Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Five Easy Pieces (1970)

"I'm tootin' my horn right now, can't you HEAR IT!"

Drama Music

Starring: Jack Nicholson (Batman; The Shining), Karen Black (House of 1000 Corpses; Family Plot)

Directed By: Bob Rafelson (The Postman Always Rings Twice; The King of Marvin Gardens)

Overview: A mistreatin' drifter finds out his father's had a stroke, and returns to the high society household he ran from years ago.

Acting: Jack Nicholson, can't go wrong. Maybe it's the era, but there was a feel in the film that I couldn't grasp, and I'll blame the director and the characters in the story itself. They did well. I know Nicholson is the big star here and he excels, but it wasn't anything special.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: The dirty oil worker, the hoity high society house, the truck stops and trailers, good settings, but nothing spectacular. In fact, I would even go so far as to say uninspired.
Rating: 6

Script: "You want a chicken sandwich, and you want me to hold the chicken?" "Yeah, I want you to hold it between your legs."
This is THE classic line from this film. Sure, the delivery of the tale was decent, and the twit that is our drifter's girlfriend was really well written, but I don't think it's masterpiece material.

Rating: 7

Plot: This is considered a touch of an American Classic. The reason why, I don't know. There is so little focus in this film, it's almost like there's no beginning or end, and there's all these unresolved little things left over. I want to give the story a good score, but I didn't find it all that interesting, deep or 'classic' at all. Too bad for you.
Rating: 5

Mood: The mood was slice of life. I was never fully into the story, it did nothing to pull me in. There were no grand dinner scenes or messy hotel rooms with beer bottles everywhere. No scene exuded emotion, they left everything up to the characters. Think a little more on it next time. Early 70s, that's it.
Rating: 5

On second thought could you put some sauerkraut up there too?

Overall Rating: 60% (A Little TOO Easy, If You Ask Me)

Aftertaste: Did nothing for me. I didn't like his girlfriend, I didn't like Sally Struthers, I didn't like the other high-class girl he was involved with either. I only liked his character... oh and the hitch-hikers. I would never recommend this to anyone. Frankly I found it boring. Not my demographic I guess.

First Blood (1982) * Americana Classic*

Verdant mountains and funky boobie-traps, all shot in B.C.

Action Drama Thriller

Starring: Sylvester Stallone (Deathrace 2000; Rocky Balboa), Richard Crenna (Leviathan; Rambo: First Blood Part II)

Directed By: Ted Kotcheff (Weekend at Bernie's; The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz)

Overview: When a Vietnam vet drifts through town looking for something to eat, the law offers him a ride out, reminding him that his kind isn't appreciated. Rambo, in defiance, gets arrested. Rambo doesn't like being pushed around.

Acting: You may recognize the caliber of direction from such other productions as "Red Shoe Diaries". Yeah. Sadly the direction was a touch toilet, but the actors were really well chosen and they do pretty good. David Caruso got his start here too. Seriously the actors do a really great job, honest.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: All shot in beautiful British Columbia, if the explosions doesn't get your goat, then the wilderness will. Can't say that the city scenes are all that interesting, but the ambushes and the outdoors are actually quite stunning. Nothing special besides that.
Rating: 7

Script: "In town, you're the law, but out here... It's ME!"

I was very impressed with the dialogue in this. From sardonic to comic, you can tell this was based off a novel. I cannot believe how moving that last scene monologue is. It's heavy, I tell you boy, genuinely. The classic parts come in when the American bravery comes out. It's quite amusing to watch and remember when this was written. So many things don't change...

Rating: 8

Plot: Anyways, torn between cheese and genius, I realized that it's 80s action. Remember "A-Team" and "MacGuyver"? Well this is actually pretty realistic in comparison. You might think this is the classic Rambo going to 'Nam and messing up crap and blowin up natives left and right, but no. That was First Blood: Part II. In this one it's just one guy versus the Pigs trying to get him, and he's not going down easy. Nice and simple, quick and easy.
Rating: 8

Mood: The overall mood is underdog with a big stick. Forget for a moment that it's Stallone and think about a guy coming through town after service to his country and getting shit on. That's mean and makes me cry. There's no flag-waving sentiment, honestly. It's actually quite the opposite. The survivalist stuff is pretty neat too, good on ya, but they should have been less proud people.
Rating: 8

You don't mess with this guy, it seriously just isn't done.

Overall Rating: 78% (Come on! It's RAMBO! Hello!)

Aftertaste: When I rented it I laughed and laughed, thinking how classic this was, how awesome and flag wavy this was going to be. Turns out it's quite the opposite. This movie tells a sad statement on how America treated it's 'Nam vets. Nice touch.

Firefly (2002)

In space, attire must always blend in with the ship's desert...

