Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Nanook of the North (1922)

This guy is the arctic bomb! And check out those snow pants!

Genre: Silent Documentary (USA, France)

Starring: Chief Nanook, Nyla, Cunayou

Directed By: Robert J. Flaherty

Overview: This is the story of a small tribe of Inuits as they trade and survive off the land in the arctic wilderness.

Acting: The study of these characters is very impressive. These characters are rich in their own right and though they really don't talk, the appropriate focus is on Nanook, who leads, trades, hunts and helps build the igloos they stay in. The documentarist shot about a year's worth of film, so obviously they had a nice chunk to choose from. Completely natural.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: The film itself is top quality. We see actual hunting and butchering of fish, walrus, seal and igloo building. The visuals are rather exciting, especially since everything they do is for their survival, and they can't do two takes. Their dogs, though rowdy, are frikken cute.
Rating: 8

Script: There's really not much talking. There's a nice big intro at the beginning explaining at length how the film came to be and what happened to Nanook in the end (starvation unfortunately). The intro is a nice perspective and from then on it's mostly little factoids, stuff like 'the walrus weighs over a ton', or 'the reason they put the sleds on top of the igloos is so the dogs don't eat the seal-skin bindings overnight'. As documentaries go, it's really effective in sticking to the way this tribe does things and talking about nothing else.
Rating: 9

Plot: The tale itself is simply the everyday life this tribe leads, from wresting dogs free of their power struggles, watching different hunting methods, to building igloos and watching wives chew the seal-skin boots in the morning, we learn how this culture adapted to the harsh arctic lifestyle. Pretty cool stuff if you ask me.
Rating: 8

Mood: The thing about documentaries is, they tend to be the truth. Even in 1922 this film was making an attempt at breaking down stereotypes, if only a little. When disaster strikes, we're there wondering how they're going to pull through. When there's a hunt, it's exciting. Oh yeah, great mood.
Rating: 8

Only one of Nanook's two hot wives

Overall Rating: 84% (Very Arctic-ulate!)

Aftertaste: Sorry, I had to do that. After going through 19 or 20 movies on this list from the 1001 Movies You must See Before You Die book, I've come to realize that it would not be the genuine source of Golden Pleasure that I expected, but the movies in it are certainly great starts. Sometimes I realize a film is more important than good. Not so with this one, it's amazing! Really original stuff, and think about the fact that this was almost 100 years ago, that's nuts. See it! It's cool.

Freaks And Geeks: The Complete Series (1999)

Honestly, they dress nothing like this... Yeesh

Drama Comedy Series

Starring: Linda Cardellini (Strangeland; "ER"), John Francis Daley

Created By: Paul Feig ("Arrested Development"; I Am David)

Overview: High School is tough enough without being a nerd or a burnout. Sadly, we throw in 1980 and there you have "Freaks and Geeks". This show focuses on a 14 year old near-dweeb, his 16 year old trying-to-be-outcast math-whiz sister, and their respective group of friends.

Acting: I thought the characters were a bit too 'caricature' in the beginning, I don't know if I got used to it or if the director softened the characters up a little, but I think that the acting is actually quite good as it nears its end. I love Bill. He's awesome. I just wish that sarcastic guy had a bigger part. At least they focus on him more in the end.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: The look is more mood-setting than high art, but given that's it's TV, we're lucky to get that. No, it wasn't special effects and coolness but the outfits and the houses, wow. Just looking at a room would sometimes crack you up.
Rating: 7

Script: Again, the first half of the series seems to be a focus on what you would expect with some witty comedic dialogue as you go along. I found that as we progressed in the series, people get deeper, and their characters even change a lot, the writing gets better. It's quite good.
Rating: 8

Plot: I thought the whole thing was a little cliché in the beginning. I mean kissing, pot, sneaking around the parents, all coming of age / gaining independence stuff that we've all seen, but in hindsight, we really haven't seen it as well as it's been done here. Near the end they loosen up and focus rather than appealing to the commonplace. Maybe that's why this was the only season... Points for the Dungeons and Dragons scenes. Best episode ever.
Rating: 8

Mood: I like where the show went far more than where it started, and I still find it strange that they tried way too hard to keep each show as stand alone, so much so that when something happens it's almost like it's ignored come next episode, which brought it down a bit. The whole wood paneling and the 80s denim cock-rock look however? Nice touch.
Rating: 8

It's Bill. He plays a thief... in D&D... and peanuts kill him.

