should have been marketed as a comedy.

It might have worked a little bit better if there was at least one child that wasn’t so keen to the fast paced manner in which people spoke in the forties, or maybe didn’t know at least one obscure phrase or figure of speech. But no, every student in this very lenient high school is like a smaller, less talented, hipster reincarnation of Humphrey Bogart. When we do see an actual adult (there are only two), they don’t appear to be bothered by anything. One, a parent, politely serves juice to her son and his friends, who are literally everywhere. The other, a vice principal, or a VP (that’s what they’re called), is almost threatened by the students, and allows them to do virtually whatever they want. As if the student and the VP are rival police officers, they fight and bicker, and make demands. Anybody under the age of eighteen may be moved by scenes like this, but everybody over the age of eighteen should see how ridiculous it is. Even the thug, who is white and looks like a D student, or a shop class enthusiast, is hip to all the intensely asinine conversations.

Something else that bothered me was how inconsistent it is. I might be simply nit-picking, but the movie sort of opens the doors to my complaint. The entire film, all the characters are so hip to knowledge, and info, and it seems to be such a valuable currency, and everybody wants something for it, but nobody has a cellular phone. If I’m to believe this is a high school in California, I’m never going to believe it if only one person has a cellular phone (which they borrowed from their mother). Instead, people still use and call payphones, and write notes that tell you to be here and this time. Even when a student is killed, and is missing for several days, there are no police interviews, no sort of investigation, nothing. The body just sits around and rots, I guess.

Another very silly problem that I had was when the main character starts having coughing fits. He doesn’t smoke, and seems fine, so they really come out of nowhere. He then begins to have a hard time walking, and seems very weak. Eventually we find out it’s because he has “swallowed a lot of blood”. Well, I’m somebody that has actually had the misfortune of swallowing a large portion of their own blood, so I know what happens. I also have been under the stress and displeasure of doing strenuous work with little to no sleep, and coughing fits and this insane weakening of the body isn’t a side effect. Especially when we’re talking about somebody who is probably seventeen years old. There are some aspects of films that I may not believe, but I don’t know any better, so it really doesn’t matter. But something like this in my mind is total common knowledge. Swallowing your own blood doesn’t cause coughing fits, nor does it make somebody have a hard time walking. I think at own point he collapses and blacks out. It’s just one of those things that is so obviously overblown, it doesn’t work within a “serious” film. It just comes off goofy and laughable.

There isn’t much else to say. It feels like a total fantasy world that I simply can’t allow myself to believe in. There is no balance to make me believe it’s feasible, and the convoluted plot doesn’t help. By the end of the movie, any questions you may or may not have are answered by a little monologue given by our lead detective that explains everything, ala Vanilla Sky, a technique I despise as it either belittles the audience, or admits to having a poorly executed story. In the end, I felt like I was watching an extended, live action episode of Rugrats, or Muppet Babies. Some people argue that it’s a great interpretation of film-noir, going so far as to create a genre: neo-noir. But what if it were 12 year olds? Would it still be a great interpretation? What if it were 8 year olds? The point is, I think believe age matters with this movie. Once you’re years older than the entire cast, it no longer remains as an ambitious project, it becomes a parody. If that was the point, then bravo, but I doubt it was. See this film if you want to laugh, but don’t see it for any other reason.

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Posted : 16 years, 2 months ago on 4 February 2008 05:30 (A review of Cloverfield)

This is certainly a challenging movie to review for several reasons. First of all, it’s going to contain spoilers though I don’t think they should be considered “spoilers”. They’re more like logical steps in the story, but people may not be aware of a logical step in a story and be put off by me simply mentioning said events, so for the record: spoilers will be made. Secondly, it has an extreme amount of hype that comes with it, and a lot of times that causes some very decided, and passionate opinions about trivial things. It’s hard to look at these kinds of movies without falling into the nonsense, but I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of doing this. I will say that I went into it thinking it was going to be horrible. From start to finish, the idea seemed very ridiculous. A monster attacking a city, the shaky handheld camera, the notion that it came from space, it all just seemed like ideas that were either purposely avoided, or overused, all rolled up into one big movie, and plastered to hype-posters with “mystery glue”. I have to say that despite my very low expectations, I was surprised at how good a movie could be with so many flaws.

The movie opens black with some text letting us know the tape was found in central park, so it’s assumed from the beginning that everybody dies, but it also kind of implies that maybe it’s all over and done with, but I’ll touch on that later. The opening is a party for a friend who is going off to Japan as a the vice president of some corporation of something we’re never told. My first thought was about how predictable Japan was for the distant place, as this is a movie featuring a monster attacking a city. It’s already undeniable that the most popular movies in the monster genre are Godzilla and King Kong, but going off to New York wouldn’t have made much sense. But it’s forgivable, because if people are going to poke fun at your movie by calling it Godzilla, you might as well beat them to the joke. That’s all beside the point, because the real issue with the entire introduction to the movie is that it felt fake. The entire idea behind the movie is to suspend your belief long enough to enjoy it, and while that’s totally impossible, you can at least be convinced of some things by means of great acting. This is where the entire introduction is lacking, as it’s obviously lesser known, less talented actors attempting to talk freely, act naturally, and not seem like they’re following a script. Fact is, they do, and I think it wouldn’t have been too risky to just have them improvise all the dialogue, except for some elements that would have progressed them into areas of the city, pushing the story. I could be wrong, but I don’t think it would have hurt the film anymore than totally unnatural sounding, written dialogue.