Sci-Fi Fantasy Action Adventure Western Series

Starring: Nathan Fillion (Slither), Gina Torres ("Cleopatra 2525"; "24")

Directed By: Joss Whedon (Serenity; "Buffy The Vampire Slayer")

Overview: This series set 500 years in the future tell the story of smugglers living out on the fringes of the galactic frontier by the gun, their wits and the skin of their teeth. The ship they ride is Serenity, a Firefly class cargo ship.

Acting: The acting is on par with great television, while still not attaining the film standard of excellence. The direction was very much television oriented, but I guess that's fair, given that it's a TV show. There are some real heavy moments though, and the acting there is just bang on. Good stuff.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: The special effects in space are really good, like the ships themselves. The sets are very high budget. The shootouts and the action are also quality. It is television, again, so I'm not going to say the angles were artistic, but there were some effects and camera works that enhanced scenes, and made me realize that this was truly professional.
Rating: 8

Script: "Ok, Captain Tight Pants!"
You know with lines like that it's going to be sweet sailing throughout the entire series. Funny, serious, good stories told during down time, nice moral wrap ups, and we really know the headspace of the characters. They're all really well written individually, and the writing adds an element of plot twists that you wouldn't normally see, like cruel little pranks. That last episode, however, had this bounty hunter who spouted such dark conversation through his madness that it alone is worthy of mention.

Rating: 8

Plot: The stories are the stuff, my friends. Each and every episode is interesting and they not only do well as stand alones, but they also advance the plot of the overall series. Fox and their stupid way of handling it means that I don't know what the deal with shepherd is and River's big power is lost to me. Damn them to Hell, those people ruined my life!
Rating: 9

Mood: The look and feel of this show is top notch. When I first realized this was going to be cowboys in space, I thought, "Puh-Lease! Are you seriously going to have me believe that... whoa... hey... this is effin' cool... and dig the guns." The western feel is just prevalent enough for us to realize we're frontier here, and the sci-fi is just enough to make us wow and wonder at a very interesting (and actually believable) future. Never quits.
Rating: 9

It's called that 'cause there's big fireball blinkin' out it's ass.

Overall Rating: 84% (An Island Of Serenity Amidst A Sea Of Banality)

Aftertaste: Gotta see the movie now I guess. Highly recommended series, it's right up there with any HBO production, like "Sopranos", "Six Feet Under" and "Oz". Don't you love Fox for airing the shows out of order and pre-empting it for baseball on top of that? What knobs. Hopefully they'll bring it back, there's a chance.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Oldboy (2003)

"Knock knock, mo-fukas..."

Drama Mystery Thriller (South Korea)

Starring: Min-sik Choi, Ji-tae Yu

Directed By: Chan-wook Park (Sympathy For Lady Vengeance; Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance)

Overview: After a man is imprisoned for 15 years, he is let free, with only a few days to discover the reason of his capture.

Acting: The role is a good one. Our protagonist has to be played by a good actor since there's a lot of alone time there. The heavy scenes, especially the ones at the beginning and at the end are really well played. I know what the director was thinking, I think, and he pulled it off without doing the Kurosawa melodrama thing too much. The girl on the other hand, a little too standard fare 'weak' little girl, but that's a culture thing I guess.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: The look was obviously something they concentrated on. Neat angles, good use of the 'Rule of Thirds' and that sort of thing. The sets were interesting enough, and the fight scenes were nice, dark and visually interesting. Good stuff.
Rating: 7

Script: The script, to me, held no great lines, or even anything dynamic. I think the plot could have been better delivered if the lines had been different. There was just something missing from this film to make it great for me, and it must be the way the story is told. I also wish there had been more of that terrific fighting. For a movie that was mostly mysteries unraveling, i guess it had to have better dialogue. Maybe it's the translation. I bet it is.
Rating: 6

Plot: The plot starts off really, good, ends really well, and the trip itself is good too, but there were these wide open moments of mild boredom. It reminded me a little of the delivery of The Thin Red Line. It's this 4-year-in-the-making War Epic, but there was parts in the middle that just really didn't need to be there except as internal monologue. It's good, yes, but it could have gotten more points if it had been more focused.
Rating: 7

Mood: There is something in this film that is unlike any other Kung Fu movie ever made. The fighting is realistic. Our hero gets hurt, his punches don't make crazy cracking sounds, he gets tired and pants, his knuckles are all bloody, and the people fighting him sometimes really look afraid. It's ultra-realistic. That gets high marks, but the hyper-stylized delivery of the plot and the way the characters interact, there was just a touch of believability left out for me.
Rating: 8

"HOT CHICK ALERT!!! Holy 15 years does something to a man's groin!"

Overall Rating: 72% (Original, But Slow At Times)

Aftertaste: Sadly I expected much better. There's yet another remake of this movie coming out in 2006, and I'll probably see it, I think it might be Hollywood though. Still it had so much potential. I liked it, but I had set my hopes up too high.

Monday, November 21, 2005

King of the Ants (2003)

Dude, there's total Aquarium etiquette being broken there...