Overall Rating: 78% (You'd Be A Freak Not To Like This)

Aftertaste: Admittedly, it took me a good long while to get into this show... I'm talking fourth disk out of six. I would have perhaps even given it back to the person who lent it to me if I hadn't heard how much people liked this. I gave it a full chance and you know, I regret that there's no season 2, because the show got better every episode.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Nosferatu (1922)

Even the hideous need love from time to time...

Genre: Silent Fantasy Vampire Horror Thriller (Germany)

Starring: Max Schreck (The Grand Duke's Finances), Gustav von Wangenheim

Directed By: F.W. Murnau (The Last Laugh; Tabu: A Story of the South Seas)

Overview: Based on Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula, this timeless classic is the story of a man who escorts a new buyer from his Transylvanian home to the house across the street, unfortunately discovering along that way that he's a plague carrying vampire.

Acting: Max Schreck. He plays a weirdo, an eccentric recluse, and a hideous, twisted vampire. Without him, this would never have stood the test of time. Sadly the others aren't that impressive: the realtor, his wife, even the gitchy madman. Whether they pale in comparison on purpose or if they're just poorly directed I don't know, but it's a shame that Max had to carry everyone, including the director.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: It is so obvious the long-lasting impact that this film has had on every genre from Thriller to Horror to Suspense. You'll see a scene and think "Classic!". I can't say that Murnau did the best in telling people how to act, but setting up the scene, and his choices for the look were absolutely stunning. Beautiful film.
Rating: 8

Script: "Your wife. She has a lovely neck." - Count Orlock

The telling is also a mite weak overall. I like that much of it was just the characters reading about the vampiric condition rather than all dialogue, but it was nothing special at all, except for the actual lines of Count Orlock, which are perfectly creepy and telling.
Rating: 7

Plot: The story is simple: Foreigner buys a house, asks for help to move. A business man is sent and finds that the man whom he will soon be neighbors with is a weirdo, then finds out he's a vampire, then when he gets across the ocean, he brings a plague with him to boot. Nice story, well told, and very different from the modern Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Rating: 7

Mood: The story opens up a little eccentric, a little fluffy, and when the Count is introduced, it turns all dark and creepy with vampiric powers and rats everywhere. Long shadows and haunting images abound. You will be impressed, yes sir. Max is a great vampire, period. I mean just LOOK at him!
Rating: 8

"Mlehn! Mlenh!" Jesus is Max Shreck ever awesome!

Overall Rating: 76% (A Blood-Letting Good Time)

Aftertaste: This is such a keeper, what a tale. It's not the best ever, but it's short and one of the big classics of the Silent Cinema days. After taking an in-depth look at film from this era, I've come to realize, honestly, if you've heard of a thing long before getting into something (like knowing that Chateau Lafitte is the best wine, or that Cohibas are the best cigars) it's probably got that reputation for a reason. You know Nosferatu is a classic, and you won't be disappointed.

Hostel (2005)

Never slap your executioner
Genre: Horror

Starring: Jay Hernandez (Friday Night Lights; World Trade Center), Derek Richardson (Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd)

Directed By: Eli Roth (Cabin Fever)

Overview: A bunch of guys are touring Europe to find svelte young ladies to lay. Someone drops a lead that one particular hostel is home to such perfect and willing specimens. The hostel turns out to be a front for a kidnapping and torture ring.

Acting: Does one compare acting based on genre or on your expectations of said film? If so this gets huge points, because the roles of these characters was genuinely good. No I wouldn't say great, but honestly, I don't see why any of these actors can't get other roles now that they've made a bit of a name for themselves. I guess the directors gets points too.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: The gore, fantastic, but not nearly enough. The settings, like the whole small European village streets and that dark looming factory, absolutely amazing, definitely shot on location. All the breasts however were implants. How did I know? Every boob is shot so up close that you can see the surgery scars. Was there too much Tits and Ass? Yes. Why? Cause gore is better.
Rating: 8

Script: The dialogue was atypical with a nice couple of jokes and monologues strewn about. Not a bad effort at all. Sure there's a lot of going out partying dancing jocks trying to get laid saying stupid stuff, but the script isn't what you came here for is it?
Rating: 7

Plot: I'm torn up. My guest proclaimed that there was too much ass, that if they wanted to see some tits they could just go look in a mirror, and that they wanted torture, torture, torture. I'll agree. The beginning goes on too long, but I very much enjoyed the direction it took. It turns into this one man story of trying to survive and escape from the very bowels of a hellish nightmare. That, my friends, was incredible.
Rating: 8

Mood: Again marred and overshadowed by the boobs and a long intro, it does redeem itself in the end in the best possible way: a suspenseful, horrific thrill ride in an escape attempt that may or may not succeed. We all know why there was so much nudity, and that will have to do for the other fans. For me, it's that last adrenaline-inducing half-hour. Seriously loved it.
Rating: 8

Proving once again that posing dramatically is better than getting laid.