After the party goes on for a while, some of the guys are just sitting around, there is a huge noise, and most of the city loses power. It just happens, and for this, I give the film credit. There is no real build up like what you might expect, they’re just sitting around when it happens. They go to the roof to get a better view, and that’s when the movie really gets interesting. An explosion, massive debris falling on the building, lots of power shortages, lots of screaming and running, when they’re outside there is just nothing but chaos, and you’re never really sure what to think, what will happen, what’s going on. It’s just madness, and I have to give credit again for great special effects, because the movie really does a good job for what it has. The city really does look destroyed, and it never really has that “cartoon” look a lot of modern special effects have, and suffer from. Be it a destroyed bridge, collapsing building, whatever, it’s always convincing. My personal favorite part of the movie is a scene where they’re walking down the street and suddenly the monster makes an appearance, and a hail of missiles, gunfire, noise, tanks, army troops, and everything else. All the while the unfortunate friends are stuck ducking under cars and screaming, and it’s just so intense you can’t help but get very excited. What else is unfortunate, is that from here on out there are a series of scenes that feel extremely fake, only because they’re being filmed. I can only speak for myself, and I think I can vouch for the majority of my friends, but I don’t think I’d film people having to tell their mother that they their son is dead. But the movie is full of scenes like this, and it makes perfect sense in a conventional film, because there “is no camera”, we’re watching from a point of view. But in Cloverfield, there is a camera, and a very tasteless cameraman who doesn’t think it’s ever a good idea to turn it off, no matter what. Some scenes just don’t have that feeling like the rest, and it hurts the movie.

The cameraman himself was one of my biggest complaints. While I understand that in any terrible situation, you always have to have a sense of humor, but with a movie like this, and a situation like that, I simply don’t believe anybody would have the mental capacity to be cracking wise as often as this guy does. He must have guts and balls of absolute steel, and nerves to match, because just moments after escaping death, time and time again, he’s right on top of the joke department, and he’s always able to bring down the audience (me, in this case) from a place of suspended belief. This is just one of a few clichés that the movie has, and is ultimately why I wouldn’t rate it higher. It’s a movie that’s attempting to take most conventional aspects of filmmaking and throw them away, yet it’s filled with plenty of movie clichés that you would expect in any other movie, but get in this one too. I know a lot of people thought Hud, the cameraman, was a great aspect to the film, and was very funny, but I didn’t feel it. I’ve been in situations where I’ve been terrified, and somebody making a bunch of wisecracks and constantly doing their best to convince me they can’t take something serious isn’t my idea of comic relief. It’s just annoying. Granted, I’ve never been in a situation as bad as what these kids were in, and it might be that kind of bizarre defense mechanism, but it doesn’t come off that way. Instead, after seeing this movie, you might expect Hug to make a joke at a funeral, or be “that guy” to say “awkward” during an awkward moment. But that’s all set aside, because like everyone else, he dies, and if you hated him like I did, you can enjoy his death.

Now, this is where there is another problem that could have been easily corrected. The movie does a great job of hiding the monster, and I really liked that. You see pieces of it here and there, but it’s never really holding still, and it’s never clear, and it’s well done. Except for one scene where the monster literally just shows up randomly without any warning, and just sits in front of the everybody so it can be filmed nice and clear, and it even snarls into the camera. It’s obvious that it was done just to satisfy people that wanted to see it, and couldn’t handle the concept of something evil that’s never seen, and it seems really out of place. The entire movie does such a good job of making the camera seem plausible, meaning it never seems too convenient that everybody is there when it’s being filmed, except for this one moment. Up until now, the monster has been loud, fast, and followed by missiles and gun fire, but for this one moment that goes on for a long time, it’s just there. No warning or anything. The size also seems a little off. Before this shot, the monster seems huge, with a head maybe two floors tall, but here, it seems to be much, much smaller. Other than this shot, the monster is very well hidden, and the concept of hiding the threat for suspense works great. This one shot almost ruins it. And like all the other flaws, it’s forgivable because the action is great and it looks good.

Now, on to the last issue I had with the movie. I’ve mentioned clichés, and that the dialogue was poor, and none of them would have been there if it weren’t for this huge annoyance. Cloverfield is a love story, the monster is just the accelerator. The etire crew of kids are moving into the city, where the monster is, just so one of them can save a girl he loves. Of course, this is never advertised, or implied. But it’s there and it’s really the point. It feels like it might has been written by Bay, the same way his movies are loved wrapped around action. The end of the movie is something I won’t go into detail about, but it is cliché, and it does involve the lovebirds. It’s a disappointing ending, but satisfying all at the same time. I’m glad everybody died, and I’m glad the monster is never explained, and I’m glad that it ends with us losing. But I hate the characters, and how cliché their actions are, and how sappy it is. In a movie that wants me to play along, they do a poor job of creative realistic, believable people. But, all the negative aspects aside, it’s a cool movie, and totally worth seeing at least once. Just don’t believe the hype, don’t fall for the idea that it’s totally original, and unlike anything else, and simply a masterpiece. It’s not deep, it’s not a masterpiece, but it is cool. Overall, it seems that people either love it, or hate it. What you have to do is understand that it’s a well balanced attempt, and perhaps the first step in a new method of making monster and horror movies. The best thing it does is pave the way for future attempts at creative filmmaking, and that alone is more than I can say about a lot of other films.