Crime Drama Horror Thriller

Starring: Chris McKenna, George Wendt ("Cheers"; Gung Ho)

Directed By: Stuart Gordon (Dagon; Re-Animator)

Overview: When a small time thug takes on a job and gets double crossed, he undergoes a strange mental metamorphosis while imprisoned.

Acting: The caliber of actors here is, frankly, of the 'B' category, but there's Norm from "Cheers"! and he swears like a pirate in this, and hits our hero in the head repeatedly with a golf club. Anyways, all this to say that it's fine, with moments of cheese, but better good than bad, and with just enough big names to squeeze by. I think the direction was weak, frankly. Don't blame Norm.
Rating: 6

Cinematography: The overall look of the scenes had a touch of the low-budge. It's ok the rest made up for it, but the messed up face of our King half way through the film, really gross, really well done. The gore effects were super nice, and my guest was totally grossed out a couple times. And poor Norm, my, my.
Rating: 7

Script: The writing varied between, "Excuse me? Do people talk like this?" to "Ooo, well done." Opinions were clear, plot trod on without any confusion, but deliveries were convoluted. Not the best.
Rating: 6

Plot: This is what takes the cake overall. It's a really good story. It's very original in the direction it takes. You think it'll be this pretty standard 'Guy does job, Guy is a liability, Guy either wins or loses' but there's an interesting path, and a twisted love interest, with a great little ending. I really liked the story. Unfortunately the believability of some of the scenes bring the rating down a bit, but it's still the best part of the film.
Rating: 8

Mood: There were some high and mighty tough-guy super-hero scenes that made it a little too fantastical, a little beyond realistic, while still not being dramatic enough to be in the realm of suspension of disbelief. And his own best friend gets in his messed up, crazy, concussed face and leaves him in the street to die because he's spouting gibberish? HELLO?!?! Several repeated blows to the head will DO that to you. And all that after this 'friend' plays the hero and goes and rescues him singlehandedly. What is up with that guy's loyalties? Either way, little things like that brought this down a bit, but the vengeance payback plot and the theme of 'humans as ants', being worthless and puny? I liked.
Rating: 6

"So uh, I guess that'll teach you to scratch my face... HUH!?"

Overall Rating: 66% (Small, but Strong)

Aftertaste: It's a good effort and I enjoyed it. I especially like his vengeance shirt, I wish I had one... Really! It's nice. You have to watch a movie when your best friends recommend them you know? Another praise for TMN On Demand. Free movies...Nice and guiltless. I knew it wouldn't be the best, but gave it a chance anyways. You might like it. Won't go out of my way to recommend it though.

Irreversible (2002) * Caution Films *

Red tunnel bad, red tunnel very bad.

Crime Drama Thriller (France)

Starring: Monica Bellucci (The Brothers Grimm; The Passion Of The Christ), Vincent Cassel (Hate; Shrek)

Directed By: Gaspar Noé

Overview: The backwards-told tale of a man's vengeance against the rapist of his beloved.

Acting: The two actors named up top are amazing. Her role as the raped woman is heavy, and it ends / begins really well too. They two of them look so comfortable together. The beginning / end scene with our anti-hero in a righteous rage is also completely well done. French films may not be as down to earth, may be more pretentious, but this one is so honest it's scary.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: There's this effect where the camera sways in an out, rotates upside down, moves around in a haze, especially in the beginning. As it began I really found that the effect was interesting and appropriate, original. However the bar scenes does it far too much, but still it's appropriate and artistic. Ultimately this effect did not linger too much and the end had a strobe effect I didn't like, but throughout the film the angles and locations were good enough to warrant this score.
Rating: 8

Script: I was told that this was unscripted, and you can tell. In a way the dialogue is common and normal stuff, repetitive at times, and rightly so in the furious rage. It's no witty quips like Tarantino would have written. This does nothing but help reinforce how real and honest the film is. For that alone, high marks.
Rating: 8

Plot: The story, I warn you, has burned itself in my mind to such a degree that I will never recommend this to anyone mildly sensitive. I would never want someone to come down on me and call me a sick, twisted sadist again (long story). It's too heavy to tell people they should see it. It's too specific a genre to really be one enjoyed by everyone. The way it goes backwards, like Memento did bumps the plot factor way up, and the events in their simplicity also deserve the high marks allotted.
Rating: 8

Mood: Oh you're there. In the scenes with all the spinning that I mentioned, there's this really haunting music playing and I got a little freaked out by that, knowing that something really bad was going to happen. Then as we back up in the tale, something really bad does happen, and if I recall correctly it was all one take. That has it's way of keeping you in the moment, as graphic as it was. As for the opening / closing scene where the two lovers are together, it's actually quite amazing how comfortable they are. Oh yes, the mood takes the cake.
Rating: 9

Eeesh, I'm just making a gross pucker-face right now...