Overall Rating: 76% (A Little Piece Of Haven)

Aftertaste: One of my friends was upset at how homophobic the guy who ends up being the focus is. He explained that this person of low moral character was not someone that he cared about. To see if he would survive or not was of no concern, because he'd say "that's gay" at everything he though was stupid. Rather, I found that this was more a statement on the fact that he was a young womanizing ass-chasing California surfer dude than of any declaration of his homophobia. He calls his friends pussies more often than he says, "that's gay". Point being, yeah it's not genius, but as horror films go, it's very decent.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler (1922)

Beakey McQuacken is one of the more indimidating personas...

Silent Mystery Crime Thriller (Germany)

Starring: Rudolph Klein-Rogge (The Testament of Dr. Mabuse), Aud Egede Nissen

Directed By: Fritz Lang (M; Metropolis)

Overview: This is the tale of the ascent and descent of con-artist, hypnotist and gambling cheat Doctor Mabuse.

Acting: The silent film will never (or not so far), have me give a great rating here, because sadly everything is over the top but not in that good Korusawa way. In this one we have a bit of a better display because Lang was in charge, but nothing spectacular.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: There was one scene when I said, "Lang! You film genius." He's innovative, he's an original, I'd put him way up there as a director, and his films are made to shake foundations. Overall though I was not dazzled much, though the ghosts and costumes were pretty neat.
Rating: 7

Script: The script was utterly forgettable. How can I say that? Because I've forgotten it already. Yes, she loves you, fine, yes you're heartless I get it. I don't remember the rest.
Rating: 5

Plot: The story really sounded a lot better when reading about it. 4 hours later I'm not impressed at all. This had such a Les Vampires feel to it, in the bad sense. It was too long, and what is it about the early days of film where everyone can hypnotize people? I call bullshit on that automatic skill that makes people drive off cliffs with but a command. Hypnotism is not a 'Deux Ex Machina, Get out of Plot Free' Card!
Rating: 3

Mood: The mood was tainted by the hypnotism. The beginning is awesome with real rubes and real reuses, original and versatile, but suddenly as soon as he hits the card table (first hour) the story stays with gambling and pushes the hypno-manipulation. Piss! I will admit at the third hour I decided to fast forward this, as the story was too slow. I don't know what it is about 4 hour silent epics, but they're better in double-time, it seems that the pace is just right...
Rating: 4

"I'm new at thias whole haunting thing... does it scare you if I just sit here and fart?"

Overall Rating: 52% (Way Too Much Of A Gamble)

Aftertaste: WAY TOO LONG. Fritz, why must you taint your reputation! I bet con-artists in the 20s were getting nailed left and right for trying to pull off stunts like they saw in the movies and finding minds aren't WET CLAY. BLAH! Don't see this!

Le Dernier Combat (1983)

The first thing you leav in a post apocalypse, people probably won't come get you when you tresspass...

Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi (France)

Starring: Pierre Jolivet, Jean Reno (Wasabi; Mission: Impossible)

Directed By: Luc Besson (The Fifth Element; The Professional)

Overview: In a harsh world when humans are plagued with the inability to speak, one man tries to survive.

Acting: With you Jean Reno and Luc Besson fans out there, you'll be happy to know that this film was well directed and brilliantly acted, if a touch exaggerated. The exaggeration was necessary as there was no script, but the emotions and motives of the actors was really well maintained. Enjoyable. Even the gimp.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: This was all black and white with some harsh contrast effects. The costumes (guys in ties but no shirt or home-made armour) were terrific, the sets were appropriately decrepit, and though the budget was limited, this was fun to watch, definitely.
Rating: 8

Script: This film had no dialogue. The whole silence-inducing plague aspect of this was very neat. No one used any sign language, but they communicated rather effectively. Did the characters get the message across? Absolutely. Super-cool.
Rating: 8

Plot: The story, admittedly, is a little confusing. Why this guy travels on a home-made plane just to come back I don't know, but what happens in the other town is a great tale. The classic David and Goliath with some apocalyptic Mad Max stuff going on too. Sure it's simple, but good... and righteous.
Rating: 7

Mood: The mood is the best part. With home-made armour and weapons, a new era with raining fish and hailstones the size of your head, the incredibly original idea of having a whole mute society, oh yeah, good times.
Rating: 8

In a world with vwery little to do, cattle-prod games were quite popular.