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Posted : 16 years, 2 months ago on 30 January 2008 09:54 (A review of Sid & Nancy)

I went into Sid and Nancy as a pretty decent Sex Pistols fan, a huge Gary Oldman fan, and an overall trust in the judgment of a few reviews, and the recommendation from Criterion. If you don’t know too much about Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy, you may not want to read on, because this will contain various spoilers about the story, and their lives. I have to admit that I don’t know too much about Sid Vicious as a person, his life outside the media, what Nancy was like outside what the interviews I‘ve seen show, or how the Sex Pistols lived in general, so I can’t comment too much about the historical accuracy of the film, outside of a few things. I went into this film pretty certain it would at the least be a good movie, but I walked out of it pretty disappointed, and ultimately confused about what the point of it was.

The movie follows Sid Vicious from the time he met Nancy, to the time of her death, showing his time with Sex Pistols and his drug abuse. I personally enjoyed the moments with the Sex Pistols best, because despite having an actor not looking anything like Johnny Rotten, or really sounding anything like him at all, the live shows were overall pretty good, and really felt like an effort that went further than the performance itself. What’s strange though is to know just how popular Sex Pistols are, but see them playing shows for maybe 10-20 people. I’m sure their shows were small, but the movie doesn’t so much as imply the important their music had on punk rock. But that’s kind of beside the point. What really hurt everything in between and after these shows was how incoherent almost everything is, most notably the dialogue. Between the accents, the bizarre manner in which everybody is speaking, and the slur of alcohol and whatever other drugs everybody is supposed to be on, every line is spat out and nearly impossible to understand. After a while I actually turned the subtitles on, and learned that the dialogue is hardly written to advance story, but merely to highlight scenes. Some scenes seem so out of place that it feels like an amateur film, or some sick fan film, shot by somebody idolizing Sid and embracing his drug use.

But, once Sid Vicious moves on after his time with Sex Pistols, the movie really just seems to spiral further and further into a messy, blurry, and seemingly pointless montage of moments that no mother would ever want to know their son or daughter for. It’s almost as if it’s an anti-drug movie, or an anti-punk rock movie. It could best be used to exemplify the excellence that is Gary Oldman and his skill. Accurate to the sound and look aside, though he did do a pretty impressive job, Oldman shows us that no matter what, he can transform into a completely different person, and it’s really the highlight of the film, and the only reason why I’d recommend it. His role, like everything else he’s done, is so stand out, and so dedicated, it’s shocking that he’s not more famous, or offered bigger roles. Chloe Webb, who played Nancy, might as well be Nancy herself. Having only seen an interview or two with Nancy, I can compare only a tiny bit. But, she seems to do a great job of portraying a very difficult person. The unfortunate side of this is that her character is such an annoyance, and such a difficult person, that it becomes a challenge just to watch the film. Her personality is the equivalent to having birds constantly attacking your hair, while screeching. By the time the movie ended, I was actually tired from her voice, and her over-the-top, exaggerated worship of Vicious and drugs. It’s just overpowering. I really hate to sound like I’m personally attacking these people, I’m not, I just can’t see the point of the film in nearly any aspect. Was the intent to show people that you wouldn’t like? If so, bravo. But they really went overboard.

Her death was a little depressing, and I will admit that I did feel pretty crappy during the scene. But this is just one of the many scenes that make no sense to me. Now, I’m not a conspiracy nut when it comes to her death. But what is known is that Sid woke up, she was dead, and he denied having a part in it. It’s even speculated that drug dealers did it, and the movie makes notice of drug dealers not liking her whatsoever. But it doesn’t leave her death as open as all that. Instead, we see Sid stab her in the stomach, and fall asleep. Not a lot of mystery there. After her death, you would think that it would show him in jail, getting clean, having his mother bail him out, and then him dying. Or maybe at least mentioning the fact that he had another girlfriend. Something, but no. Instead, it takes a very vague, and very bizarre turn. We see him leaving jail, getting a slice of pizza, and then dancing with three children in the street. A cab slowly approaching, and in the back is Nancy. After getting in the cab with her, it’s driven toward the city, and we see the three children run after the car. After a fade out, it tells us that Sid died on X date of a heroin overdose. The entire scene is a mystery to me, and it sort of makes you realize how little sense the entire film makes, all the way to the very end. Other than Oldman, the film has nothing compelling, poor editing, and virtually no style or personality. It’s just messy.