Overall Rating: 84% (Unforgettable and Indelible Too)

Aftertaste: This still leaves it's mark days later. It's not a tragedy in the usual sense of the word, and I will still have serious reservations in recommending this to anyone. It's bleak and dark, yet romantic and hopeful (but backwards), which somehow makes it worse I guess. If you can take it, see this. It's good, really good.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Constant Gardener (2005)

Wait, there's no damn gardens in the desert!!!

Drama Thriller (Germany, UK)

Starring: Ralph Fiennes (Red Dragon; Spider), Rachel Weisz (The Fountain; Enemy At The Gates)

Directed By: Fernando Meirelles (City Of God)

Overview: An English diplomat marries a bold activist and find that her accidental death might be less of an accident than is purported.

Acting: Rachel Weisz? From Constantine to this? Quite the step up. Her career is certainly going places. Ralph Fiennes has no problems either. The direction? Holy wow. This movie is amazing. Seriously. The actors, all of them, know their stuff.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: There are a few artistic moments, the blurry love / nude scenes, the trail of birds in flight, the overhead plane shots. Juxtaposed with the story that's unfolding it's nice to look at serenity amidst the horror. As for location shots, all the spots they chose to shoot n African are heart-wrenching, even the imposing little PR machine commercial logo blurbs have an evil air to them. The look of this is great.
Rating: 8

Script: As I say, anything taken from a best-selling novel can't be all bad right? Not poetry, but very intelligent. It leads you just right and there's a couple really interesting moments that when you hear them repeat it the second time in context, the veils of mystery are uncovered. Smooth, sir. Yes indeed.
Rating: 8

Plot: The tale is a long one, but the story is one that need the full telling. We learn of a couple's love, their differences, their political activities, then she dies (it's ok it happens in the first 10 minutes, not spoiling) and as he investigates her demise, he not only learns about her and about the plea of Africa, but himself as well. It's a very interesting tale, highly recommended.
Rating: 9

Mood: Taking John Le Carré's blockbuster novel, having the director of City of God direct it, and putting such talent as The English Patient's Ralph Fiennes is one thing. Telling it so well as this is another. The sick thing about this is that we know Big Pharma is this evil and everything happening here is not a surprise stretch or suspension of disbelief, ever. You're there, and it's good. Man, Africa sucks.
Rating: 8

Quick! Don't let them get the Azaleas!

Overall Rating: 84% (You'll Dig it For Sure)

Aftertaste: I call 'em real good you know. I knew nothing about this movie and I knew it would be good. Am I a Film Psychic? No, because you ALSO know that this is one of those must see movies. And now you got proof. It's cerebral, but with some nice action too. Something for everyone.

Titus (1999) * Top Pick *

"Need a knife? I think there's one around here somewhere..."

Genre: Drama Fantasy War Horror (USA, Italy)

Starring: Anthony Hopkins (The Human Stain; Silence Of The Lambs), Jessica Lange (Rob Roy; The Postman Always Rings Twice)

Directed By: Julie Taymor (Frida)

Overview: When an old soldier returns from victory he finds himself amidst a rancorous political struggle involving the entirety of Rome's elite, leaving death and mutilation in its wake, with Titus himself as the seemingly intended target.

Acting: Shakespeare? Yeah, you'd better get the caliber of acting that is Anthony Hopkins. Nothing makes actors shine like Shakespeare. If you can take seldom heard, nigh-comprehensible monologues and make them understood by the lowest common denominator, then you have to be a genius right? Who am I kidding. The common don't watch this. As for the characters of Lavinia and the Moor? Amazing! And just FYI, directed by a woman, surprising yes. The fact that it's her first time directing a film, Holy GOD!
Rating: 10

Cinematography: Every scenes was meticulously chosen for it's depth and detail. From ones as simple as the wooded grove to the intricate 'Fellini'esque orgy halls, the vast swamp, the crossroads speech, the dining hall, it goes on and on. The look of this thing, very nice indeed. From gorgeous to morbid, every scene is so well thought out, I can't help but give it high praise. There's even these twisted little infernal special effect scenes that are used to separate the acts. Nice touch.
Rating: 10

Script: Uh, it's Shakespeare. Need I remind you that he's dead and his words are as immortal Homer's, perhaps moreso. I'd say that there's a few lines that I didn't get, but having seen it three times now, I'm really starting to get it. Not for everyone, I know, so it's not going to get a perfect 10, but it's pure poetry, so I can't help this score.
Rating: 9

Plot: The story is frikken amazing. 12 people die by the end of it, and though the story is a long one, there's lots more than just death. We're talking betrayal, conniving reversals, an entire family line is almost wiped out. A touch of madness, some malignant Moors with evil plots. This is truly fascinating and intricate stuff. The end however is all worth it. A great tale, and the fact that it's Shakespeare's bloodiest might just have a thing or two to do with it. Call me morbid.
Rating: 9

Mood: Man those last few speeches by Titus really hit you hard, not to mention his actions. The neat twist in this is not that lame attempt at modernity of the Office-Tower Hamlet (which I refuse to see). The look of this entire thing is 'Modern Classical'. It's as though Rome had always survived, and things advanced a little differently. The art and architecture is the same as of old, but everything is BIG. Big costumes and parties and cars. It's like the decadence at the height of the Roman Era, with electricity. There were a few things that I wasn't fond of like the hanging tree being a hunk of steel and the end sequence lasting 4 minutes of boring, so I wouldn't say PERFECT, but certainly highly artistic.
Rating: 9

"Any final requests? Like maybe another fork to rip across your face?"