Overall Rating: 78% (Puts Up A Good Fight)

Aftertaste: So we had a theme day, watching all this post-apocalyptic stuff. I can't say that the whole day was full of intensely amazing film, but this one was really good. I would recommend this to anyone into the genre, or anyone into Besson, but I can't say I'll watch it twice.

La Jetée (1962)

I might just go back in time for some hottie action too...

Experimental Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi Short (France)

Starring: Jean Négroni, Hélène Chatelain

Directed By: Chris Marker

Overview: After a terrible war has devastated the world, science offers one man the power to travel in time, in hopes that he will bring back the means to secure survival for the future.

Acting: The narration was good: deep and serious. This was all done with still images, so the static feel of the emotion has to carry forward for several seconds. It's sure different, but really effective. I liked the way this was directed, very much.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: The photographer is really the one who has to be rated for capturing the moment. Great job. Is it easier or harder to make every shot perfect when you only have half an hour of film to shoot? Either way, the images captured were terrific: the airport, the haunting man with the glasses, the woman... Very original.
Rating: 8

Script: The way this was told, slow and calculated like the images, was perfectly appropriate. There was enough silence to get the impact, while having enough explanation for us to truly feel the importance of this mission, these worlds he goes to, and the depth of what happens after.
Rating: 7

Plot: I like the story and its concept, nice and simple with a twist. Being 28 minutes, it still doesn't shove all this info down your throat super fast, though I would have liked to understand a bit more about the future and how it worked, as we only saw an abstract.
Rating: 8

Mood: This category excelled, though from time to time it wasn't nearly as engrossing as it could have been. Perhaps the narration was a little weak or the images just weren't poignant enough. Maybe more images of devastation or a higher budget would have done better. I guess I'm not sure why it didn't appeal to me more, but the style is unmatched.
Rating: 8

Yipee! A Pier!

Overall Rating: 76% (Truly Unique)

Aftertaste: This is a 28 minute film that was the inspiration for the film 12 Monkeys. I really don't remember that movie, but this short was very fun. Why do I recommend this to everyone? It's 28 minutes, and considered a classic, what do you have to lose? I liked it, and it's super-original.

Things To Come (1936)

You know actually, this poster nails it right perfect...

Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi (UK)

Starring: Raymond Massey (The Scarlet Pimpernel; The Prisoner of Zenda), Edward Chapman (Murder!)

Directed By: William Cameron Menzies

Overview: This is the film adaptation of H.G. Wells' vision of the next 100 years, from war to a fragmented peace, to a bright utopian future (or is it?).

Acting: Overdone. When the film started, it opened like a play, with all the posturing and posing, seemed fake. There were so many akimbo poses, I was starting to think this was a Korusawa film. You'd think diplomats would be more diplomatic too. I had issues with the direction, for sure.
Rating: 5

Cinematography: The factory shots of the 'building a future' that served as a transition to the last act were stunning. The great war has some scary scenes and there was definitely an effort put forth to make the visual spectacle appealing. I don't know, just didn't do it for me, but it was decent.
Rating: 6

Script: The writing was good at parts, mediocre most of the time and occasionally completely non-nonsensical, and / or atrocious. Perhaps this is more mood related, but I really don't think people would ever talk the way these people did. The ideas expressed didn't seem that original. Whether Wells said it first or not doesn't matter.
Rating: 5

Plot: Post-Apocalyptic should be more about the 'right after', as well as the specific, rather than a common 'Everytown' concept of predictable distribution of power struggles, or worse yet a view 100 years later, after all of war's repercussions have all passed. It started great, the whole 40 years of war, then it got a little worse with the rebuilding of city states, then a little worse with this hyper-technological future.
Rating: 5

Mood: The overall feel of the film has an occasional moment of wonder, but occasional was all. This was innovative at the time I'm sure, and the future was all 'indoor moving sidewalks and floating vehicles and space aged design', but I couldn't help not believing the way things progressed.
Rating: 6

Eeesh, it's like disco meets Logan's Run...

Overall Rating: 54% (Came and Went)

Aftertaste: The future is damn bright, but keep it close to the actual events if you're going to call it Post-Apocalyptic. Otherwise call it Sci-Fi and be done with it. Urgh. I preferred the company to the story, that's for sure. I'm glad I saw it, but only because of my passion for film, and for the Post-Apocalyptic, not for the content.

H.H. Holmes: America's First Serial Killer (2004)

Oooo! the Ghost of the haaat maaan!