I’ll be fair and just admit something. There are many movies I didn‘t like, while many did, and I can understand and see where they‘re coming from. I know why people like some movies, and why I didn‘t. But this film? I just don‘t get it. I don’t. I don’t get the romanticism behind living in a daze, unaware of what country you’re in, what day it is, how to walk, or anything else. I don’t get any of it, and the movie really doesn’t help make sense of it. Sid comes off as an incompetent musician, purposely bad singer, and overall horrible person. Totally unlikable, undependable, useless, and stupid. This could all be untrue to how he really was, and I could be a jerk for thinking it. Underneath it all, Sid and Nancy could both be truly great people, but I’d never know, because the only film I’ve seen on the couple portrays them in the most negative light possible, and leaves you wondering why anybody cares about these people. Maybe that‘s the point, and if it is, then I‘m even more confused. But I seriously doubt that was the intent. If you aren’t a fan of the lifestyle, see the movie for Gary Oldman if it’s available. I wouldn’t recommend putting forth the time and money to get the Criterion, and I don’t think it’s really worth owning if you find a copy for a retail price. But, if you want to see everything with Oldman, or just know somebody that owns it and want to say you’ve seen it, then go ahead. Don’t try to make sense of it, and if you’re like me, and Bodies is your favorite Sex Pistols song, prepare to hear the worst rendition of it.

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Posted : 16 years, 2 months ago on 29 January 2008 06:33 (A review of The Blair Witch Project)

What makes a horror movie scary? As of today, scary movies are about two things: jump out scares, and gore. Neither of which are truly scary, just uncomfortable. In fact, more often than not, you’ll always know what’s coming, be it ridiculous amounts of gore, or something popping out momentarily, you’ll just be wondering when and how. That’s the current trend of horror movies, and it seems to work with mainstream audiences. I think what makes those movies good, if those are your types of movies, is the shock itself, and the idea of suspending disbelief and knowing that you can see horrible things, and unthinkable things, and never have a doubt that it’s not only fake but totally impossible. This is where The Blair Witch Project really shines. Just to make my point, I’m going to look at Cloverfield as a comparison due to the similar camera work. Cloverfield came out during a time when almost everybody had access to the internet, and was well aware of who was making it and what it was about. Viral marketing aside, people know it was fake. But The Blair Witch Project really did something new, and virtually impossible to duplicate. It’s advertising wasn’t for a movie, but for the tape and the legends, right down to fake documentaries on the Blair Witch herself on respectable television channels like The History Channel and A&E.

More interesting is how it’s done. Popular, and perhaps overused today, the “shaky cam” really made sense then, as it was “filmed” by amateur film makers, and only two cameras, one of which was a home video camera. Because of this, you’re only exposed to what they are, so you really are experiencing exactly what they went through, only in small doses. That includes their pre-trip shopping, interviews townspeople, and a few short moments of the actual documentary they were attempting to make. The rest is what “actually” happened, and it’s execution, while hated by many people, is really something to see to believe.

Before going on, I have to state for record that I’ve seen a lot of horror movies, and have never been afraid. I’ve been jumpy, or grossed out, or freaked out, or anything else that’s getting close, but no cigar in terms of being afraid. But The Blair Witch Project scared me. This really says a lot, because while some movies in the same genre are some that I love and are really impressed by, my feelings are because of the film itself, and not what it does. In The Shining, the acting is spot on, and it has amazing cinematography and sound, and it’s just a top notch film. But it’s not scary. The Blair Witch takes away all the big names, all the gore, all the jump moments, all the creepy music, all the little kid singing some eerie song, all the typical elements, and it replaces it with mystery. You never know what it is, you never see it, you always feel just slightly left behind and in the dark about everything. Maybe I’m afraid of this film because I grew up next to the woods, and I’m already pretty terrified of being in the woods. Maybe it’s my fear of getting lost. Maybe it’s my fear of not knowing. It doesn’t matter, because this movie has all those things, and then a little more.

Unfortunately, there is no way to understand how the elements of the film work without seeing it, and I’d hate to spoil anything in a review. Granted, I’m nearly ten years late in reviewing it, I still feel the same. But the entire movie has an atmosphere, and a feeling that’s so evident, and so looming, that even in the day shots you’re nervous. Because you’re seeing it through a video camera perspective, you can only feel like you’re really there. The actors don’t give a typical performance, they give a real one. There really isn’t anything “Hollywood” about the film, which may be why it wasn’t well received. But, for the sake of making a point, and trying to convince anybody that hasn’t seen this film to see it, I’m going to give a small spoiler of what I consider the most terrifying part of the movie. So, spoilers ahead. During one scene, the camera turn on and the three hikers are in their tent at night, and they’ve been woken up by some sort of noise out in the woods. It comes in layers, and seems to be all around them. More than that, there is a strange cackling, or moaning, or something that’s really very hard to describe. Then, out of nowhere, the tent begins to act as if there are people all around it pushing their hands on it, rubbing the sides up and down, very quickly. The three open the tent and run, and all the while all you can is somebody in front of the camera operator running, screaming, asking “what is that?”. End spoiler. Scenes like this that come and go between their days are so freaky, and so out of my worst nightmares, and the very reason why I don’t like camping, that it makes me glad this movie is fake. I know plenty of people that were let down that it was real, and perhaps that’s their own fault for buying into the marketing (even though that was the point), but I’m glad it’s fake. Because if it were real, I’d never go into the woods…or Maryland.