Overall Rating: 94% (Absolutely Murderous!)

Aftertaste: The highest bodycount of any Shakespearian Drama. You know one thing I noticed about every single tragedy he's ever written? If the title is the name of someone, that dude is dead. Hamlet, Romeo and Juliette, MacBeth, Titus. Yeah, sorry to give away the formula. However, they called it the Merchant of Venice rather than Shylock. I guess that's why he's let off with his life. Interesting. Oh, and by the by, if the score doesn't speak for itself, I love this. I think it's my favorite Shakespeare actually. And it's top quality, if you're into it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Crippled Masters (1981) *Weird And Wacky *

Stumpy / Grumpy / Slumpy

Genre: Exploitation Action Drama (Taiwan)

Starring: Jackie Conn & Frankie Shum (Fighting Life)

Directed By: Joe Law

Overview: When a couple of guys get crippled by their boss and thrown out on their asses to fend for themselves, they seek justice, vengeance and a Kung Fu master to teach them how to fight, regardless of their lack of arms or legs.

Acting: The overdubbing makes the acting difficult to gauge, but you already know when there's overdubbing that there's going to be some awesome acting. It's the cheesy to-be-expected cult Kung Fu overzealous hammy portrayal. That part is classic, but I can't say it's good.
Rating: 6

Cinematography: The camera work is shoddy, but in a bad way. The special effects include the fluttering and smacking sounds of ninja combat (to be expected, but it got annoying). The uniforms are bland, the scenery is crap, (except for 2 or 3 locations), the blood is lame, that bad guy's scar is too glue on. Sorry, I don't care how cliquey it is, you suck. If the Kung Fu had been interesting or believable, I might have reconsidered.
Rating: 3

Script: The overdubbed, corny dialogue of poorly translated bad-to-begin-with stuff of nightmares? To some. To me however, and to most, you must take it with a grain of salt. Yes the words "Ha, ha, ha! You Fool!" is the most commonly repeated line in this, but it's cute. This is actually, sorry to say, the best part of this film.
Rating: 7

Plot: The story has a good premise: guy loses arms, seeks revenge. Guy loses legs, seeks revenge. They team up to get their vengeance. Others might say that throwing in the additional big bad guard mercenary that's in the way of the big boss is a nice touch of subplot, but I think the whole getting back the 'Eight Jade Horses' is an unnecessary step, prolonging the film for no reason. Though the Kung Fu was more realistic when it was non-crippled combatants. The best fight were the ones in the restaurant, because there were props: tables, chairs, a bar, it was nice to see all that going on. Sadly everything else was basic chop-chop.
Rating: 4

Mood: The mood also is a toss up. Are we pleased knowing that this is a typical Kung Fu flick with a twist? Sure. Does it suck nonetheless? Absolutely. Little things like the big bad boss's terribly stupid scar (that doesn't even get explained), the fact that after having one's arms chopped off, our hero goes into a restaurant and rather than having people help his gory blood stumps, they mock him and take his food away from him and beat him up. No, not good. Remember what I said about believability being the key in this category. If it goes against natural human nature, you lose big time. Buh-Bye.
Rating: 3

"Don't MAKE me turn you into a torilla!"

Overall Rating: 44% (Crippled? And Lame to Boot)

Aftertaste: Stupid movie. Too long and drawn out. Only recommended as a repertoire for people who need their Ninja and weird Kung Fu repertoire filled up. And then, only watch the first half, the end really sucks. It seriously fades to "The End" while the big boss guy is falling, to the ground. He doesn't even fall, he's just paused there! There's no denouement whatsoever, there's not even a climax for God's sake!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Constantine (2005)

Well at least Hell is modern!

Genre: Action Drama Fantasy Horror Thriller (USA, Germany)

Starring: Keanu Reeves (Thumbsucker; Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure), Rachel Weisz (The Fountain; The Constant Gardener)

Directed By: Francis Lawrence

Overview: The champion exorcist and demon hunter John Constantine, faced with the signs of the coming of Armageddon, does what he can to stay alive and redeem himself in the eyes of God.