Crime Documentary

Starring: Tony Jay (narrator), Thomas Cronin

Directed By: John Borowski

Overview: This doc presents the tale of the con-man, doctor and architect of "The Castle", a house of traps where he captured his victims and disposed of them.

Acting: This was atrocious. The FBI profiler went on and on about stuff that seemed pure conjecture, and he was a dweeb on top of it all, big stupid showman. The narrator though oft 'Olde Victorian' in his dialogue, was usually a big hammy with his words. Finally, the Holmes expert, though the best of all, was nothing impressive in the least. Ugh.
Rating: 3

Cinematography: The images were done in that typical documentary style: old photos slowly moving, sometimes overlays, newspaper headlines. You know, it was bland. Uh, such low budget! Very apparent.
Rating: 5

Script: This was such a good story, but somehow, the moron experts did too much showboating to make what they said enjoyable. Just because the subject matter itself was good do I give it a passing grade, which is just too bad, cause what a story.
Rating: 6

Plot: "The best story told the worst way," I said half way through. Everyone agreed. Why not just let a story tell itself, rather than going all stupid cheese? Either way, this twisted guy designed and built a place full of traps and greased hatches, gas pipes and air-tight safes, all with the sole intention of killing and disposing, but get this: this doctor sold the skeletons at 200 bucks a pop. Only serial killer I know who got rich off his killings... Cool twisted tale, if only a touch sadistic.
Rating: 8

Mood: The hyper-common style of old photos with narration, though boring was to be expected, but sometimes the music would get all sinister, and we would zoom in on a map with the haunting beat: BOM BOM...BOM! We laughed way too often to realize this was anything but stupidly presented. Well at least we laughed.
Rating: 5

There's nothing more enterprising than a guy who boils you in acid to sell your skeleton to medical schools.

Overall Rating: 54% (The Telling Will Kill Any Interest You May Have)

Aftertaste: This guy was sick. It's a great story, he's worse (and more successful) than Jack The Ripper. How he's not more famous I don't know. Either way, no don't see this, but if you want to know about this guy, look him up, it's really neat, in that twisted demented way.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Orphans of the Storm (1921)

It must totally suck being the girl forgotten next to the shining star... course, she DOES look like a man...

Genre: Silent Period Drama

Starring: Lillian Gish (Broken Blossoms; La Boheme), Joseph Schildkraut (The Life Of Emile Zola)

Directed By: D.W. Griffith (Intolerance; The Birth Of A Nation)

Overview: 1887, in the early days of The Terror, when one sister is blinded by plague, the other takes her to Paris to be cured. When an aristocrat sees the allure of the sighted sister, he kidnaps her for himself, leaving the blind girl alone in the streets.

Acting: Lillian Gish, there she is. I expect to see her in all D.W. Griffith movies now, and I must say she does impress. The others were great too in comparison to other silent fare, however I don't think I'll ever get over the melodramatic style chosen by the director.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: D.W. Griffith seems really to pride himself in his historic accuracy. The sets are actually very interesting and dynamic and his use of vignetting, though standard for the era is still nice to look at today. Costumes? Hell Yeah.
Rating: 8

Script: The writing was decent. I won't say poetry like his other Broken Blossoms, but it conveyed the intended message appropriately enough, and simply.
Rating: 7

Plot: The story goes from tragic and sad to terribly pitiful to worse, then hopeful and back to Oh-My-Lord edge of your seat suspense. The story goes on so many turns that you wonder the whole way through if this will be tragic, beautiful or bittersweet. I was very pleased to see this story in this setting, very enjoyable.
Rating: 8

Mood: The costumes of the aristocrats were quite astounding. I found myself leaning in to the screen to get a better look at the French design. I'm not talking about such outfits as seen above, I mean the fops were decadent in dress to the nines and the Jacobins were a sad sorry bunch. One scene has this head of a pike in the background being lugged around by some angry mob member. I can tell you those extra touches did not go unnoticed.
Rating: 8

Any tale of two sisters should indeed involve lots and lots of daily public beheadings... oh look there it is!

Overall Rating: 76% (Made Waves For Sure)

Aftertaste: The only thing I had an issue with was the fact that it didn't suck me in as much as a modern retelling could have, and that's my demographic I guess. If this is ever remade, I'm definitely seeing it, because the potential is outrageous. I mean the French Revolution is cool enough. Adding this crazy tale of two sweet orphans thrust into this land of turmoil? Incredible.

Intolerance (1916)

Holy jumpin' 20 storey high sets, my God!