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Posted : 16 years, 3 months ago on 18 January 2008 08:08 (A review of 3:10 to Yuma)

An important note I feel should be made is that I don’t really care for westerns. Out of all the genres, I’ve always found westerns to seem the most Hollywood, and its never seemed to be done the way it should be. Granted, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (and the rest of the trilogy) is an exception, and I haven’t seen the original 3:10 to Yuma, the 2007 remake is easily one of the best westerns I’ve cautiously, but appreciatively watched. What is strange, and rather unfortunate considering this is a review of the film, is that I really don’t have a lot to say, especially given my nature of writing reviews pages in length. This isn’t a bad thing, however.

The biggest aspect the movie has going for it is the overall look of the characters, and that’s something that I don’t think it done very much anymore. Every person you see is filthy, looks as if they would smell horrible, presents themselves poorly, and have little to no good characteristics (physically speaking), except for a few rich men, and two women. This is how I would imagine people looking during this time period, more so when you think about how they live. All their clothing is stained, dusty, and looks heavy. Their guns appear old, cold, and primitive. Their teeth are bad (something I smiled at, I hate when movies show people in older time periods with perfectly white, sparkling teeth), hair a mess, facial hair is usually anything but perfected, and the accents are spot on (which I think is worth mentioning considering Bale is from Wales, something not a lot of people realize).

This all makes everything else just that much more believable, and that’s a hard thing to do: make a movie believable. Everything looked the part, and by that I mean it didn’t look like a set, something I’ve come to miss. These days virtually everything is GCI, and done in front of a screen, or shot on a small set with an environment digitally added in the background. Not this movie though, you’re going to feel like they went out somewhere west, found some desolate town that’s probably a museum or tourist attraction, and shot a movie. More to the realism are the actions in which the characters make. You aren’t going to see anybody shooting a rope from miles away, you aren’t going to see men shot multiple times and live, and you aren’t going to see anybody jump off a train onto a horse. When a man is shot, he’s pretty much out of luck. When something happens, you kind of cringe realizing it isn’t overdone, it’s just real looking. One shot in particular shows a man being shot with a shotgun from a relatively close distance, and rather than exploding into a cloud of blood, or flying back several feet from a window, his chest and stomach pop open, and he collapses. That’s it. The realistic approach to something like this is very welcoming, as it tends to be more painful looking than the more-popular-than-ever gore-tactics.

The story, while very simple, is extremely effective as it deals with issues and themes everybody can relate to: shame, desperation, and fear. Bale is a rancher on the verge of having his home taken from him, and after having a run-in with a robber and overall bad guy, he’s hired to help transport him to a train station for a pay of 200 dollars. All throughout the movie you’ll pick up on little moments, and hints, to what characters are thinking and feeling, and you’ll get it right way. You’ll never question anything, you’ll just understand. Bale’s character is an overall sad one, and while you’ll want him to win in the end, you’ll sort of be hoping everything somehow works out for Crowe, as his character is surprisingly likable and charismatic, while extremely intimidating and ruthful. That’s the other thing, while Crowe is the “bad guy” of the film, the real threat is Ben Foster’s character, and I’m not going to spoil anything about him, except for that he’s an absolute horror of a person. You’ll hate him. There’s also an unaccredited cameo made by Luke Wilson, who also plays a sort of bastard you won’t like. And everybody does a spot on job, and you’ll easily be convinced these aren’t actors, there are real people. It won’t be long until people are using Christian Bale’s name the same way people still use Tom Hanks. He’s an amazing actor, and this is one of those films that really showcase that. Even more noteworthy is how odd their relationship is throughout the movie. They both display such a strange connection, and a chemistry that makes you sort of with they were in cahoots together.

It’s rare that I can look at a movie and really find little to nothing really wrong with it, but I would never trust a review that said nothing bad about a movie, so I’ll just find something wrong with it. The ending, and I do mean the last minute or so, not the last 10-20 minutes, felt rushed. It’s not disappointing by any means, but when it happens, if you’re like me, you’ll be hoping that it isn’t ending right that second. Well, sorry, but it is. Other than that, I can’t really find anything bad about the movie, honestly. That’s a rare thing, especially since it’s a genre I don’t even like. I highly recommend seeing this film.

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Posted : 16 years, 3 months ago on 7 January 2008 03:28 (A review of Transformers)

I gave myself a few hours time before writing any sort of review for this movie, because the initial reaction typically isn’t the same as your view in retrospect, but in this case it’s pretty much the same: distaste and an overall resentment toward Michael Bay and the entire team behind the movie. And, before I go on, if you’re just going to present me with some pointless, irrelevant argument about how Michael Bay is good for his other movies, skip it. Ditto that if you’re going to tell me it was good for what it was (a robot action movie), because my opinion of this movie covers that point of view. The shortest review I can give it this: failure. But in case you’re interested, here is the longer version.

If you followed the production of the movie, it’s clear that Bay had a very hard time with the film. If you haven’t followed it, but have seen the movie, it’s clear that Bay had a very hard time with the film. From the start of the film it’s clear that it’s going to be very typical in terms of what Bay is comfortable with, which is clichés. There are many under plots all throughout the film that seem very irrelevant, in the way, and only really added to give the film a deeper feel, which it doesn’t do. It instead leaves you wanting more Transformers, which is a word I don’t think applied fairly to the robots we see. After a collection of totally useless characters all quipping silly jokes and offbeat reactions to serious situations, we’re presenting with a love story. A love story? Isn’t this Transformers? It’s hard to tell, but I think the title could have been Shia LaBeouf and His Robot Friends.