Acting: Yeah, yeah, pretty boy Keanu Reeves in another pretty boy role. I think he's gaining potential now though. He might actually not be a flash in the pan. Even though from time to time the direction and acting was fromage, all the players were consistently good. Keanu also gets roles in films that are real interesting. The Matrix, Devil's Advocate (HIGHLY recommended), Scanner Darkly...He knows how to pick em, and he's getting better.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: It's really creepy when you notice this Hollywood fare doing all it can to go out of it's way to look perfect. Static shots with just enough going on in the background, perfectly set up displays, crane shot after oddly-angled shot. The special effects are just right, especially the demonic influence and the look of Hell itself. Even Constantine's apartment and the bowling alley were scouted meticulously. No kidding, it's gorgeous, and I'm sure, lost to most viewers, but no sir, not me.
Rating: 9

Script: The writing is on par with the acting. Though we really know the characters and their tribulations, there were the odd cheesy moments. Maybe I'm being too hard on em, but cheese accounts for a lot. Still good though, don't get me wrong.
Rating: 7

Plot: I am very partial to this sort of plot. Yes it's standard fare: Disgruntled Demon hunter Boy meets psychic anti-Christ related Girl and they get into adventures while people around them die and possessed Mexican immigrants try to end the world, while Boy seeks redemption, visiting Hell every now and then, but you know? It's my kind of movie. I liked it.
Rating: 8

Mood: In The Order (starring Heath Ledger), a champion against demons and other dark things blows Hell's minions away, brushes off his lapel and throws off some witty quips like it's nothing. In THIS film, Constantine is without a doubt a truer champion, and he still has a rough time dealing with the infernal visitors that he faces, because he's a weak MORTAL, and they're immortal HELLSPAWN, not to be blatantly clear about the unfair advantage. John hates his lot, he even has some real contempt for the Lord and his angelic captains. His character is so much more developed, and this goes a long way in putting us by his side. Among the fantastical world of demons and angels, we find a regular everyman with a power he never asked for. For this reason, it's a much more believable film. And Hell is cool, well, hot.. Er... You know what I mean.
Rating: 8

"Scuse me, my Lava Mirror is acting up again!"

Overall Rating: 78% (Heavenly!)

Aftertaste: So surprising. Very Minority Report in the way it astounded me at how good it was going to be. Sadly, Constantine blows away the Prophecy sequels. You watch there be a sequel to this, and then you watch those suck just as bad. Of course, Keanu would never be in a sequel, he's got more integrity than that. And even if he ever DID make a sequel, the movie would be so much better for it. It would get terrific acclaim... Yep, for sure.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Good Night , and Good Luck. (2005)

"If McCarthy gets tough, I'll use this secret laser box to destroy him!"

Genre: Drama

Starring: David Strathairn (Losing Isaiah; L.A. Confidential), Robert Downey Jr. (A Scanner Darkly; Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)

Directed By: George Clooney (Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind)

Overview: The biography of journalist Edward J. Morrow's 1954 battle with Joseph McCarthy and McCarthyism in general.

Acting: The roles were all really well chosen. Clooney's directed Confessions of a Dangerous Mind before this. I very much enjoyed that and I very much enjoyed this one too. It's like Clooney wanted to make sure that he picked some pretty experienced actors to play the parts to make up for his 'green' directorial skills. Either way I'm looking forward to his next film. The portrayal of Morrow was probably perfectly done, it looked real genuine.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: Shot in black in white to illustrate the era, nice touch. Little things like old tube TVs, the constant haze of cigarette smoke, the wood paneling in the offices. The fifties were an interesting place, but I wouldn't want to live there. Often the shots were nice and up close, really focused on the character's faces to maximize all the well portrayed and often subtle acting. Well done.
Rating: 8

Script: The writing was equally brilliant. There's a couple of moments that have a laugh, but overall, the whole story was damn serious, important and (I'm sure) pretty historically accurate. It's nice to have these period pieces that mirror current and modern injustice, without going out of their way to stab current governments in the face. I don't think Spielberg would have pulled it off with such subtlety. Anyways, more points for the truth.
Rating: 9

Plot: The tale is one of the underdog against the Fat Cat. Who doesn't like that? To think that Edward R. Morrow was the everyman, however, would belittle that legend. I like how the whole thing ends, I'll tell you that much, and the bittersweet victory is very good too. It's a real entertaining story. You'll like it if you're into this subject matter.
Rating: 8

Mood: The fact that there was actual archive footage used in the film brought us closer to the era, put us right there. The ever-full ashtrays, the Brylcreem, the costumes, the wood paneling! Even the little touch about the company policy of married people working together, everything is fifties, fifties, fiftes. Oh, it's nice.
Rating: 8

"No seriously, I think he's really going fry McCarthy..." "Is that so bad?"

Overall Rating: 84% (No Luck Needed in this Nigh Perfect Production)

Aftertaste:The demographic, admittedly was a little older than me, but I still loved it. Looking at the score I gave it, I'm surprised it rated this high. It's top quality, everything about it is great, nothing was left out. It's a film I would categorize as "Important". As good as it is though, I don't think I'll see it again, though everyone I know would benefit from a viewing.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Squid and The Whale (2005)

"If I pet your tuft, will you pet mine?"