Silent Drama

Starring: Mae Marsh (The Birth Of A Nation), Robert Harron

Directed By: D.W. Griffith (Orphans Of The Storm; Way Down East)

Overview: This epic's lesson is how a woman's love conquers throughout the ages. Whether tragic or lifesaving, these stories include the Huguenots' massacre, The fall of Babylon and a modern day tale.

Acting: There were a few surprises admittedly, but after seeing Lillian Gish in all of D.W. Griffith's other productions I would have liked to see her in this too. Either way, the roles were fine, though oftentimes melodramatic, but what else would you expect from melodrama?
Rating: 7

Cinematography: This was passably fine for the Modern Era, and interesting costumes and such for the Huguenots, but see that picture above? That 10 storey set of Babylon became one of the permanent Hollywood museum fixtures for decades. That chapter, with 3000 extras is so magnificently impressive, and on top of that there's a siege of the town, obviously the inspiration for the final battle of the Lord of the Rings saga. Mindblowing.
Rating: 8

Script: The script had a lot of "This is what we're seeing" rather than dialogue, which I didn't like in Birth of a Nation either. Can't say the dialogue was all that exciting. Oh and they use the word "intolerance" literally upwards of 24 times or something. Yeah, I get the point... Thanks. Disappointing really.
Rating: 4

Plot: Babylon is all excitement all the way through, and the Modern Age story is sweetly frustrating in that "Will they ever get justice?" way. Huguenots? A touch confusing. Overall? Way too long. Audiences at the time thought so as well. This one didn't do too well at box offices.
Rating: 6

Mood: The lengthy rendition kills the mood a lot, and the jumping from tale to tale, though important thematically (all climaxes climax at the same time), make for a pretty boring first half (except for the first failed Babylonian siege, which is awesome). As for how the mood holds up for it's own genre, it's considered a classic so I'll give it that... It sure is Epic Silent, so if you're really into that, go nuts.
Rating: 6

Holy frikken hours of tedium, my God...

Overall Rating: 62% (Uh, Let's Just Say 'Appropriate Title', Shall We?)

Aftertaste: As silent films go, I see the impact, but as entertainment value, I would never dare suggest that anyone see this. The only time I would ask someone "Have you seen Intolerance?" would be to gauge how hardcore someone's repertoire is, because if you sit through the 3 hours of this film, you're hardcore, like me :P

Thursday, January 26, 2006

24: Season 3 (2003)

"I know I need a shave but then the intensity won't be as... INTENSE!"

Genre: Action Drama Mystery Thriller Series

Starring: Kiefer Sutherland (To End All Wars; A Few Good Men), Elisha Cuthbert (House Of Wax; The Girl Next Door)

Created By: Robert Cochran, Joel Surnow

Overview: In this installment, set three years after Season 2's very long day, terrorists threaten to release a deadly hyper-infectious virus should their demands not be met.

Acting: Look, I'm not going to say it's brilliant, it is Fox after all. HBO always will have the bar raised in the Acting category, but Kiefer does the best job of the bunch, without a doubt (he alone bumps it up a full point). He's amazing. I won't blame the actors for the obvious constant directorial faults, so much so that it affects the whole mood of the thing. After all is said and done though, good stuff.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: Three seasons in and they don't mess with perfection. The whole format of the split screen boxes is very unique, and quite obviously works. The action is pretty good and the odd explosion is a nice touch. Visually, this show is very exciting, and though the angles and panoramas aren't all art and brilliance, it's consistently interesting to look at, and nigh perfection for the mainstream crowd.
Rating: 8

Script: Writing. Ugh. My biggest beef is that certain lines of dialogue are spoken, resaid, and reworded over and over to make sure that the viewer remembers what happened last show. I guess that's necessary, but saying the same thing in the same episode? Filler. Motives and politics are clear and though there's often useless stuff that happens along the way sometimes... We can't help but understand.
Rating: 7

Plot: There are a few gaping plot holes: Jack kicks a heroin habit inside 3 hours, crack Delta Assault teams are mowed down by 2 guys when it's convenient, twists involving babies in the office and a constant breaking of ingrained protocol. These are glaring, but the fact that chasing down one guy leads to another higher up, leads to an old enemy, then someone you'd never expect to ends up dead, the intrigue keeps going on and on. It's a good story, and though it could be better, it's definitely entertaining.
Rating: 8

Mood: Understandably, the acting and the plot take away from the overall mood that could have been, and the suspension of disbelief is a little too frequent from time to time. They don't show enough of how being tired affects their decision, how they get ugly as the day progresses. The action is always intense, everything is INTENSITY all the time. Maybe a little too much, you know? Even though there's all those problems, I still can't help but like it.
Rating: 8

Top of the line wetwork ops and they couldn't get a contractor with a level when they built HQ?!