The love story takes up more time, gets more screenplay, and seems, at times, a little more important than what the movie should be about: Transformers. It seems weird that it even has to be said, but it does. The movie takes nearly an hour and a half to get going, and by then you’re either bored or angry. If you’re someone that watched the cartoon, you’re both. Despite this, most people sat there like saps and let the film continue and yes I do include myself in that generalization.

The story (not the love story, the “real” story) is so vague, and so untouched, it seems totally secondary, as do the Transformers themselves. It isn’t that it has plot holes per se, it’s just got a lazy feel to it. The biggest mistake was making the movie like a summer blockbuster, and not like a movie for Transformer fans. But even as a summer action film it falls very short. The real action isn’t until the end of the movie, and clocking it at around two and a half hours, it doesn’t seem worth the wait. I won’t give away what the story is about, but not out of consideration for those yet to see it. I’m not going into it because it won’t ruin it, or enhance it. It’s so irrelevant to the movie I could tell you every single scene and it wouldn’t matter. Going in with knowledge or going in fresh, it’s all the same boring, cloudy experience.

Now, on to the Transformers themselves. I knew they would look different, but wow. I took a screen shot of Megatron and sent it to a friend of mine who grew up watching the show, and she wasn’t able to identify who it was. Had I not told her it was a Transformer, I’m sure she wouldn’t have known, and that should never be the case. You should know them by sight, without any aid. Granted, they all don’t look nearly as bad as he does, but they certainly don’t look much better. You don’t see them very often, and when you do get lucky enough to see them, it’s hard to tell what they’re doing. They so bulky, and skeletal at the same time, it’s a real challenge to make out what’s what on their body. Throw in a second or third figure, jumping and fighting, with a shaky camera and it becomes nearly impossible to even know what you’re looking at. Even worse is when they’re in car form. Not being a car enthusiast, I normally couldn’t have told you what car was what in terms of make and model. But I can now that I’ve seen this film, and that’s all thanks to the awkward sequences that seem to be straight out of a commercial. It really makes the pace of the movie noticeably slow, and set to the insanely generic and thoughtless rock music, the “action” scenes that take place in car form and less than exciting. They seem dated and lazy, like every other aspect of the movie that doesn’t involve some huge stunt.

Now, I wish I could say “at least it had good action scenes”…but no. It didn’t. They had plenty of potential, but since I couldn’t tell who was who and what was going on, and the camera was positioned extremely low, you’re essentially just watched a bunch of shapes and colors roll and mangle to noises, eventually ending it one robot standing in victory. This becomes even more annoying due to a constant lighting situation that Bay must have insisted on. All throughout the movie there are unnecessary light sources shining toward the camera, giving it that, what would be, nice silhouette look. But it’s almost every scene. Sam (Shia) could have been eating a Butterfinger bar in his room and they would have made the sun setting in a window behind him. If it isn’t the sun, it’s some completely random light. It’s to the point where if the scene isn’t a panning camera with a fixed light shining at you, it’s out of place. I understand that sometimes it works, but Bay overuses this is all of his movies, and goes completely overboard with it in Transformers. My head hurt after a while.

Some of the move trivial problems I have with the movie deal solely with Bay and the decisions he made. I’m not a whore for source material, and I typically welcome change, despite my love for the original content. But that welcome is only warm if you’re changes make sense and aren’t obviously out of disrespect for the content you’re changing. Bay decided to redesign all the Transformers and make them more alien looking, and that’s fine to some extent, but once you actually see them you’ll understand the complaint. They looks like skeletons with car parts hooked on them. It’s hard to tell who is who without the color, which makes the Decepticons a whole new challenge. They’re all colored the same. Plus, there aren’t any real scenes with them talking, or not fighting, so they just seem like nameless evil robots that seemingly appear.

Another problem with Bay is that he wanted the effects team to watch martial arts movies so they could understand how he wanted the Transformers to fight. Well, that’s a neat idea, but a little ridiculous. And if someone hadn’t told you that bit of trivia, you’d never guess they were influenced by martial arts movies. They use guns the whole movie, and while that’s fine, I would have been happier with a few lasers. There doesn’t seem to be any lasers in it. In the cartoon they used lasers so much it seemed like they ate the beams for breakfast. But the movie? The only laser I remember is used to fix a Transformers wounds, and they don’t work until the last minute of the movie. What gives?

Bay suggested that he wanted to make the film family friendly, which for the most part is fine, except you don’t have to make it overflowing with stupid jokes to be family friendly. You can cut out all the dumb remarks and overacting and goofy personalities and it still be family friendly. I know the cartoon was riddled with silly jokes, so the movie should have been too, but the way they’re presented is so juvenile, it makes your skin crawl. I think it’s safe to say that a lot of the people looking forward to the movie were fans of the show, and those people are all typically eighteen years and older, so a PG-13 rating would work, just don’t dumb it down to appeal to ten year olds more than the fans of the show. Those are the people you needed to win over Bay, and you failed.