Genre: Drama Comedy

Starring: Jeff Daniels (Good Night And Good Luck; Pleasantville), Laura Linney (The Truman Show; The Exorcism Of Emily Rose)

Directed By: Noah Baumbauch

Overview: When a couple separates, we follow the trials and tribulations of joint custody and how they affect Mom, Dad and their two boys.

Acting: The caliber of acting in this is damn good. Jeff Daniels plays a good jerk, his eldest son a good lazy intellectual, his ex wife a mildly emotional voice of reason, and their youngest child plays a nice little confused, binge drinking chronic masturbator. Even Baldwin plays the jocky, goofy urban tennis teacher just right. We're happy.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: The look of the film is pretty standard fare. No special effects, no artistic shots, just a simply told story. I'd say it's better for it, but that goes under mood now doesn't it? Good and professional, but nothing special.
Rating: 7

Script: This won best screenplay for 2005 at the Sundance Film Festival. Know what? I believe it. Each character is so precisely written to fit a very different sort of person, even though they're in the same family. Dialogue is the prevalent thing in this film, and the little 'parental speeches' and the little character defining moments? Brilliant.
Rating: 9

Plot: The story unfolds very well thank you. The end was a tiny bit abrupt, but not lacking in any closure. Seems like a standard 5 act tale, and it's original enough to spark the mind while being common enough for everyone to get it. A pretty honest, yet light-hearted look at divorce and how it can affect everyone involved.
Rating: 8

Mood: The mood was a touch enhanced by the fact that it was set in the late 80s, however more music would have made it better, though 'Hey You' had a nice ring to it as a theme song. I sort of forgot we weren't current from time to time. The fact that there were no distracting artistic shots and show offs or special effects kept the tale simple, made it more about the characters, yes, but I still like to see the odd neat little thing, like this writer did for The Life Aquatic.
Rating: 7

"I think... I'm losing myself into your eyes... Mmmm..."

Overall Rating: 78% (A Whale of a Good Time)

Aftertaste: I can really call 'em. I knew this would be good, and I really liked it. Top quality production, while yet knowing that it wouldn't be a personal favorite. Anyone who likes a serious drama about divorce with a couple laughs will enjoy it. Nowhere near as heavy as Kramer vs. Kramer.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Jarhead (2005)

"What would you do to that Hottie over there?" *POP*

Action War Drama (USA, Germany)

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko; Brokeback Mountain), Peter Sarsgaard (The Skeleton Key; Kinsey)

Directed By: Sam Mendes (Road To Perdition; American Beauty)

Overview: Based on the autobiography of a sniper grunt in the first Iraq War, we follow a young man's training for and deployment to, the Kuwaiti desert.

Acting: It was a real nice surprise to see that kid from Sling Blade, and Friday Night Lights. I think he's a good little actor, though I was disappointed that Billy-Bob Thorton wasn't there with him. The roles themselves were pretty well portrayed, if the direction wasn't a bit too standard fare. Guys who need to cut loose at times of stress and face the trials of deployment, seems like that's about right.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: There were some really nice scenes, especially the one where they patrol through the fire wells and that first bombing attack with the slow motion shock. Tragic scenes like the firebombed road don't hold back, but there was a few too many tributes to other films, like Apocalypse Now, (they even make fun of the fact that they're doing it) and especially Full Metal Jacket. There was a dream sequence that used the same bathroom, and lighting technique as a climactic scene in that Kubrik classic. Such a tribute that is seemed more like overkill.
Rating: 7

Script: The writing isn't all that intelligent. The narration is as common as the soldier dictating it (that's the point though), but there were a few moments where Jamie Foxx shined in his monologues. Overall nothing memorable, but well told.
Rating: 7

Plot: The story, I had heard, was "one in which you wait for something to happen". I see what critics meant by that, but that was the point, and at the same time, though it wasn't action packed murder, the tale of the men was a pretty-much politics free microcosmic view of the whole thing. It's only flag-waving in the patriotism of the characters, but there were a few poignant, almost controversial stabs at friendly fire, Gulf War Syndrome, crappy equipment and our return to the Gulf in the Second Wave. Better than I expected.
Rating: 8

Mood: The overall mood was pleasant, with focus on the people at the time, listening to 90s music, the boredom of patrols and the loyalty (or lack thereof) of the women stateside. It's heavy at parts, but the parts are few. It's like we're actually listening to someone true account, with all the army cliches being so because life is just genuinely like that sometimes. Nice surprise.
Rating: 8

Gear that helped against camel farts turned out to be the most lifesaving...

Overall Rating: 74% (Good like the Rest, Not one of The Best)

Aftertaste: Yeah, not a two-time movie, but there really were some artistic and deep moments, as well as a speech or two that will stay with me a while, but sadly, these moments are always too short for my liking in this type of film. It's no 'instant classic' like I saw advertised. I normally would not have even gone to see it. What you do for friends...