Overall Rating: 78% (Exciting until the Early Hours)

Aftertaste: I like Season enough to watch Season 4. I like it enough to tell people I enjoy it. Do I like it enough to watch it week after week on schedule? No. I'll wait for DVD.
Kiefer. One word: It's the best.

Monday, January 23, 2006

MirrorMask (2005)

I'm sorry but in a land whith so many stairs... how did you get so FAT!?

Genre: Adventure Drama Family Fantasy (USA, UK)

Starring: Stephanie Leonidas, Gina McKee (Croupier)

Directed By: Dave McKean

Overview: In a place split into light and dark, a young girl searches for the mask that will mend this world and send her home back to her own.

Acting: There was a touch of BBC melodrama from time to time. The acting overall was fine and good, but I didn't find it to be spectacular, though I was impressed with the Dark Queen. She was pretty sweet.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: The visual aspect of this film was obviously of primary importance. The CGI was incredible, my favorite scenes being the those floating giants among that land of staircases, and the panoramic landscapes full of sparkling towers and leaking shadows. Oh, it's pretty. Even the regular world is neat to look at, given that our hero lives in a circus.
Rating: 10

Script: The writing was decent, very suitable for children, but I found from time to time that it didn't spark the imagination nearly as much as the world itself did. You'd think Gaiman would have done better at writing the thing, but then I'm horribly reminded of Neverwhere, his mini-series that I spat upon in my *Worst Hits * list last year.
Rating: 7

Plot: The story overall was a little too basic for me. Yes the world was cool, the motives were believable, but the whole sick mother / evil queen connection was weak, the stuff that happened between plot development was very filler, and though overall a simple little tale, I didn't find it very rich or memorable.
Rating: 6

Mood: The universe is gorgeous, rich, immersive. The only problem I had with it was how that world paralleled this one. The bridge between the two was a little weak. The special effects are super cool, and you will definitely be impressed with the transformation scene, with the clockwork mannequins signing the Carpenters' "Close to you". AMAZING look.
Rating: 9

"Does it feel warm to you? I'm a little warm, what does my temp gauge say?"

Overall Rating: 78% (MirrorMask Shines)

Aftertaste: I ran into a friend a couple of days later and he felt the same way as I did, but we were certainly in concurrence about the girls we saw this with. The women seem to love it, and not because it's some romantic girly film. Either way, they liked it more than us guys. We thought it was fine.

Patlabor 2 (1993)


Animé Drama Mystery Sci-Fi War Thriller (Japan)

Starring: Mîna Tominaga, Toshio Furukawa (Metropolis; Bubblegum Crisis)

Directed By: Mamoru Oshii (Angel's Egg; Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence)

Overview: The police are called in to investigate a terror rocket attack on a bridge. The conspiracy runs deep, and may signal all out war.

Acting: The cast is certainly more serious in this one than in the original Patlabor. The investigators are more serious, and the characters have far more depth (though not as deep as the third installment). The portrayals were far more honest, but was it grand? Did it impress? Nope.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: The quality is far better this time around, but again, not as good as number 3. I can't say that I was intrigued by the style or by what I was looking at, but at least it wasn't blurry.
Rating: 7

Script: The details run pretty deep, and this is good overall, but there were a few logic leaps made by the investigating captains that maybe were too neatly wrapped up. Also I got a little lost along the way, and though I can blame my lack of attention, I still found it a little long, a little too talky. The philosophical discussions however, very enjoyable.
Rating: 7

Plot: This is certainly a stand alone film, and hyper-political in nature. In fact it touts itself as being the most political Anime ever made. I would tend to agree. It's no Constant Gardener, no Syriana, but if this is your bag, it's pretty deep. I must admit I wasn't devoting full attention to this one, and I may have lost a thing or 2 along the way. All that to say, for me it was fine, but slow.
Rating: 7

Mood: The mood was philosophical, deep, mature. In short, a very political drama, with a touch of Sci-fi robot stuff and combat thrown in. However, I just couldn't stop comparing this to Patlabor 3, which I found completely amazing, engrossing and nigh perfect. This was nowhere near as good.
Rating: 8

"You really ran out of gas?! That's funny you only ever hear of people doing that when they're trying to get laid! Anyways, what do we do now?"