So with the generic everything, poor lighting, horrible camera work, poor script, bad story, piss poor decisions, stupid jokes, silly moments, annoying robots I didn’t even go into, side plots, useless characters, and everything else I’ve mentioned, you’d think that was it. But no, there’s more screw ups. Things are left with no answers. Transformers disappear and never come back, there are multiple devices in the plot that make no sense, and it’s so clear to anyone paying attention. Clearly Bay was hoping the action sequences would shadow all the little problems, but they didn’t. It seems pointless going into them, since they’re not really issues that demand closure, my problem is that it feels (and problem is) that they just didn’t care enough to write everything with a proper ending. Oh, the ending, yeah it’s stupid too. Girl falls for boy, robots and boy become friend, Optimus Prime makes a statement nodding to the theme song, and the credit roll. Kick start crapping music, and start demanding your money back. Going in as a Transformers fan, you’ll be left angry at the changes, shocked at all the screw ups, and confused as to why the Transformers seem so completely secondary. Like mindless robots on some stupid quest. As a fan of action movies, you’ll be pissed that it’s a love story, and it takes two hours for any real action to kick in. But the real action is impossible to see due to the camera work. I can’t see any real way to enjoy this movie, and I’m now more curious than ever as to why it has such high reviews. To be fair, this movie did do one thing right, and that’s convince people to buy the DVDs of the original cartoon show and movie. Think of it as the really bad food you just ate to promote gum or toothpaste. A huge conspiracy. I’m sure that’s not the case, but, if it were, it would at least explain why this movie was so bad.

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Posted : 16 years, 5 months ago on 18 November 2007 10:49 (A review of Catch Me If You Can (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition))

11/18/07 Catch Me If You Can

An unfortunate truth for an overwhelming number of modern films is that they lack theme, or at least a consistent, working theme. While some just seem to focus on something scene by scene, which can work when done properly, others aren’t really given the amount of attention shown in Catch Me If You Can. Simply put: the entire movie shares the same feeling, the same mood and tone, and the same faint, but easily noticed, hint of magic that Spielberg effortlessly adds into the majority of his movies. Complimented by very fitting score by John Williams, the movie drifts by without any slow points, and cleans up very nicely, leaving you with a warm feeling reminding you that movies can be so good without containing a lot of, what I call, “stuff”.

This was the second movie that people did a double take at the casting decisions, namely Leonardo DeCaprio. But, like Gangs Of New York, his performance was outstanding, totally demolishing his image of a pretty face for the teenage female demographic. As a seventeen year old kid attending a new high school, or as a twenty-one year old inmate, scraggily, haggard, and sickly, his performance is shockingly convincing. Despite the fact that what he is doing throughout the entire movie is taking advantage of people’s inability to distrust a charming smile, or choose to not listen to smooth talk, you end up loving the character more and more. You root for him, wishing he’d rip you off just so you can say you met the guy. Because of this, any hardships he goes through, which mainly deal with his parents, are very touching, and Leo really knows how to pull on the heartstrings. But, of course, when your father is played by Christopher Walken, it’s easy to look good.

Tom Hanks also delivers one of my favorite performances, as well as a chance to hear him say “go fuck yourselves”. His accent, while mildly annoying (intended), is always spot on, and never drops. Tom Hanks is given a rare chance to be a jerk, and he does it well, and I don’t think it would have worked with anybody else, simply because there isn’t another male actor so university liked as Tom Hanks. This bizarre chance to see Hanks be a jerk next to Leo adds to the sympathy you’ll eventually feel for Leo’s character. I would say make an effort to watch out for this, but I’m willing to bet that it’s intentional, another hint to how much Spielberg knows about directing a film.

While the movie is great, there is a double edge sword with the way it’s filmed. The entire film has a “Golden American Dream” feel to it, making the working man look like a sucker, and the government look like heartless and nameless problems. The magic of the movie relies on the fact that what you’re seeing is a very exaggerated and idealistic portrayal of America, the downfall is that it looks like the fifties, when it actually takes place in the late sixties. I can understand why they chose to film it with the lively, dream-realizing glow that the fifties are remembered for (whether or not it’s accurate is irrelevant), and because of this you’ll end up forgiving Spielberg for what was surely an intentional choice.

The constant idea of the American dream all throughout the film comes off as a very bittersweet, unreachable goal, and while the movie does carry a very negative undertone, it’s extremely fun and quick, but never hard to follow. It isn’t a movie that’s a strain to watch multiple times, mostly due to it’s humor, and simply how impressive Frank Abignale was as a con artist. Not to spoil anything, but it ends on a high note, which is very fitting, and I can almost promise you’ll laugh at the last second of the movie. I found this movie, overall, to be very underrated in what some might consider the new line of Spielberg films.

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Posted : 16 years, 5 months ago on 12 November 2007 01:59 (A review of Amélie)

There are many things that a person can take from this film other than the inspiration for a Travelocity commercial. From the very first shot of the film it’s clear that it’s not going to be just another film. Often labeled as artsy-fartsy, or pretentious, Amelie is one of the most original movies, especially considering that at it’s core it’s just a simple love story. Love stories are the oldest, and at this point maybe one of the most unwelcome, concepts in film. Amelie is different, however, by adding such an impressive amount of depth, and wit to it, you’ll forget that what the movie is really about; you won’t care either, you’ll just be enjoying it.