Erik The Viking (1989)

"Oi! Welcome teh Valhalla!!"

Adventure Comedy Fantasy (UK, Sweden)

Starring: Tim Robbins (Mystic River; The Secret Life Of Words), Terry Jones (The Meaning Of Life; "Monty Python's Flying Circus")

Directed By: Terry Jones (Life Of Brian; Monty Python And The Holy Grail)

Overview: When given the chance to end Ragnarok by traveling to Valhalla, Erik brings his band on the trek to end the endless night.

Acting: The cast has deep roots in the Monty Python genre. Given that most of them are directly FROM that show, it's no surprise. To see Mickey Rooney and Tim Robbins though, I must admit is a little strange. Still, the fusion of American and British comedic stylings is really well pulled off. Very funny indeed.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: The copy I watched was a little rough, but even though the special effects were dated and set was ever-cloudy (on purpose, I mean it's Ragnarok), I very much enjoyed the look of it, all told. An interesting version of Valhalla.
Rating: 7

Script: Funny stuff. Not rip-roaring hilarious, but a true, genuine comedy, not like this garbage Hollywood puts out (read: Saturday Night Live shite). For that alone, 'refreshing' gets points for being refreshing. Yes indeed, funny, funny.
Rating: 7

Plot: The story is pretty cool. Anything that goes along the adventurous path mythologically is great. There's a nice couple of subplots, and the characterization is well maintained throughout. Everyone's go their own slant, and that's important.
Rating: 8

Mood: Good historical references of the paradigm created by the modern world. A parody of what we think Vikings to be, this element is a nice addition to the humour. The costumes and the bloodletting and all the dark ages references and the dragons and that sort of thing, funny on the mythological level too.
Rating: 8

"Oi, welcome to Hottie Heaven..."

Overall Rating: 76% (A Good Adventure)

Aftertaste: Seen it. Not the best in the world, but worth a little videy, if you like Mythological Python-Style Norse Comedy. And who doesn't?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Lord of War (2005) *Hidden Gem*

Ahhh, how nice, AKs riding off into the sunset...

Genre: Action Crime Drama Thriller (USA, France)

Starring: Nicholas Cage (Adaptation.; Matchstick Men), Bridget Moynahan (I, Robot; The Recruit)

Directed By: Andrew Niccol (Gattaca)

Overview: We follow an arms trader, from his humble beginnings in Brooklyn to the International circuit including Post-Cold War Ukraine and war-torn Sierra Leone.

Acting: The issue with Nicholas Cage is that he isn't for everyone. In this role he isn't hyper-himself, so even the rest of you people who don't like him (and I have no idea why), this is still going to have it's appeal. I mean Jared Leto, do I have to go on? The roles are well portrayed, the direction is great. Stop me when you've heard enough.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: At this juncture allow me to iterate the beauty and cinematographic genius of this production. Never had I expected such perfection from such a film. The opening credits scene is "the life of a bullet", the whole introduction to 'present day' is like looking through some photographer's portfolio, and it's half the movie. It would have gotten a 10 if it had gone like this for the entirely of the film, but some scenes just couldn't be so perfect.
Rating: 9

Script: "When arms traders go to war, there's never lack of ammunition."

The script astounded me just as equally as the look of the thing. This is not one of those tales brilliantly written for it's deep genius. Moreso it's the constant wit and quick-thinking style of the character's dialogue. When a movie makes me spark up at the words 10 times or so in 2 hours, I notice. Brilliantly written, from beginning to end.
Rating: 9

Plot: The story would not have been as good if half of it was not the tale of his rise. It's fast-paced, witty, entertaining, and the deep dilemmas don't truly rear their heads until well into the second half. It's like we're shown the wonderful world of arms trading, then a jolt of realization that this is not the glorious land of opportunity it seems to be (or is it?). Not too deep, but with a really, really poignant ending. Not to be missed.
Rating: 9

Mood: The music was very noticeable. As the times changed so did the music and the outfits. I did not miss the little historical references, and the fact that they name names rather than invent nations like in The Interpreter, we have a solid understanding that this is THIS world that these social and legal issues are truly ones that exist NOW. A nice touch of history with some light moments developing into the writer's final coup de grace.
Rating: 8

"Hey Bob? Think we can hang the Iron Curtain back up with this thing?"

Overall Rating: 86% (Oh My Lord!)

Aftertaste: There comes a time when the movie buff like me thinks to himself, "You know I can't watch every movie out there, but I'm willing to see more than the next guy to find those gems." Then sometimes you watch 'good' movies endlessly, and a few bad ones and you wonder if you're just losing interest in film. Am I becoming blasé, or am I just getting interested in other things? Then you see this kind of thing, the underrated, little known this-is-why-you-dig film. Why the best movies have the lowest fanfare? Lowest common denominator, I guess. It's stuff like this that reminds me why I do this.