Overall Rating: 72% (Labor's Lost)

Aftertaste: This is not what I'd call a memorable film. Early animé tends to be one of those things for me that's risky. Big Robots and Epic battles of universal importance is the order of the day. Luckily, this is nothing like that, but I will just say that I did the job of sifting through the anime to find the gem among this very large pile. One down, nothing impressive.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Patlabor 1 (1990)

Aw, it looks so good with sunbeams though!

Animé Sci-Fi Action Crime Drama Mystery Thriller (Japan)

Starring: Shigeru Chiba (WXIII: Patlabor the Movie 3; Memories), William Dufries (New Dominion Tank Police)

Directed By: Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell; Avalon)

Overview: When mechanized Patlabor units go berserk once a new O/S is put in as upgrades, the police investigate a potential conspiracy.

Acting: The standard melodrama of animé, sadly rears it's ugly head just a little too much. I guess it's the way the 90s were. Weak (but tough) women contrasted with go-lucky fly-off-the-handle guys doesn't leave much depth to these characters, but I wouldn't say it was bad, just a little cliché.
Rating: 6

Cinematography: The animation was a little weak as well. Nothing special, no great effects or sights. There were a couple of scenes that used a fish-eye look, which was neat, but the fight scenes weren't spectacular and the quality of the actual film was very poor. I was not impressed.
Rating: 6

Script: Well, overdubbing certainly didn't improve the quality of the dialogue. Sure the story got it's point across, but the characters were immature and they dragged us a little too much through the plot. Obviously this was intended for a younger demographic.
Rating: 6

Plot: The story itself was good. Conspiracies, biblical references, the whole Ark and Babel thing, this is certainly ok, but the climax was too long, the build-up could have been better, a lot of little things just could have been better done.
Rating: 7

Mood: The overall themes and mood were fine. The film wasn't particularly exciting or good. It reminds me more of the whole Star Trek: The Motion Picture dilemma. The first try was not a hit. Passable.
Rating: 7

"Wait wait, could the women be a bit more shrieky and helpless? What's that? yes even though you're cops, right exactly!"

Overall Rating: 64% (Labor Was a Bit of a Chore)

Aftertaste: A week after seeing this, I'm trying to remember it. That's how easily forgettable this is. I recommend Patlabor 3 to anyone, but this to no one.

Six Feet Under: Season 3 (2003)

They put the Fun in Funeral!

Comedy Drama Series

Starring: Peter Krause (We Don't Live Here Anymore; The Truman Show), Lauren Ambrose

Created By: Alan Ball

Overview: The continuing saga of the life and times of a family in the undertaking business. In this season, Nate and his wife suffer the trials of marriage, David suffers doubt in his relationship, Claire endures Art School, and Ruth trundles on in search of Romance.

Acting: The acting of this series has always been highly dramatic. You have to be careful when there's a lot of emotion flying around , or at least the actors have to restrain themselves from overdoing it. I hated Nate's wife's character, but I can't say that her acting was particularly bad. Great direction, great job. Seriously honest roles. Engrossing.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: The whole 'fade to white' thing still impresses me 3 seasons in. There's the occasional high-art pan and overhead shot or little montage, and that really does it for the scrutinizer in me. Sure it's mainstream (its finest but still mainstream), and to have the little moments of extra care taken from time to time is a nice touch.
Rating: 8

Script: I don't think you'll find a show with better writing very easily. Some shows (sorry "24") often repeat the same thing over and over, as though the audience is blunt or something, but not this one. It's also really easy to follow too, and the whole show is really just about characterization and growth. Everything about it is life lesson, life lesson, life lesson. That HAS to be well written, and it is. Amazing.
Rating: 10

Plot: The story, admittedly took a few episodes to pick up this year. There were ten this season and I really got into it by the third or fourth, so it was a touch slower than before, but this still moves forward really well. The Claire and Nate stories are by far what you'll be following the closest, but by the end, everything is just so damn good.
Rating: 8

Mood: The mood captivates as it always has, but they really spend very little focus on the business. Sure, there's a new apprentice, but I remember Season One as really trying hard to help the people who come into the Home with their funeral needs. They didn't do that anywhere near as much and I was a little disappointed. The drama and the honest emotion and the whole father's ghost thing, that's all still terrific.
Rating: 8

Mom it's the cycle of life, you dookie biggest when you die, so the pantload you just had is really nothing to worry about.

Overall Rating: 86% (A Professional Undertaking)

Aftertaste: The third season is certainly worth watching. I keep telling people how with this show it took me literally 2 minutes to get into it, from episode 1. I may be setting high expectations for you people who haven't seen any of them, but this definitely has some pretty good staying power. HBO kicks ass.