Something I wanted to take a moment to talk about, though, is the opening credits. Showing Amelie as a little girl taking part in her lonely activities, with a very bitter-sweet song playing in the background, is going to be a perfect shining example of some points I’ll be making later about the characters, and how easily convincing they are. It just doesn’t take much to get to know these people. Some movies, and books for that matter, give us an entire life story, filled with tragedy and all the thrills and bells and whistles, and you never really know the person. It’s a real shame when that happens, too. If you’re anything like me, after the opening credit sequence, you’ll find yourself wondering what they would show you doing as a child had it been you in this movie. Mine probably wouldn’t have been so cute as young Amelie’s performance, but me and my friend would probably get a kick out of it.

In a nutshell, Amelie is about a girl living for the simple pleasures in life, and after discovering a 50 year old box in her apartment, decided to help people around her. By doing so, she falls in love with a man in a train station. As I’ve said, but can’t stress enough, the very first shot is enough to let you know it’s going to be special. A quickly spoken narration gives you the sort of details rarely told in stories, but it’s the kinds of details that you remember about people. Introducing the cast, and giving a brief incite as to their likes and dislikes, you get a sense about what these people are like without even knowing them. But you do, because we all know somebody that doesn’t like wrinkly fingers after a bath, doesn’t like it when swimming trucks stick to your thighs, enjoys noticing minute background details in movies, and loves to skip stones. Bits of information like this are told right away, for almost every character, including a cat, and that’s it. The rest of the movie let’s us see these characters acting in a manner that looks so natural, it’s hard to see them out of the movie. Everything they do compliments the idea you’ll initially have, really showing off Jean-Pierre Jaunut’s gift for writing.

Other than the wonderful set of characters the movie has (and it does have many, even the smallest part is memorable), what else makes this movie so great? Well, virtually everything. Most notably the coloration. Watching any trailer for the film, and looking at any screen capture will tell you they’ve gone back and edited all the colors in the film, and while I would usually frown at that, this movie does it perfectly. The entire movie is shot with green and red tones, but every so often there will be something blue set out somewhere, creating the most unnatural setting, but somehow very believable. The crew of the movie, when shooting on location, cleaned up the area first, getting rid of trash and such, and because of this, and the color altering, Paris is presented in a very unrealistic manner. It’s shown in a way I’m not even sure how to describe. It’s not the metropolis that it really is, but rather, a living painting. Every shot of the movie is gorgeous, and makes me envy the French for having such a beautiful city. But then I have to remind myself, Paris doesn’t really look like that, it’s all a fantasy. Forgetting that it’s not realistic when it’s so obvious is what makes good story telling. Allowing yourself to just ignore the fallacies, and accept how great it is.

Now, even if the film hadn’t been shot like that, with the attempts to make Paris look clean and painted by artists, it would still be great to see. All the cinematography, outside the impossibly-to-make-interesting shots (inside of cramped apartments, inside a photo booth, so on so forth), are obviously well thought out. Long shots of Paris streets, complicated moving camera takes, massive areas in frame, it’s all thought out before hand, tested, and done with care. Even the little things within the shots are worth mentioning. The apartments you’ll see, and the locations, all compliment the character in focus. Jaunut has stated in interviews he hand picked everything you see in the movie, and while that itself isn’t anything to toss an award at, his uncanny ability to make it work is.

The movie, so far, is beautifully shot and colored, entertaining and interesting, cute and bitter-sweet, and now we can add funny and charming. There aren’t any jokes in the movie, and there aren’t really any lines that were written to make people laugh. If you don’t laugh, the line isn’t useless. It’s just funny to some people. Think of it like this: you can’t see Dumb and Dumber, not find it funny, and enjoy it. You can here But, along with many others, I found it hilarious. I don’t like to give away too many details about the movie due to spoiler fanatics, but I will say this movie has what has got to be the funniest sex scene I’ve ever seen in a movie…which happens in a public place, no less.

The only bad thing I can say about the film is that it’s French. I say that, not because I dislike the French, but because so many people are so reluctant to watch foreign films, even more so without the crutch of dub work, and even more so if it’s French. Pushed aside as a “French film”, many people will probably skip the movie, but then again, I can’t imagine those kinds of people enjoying and appreciating the movie anyway. It seems that the people that like this movie, don’t just like it, they love it. I love Amelie, not just the movie, but the character. Remember group of people that call her their dream girl I mentioned? Well, I’m the president of the club. The movie opens well, and it ends on the perfect note, and everything in between is just as it should be. This movie is heart-warming, and immensely enjoyable, and I choose my word carefully. The truth is, everything I say about this movie in short are the same kinds of reviews written for real family friendly, heart-warming, Hollywood garbage, and it saddens me. But, keep in mind that this movie is the exception to almost everything. Don’t like love stories? Don’t like foreign films? Don’t like the French? This movie is the exception, and I can say with a respectable level of certainly that it will leave you wanting more. This is just the kind of movie that can cheer you up, pass the time, or make you realize just how much you wish you’d written it first.

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Posted: 16 years, 1 month ago at Mar 14 20:22
somthin is wrong wit u dude!!!!! wat u need iz a girlfriend
Posted: 16 years, 5 months ago at Nov 26 2:18
lol, ur About me thing is funny lol,