Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Paradise Now (2005)

Said's character development is very impressive, as is the actor portraying him.

Genre: Crime Drama (Palestine, France, Germany, Netherlands, Israel)

Starring: Kais Nashef, Ali Suliman

Directed By: Hany Abu-Assad

Overview: Two Palestinian friends become suicide bombers, but on the day of the assignment, their lives become a little more complicated.

Acting: The director obviously focussed a lot of energy on getting the takes just right. The acting is really powerful, very impressive and this, more than anything, is what will impress the judges at the Oscars. The one who plays Said (above) is amazing.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: Though a good effort was made to make the look of the film reflective of the culture and the like, I didn't find anything special about it overall. Not super-spectacular, but good.
Rating: 7

Script: The writing was decent. The explanations about Said's father, his past and their reasons for accepting such a path are well explained. Still with all that I didn't find it all that exciting or ultra-original, so well give it the standard.
Rating: 7

Plot: The story has a terrific ending, but sadly the ending is but a mere 2-3 minutes. The lead up and the hiccup on their first attempt wasn't that exciting, and though the movie is fairly predictable, it took a path that I didn't want it to go. Good movie, don't get me wrong, but nothing special.
Rating: 7

Mood: This carries really well. The city, the feeling of being oppressed, crushed by those around them, contrasted with that woman whose hope and call for peace is easilly dismissed since she's an out-of-towner. In a way this film cried out the hoplessness Palestine faces in life, seeing only extremist revolution as a way to do something important. Really well done. Great perspective.
Rating: 8

You know you're important when the ringleader comes out of hiding to tell you you're a Godsend.

Overall Rating: 74% (Paradise Can Wait)

Aftertaste: Well wouldn't you know it, for the first time in history someone's petitioned the Oscars to withdraw a nomination for an award. I guess we know now that this film will NOT win best foreign film, but "a group of Israelis who lost children to Palestinian suicide bombings" collected 32,000 signatures to have this movie removed. Might I mention that this was produced and directed by Israelis? What a joke. Someone makes a movie explaining their point of view (rather than resorting to extremist tactics), and Israel STILL has problems with it. Argh!

Monday, February 27, 2006

It's a Gift (1934)

W.C. Fields: Actor, Comedian... Lush
Genre: Comedy

Starring: W.C. Fields (The Bank Dick; My Little Chickadee), Kathleen Howard

Directed By: Norman Z. McLeod (The Paleface; Monkey Business)

Overview: When a man earns an inheritance, he up and buys a California orange grove before even looking at it. The family's road trip ends at a beat up old shack.

Acting: I distinctly recall reading how W.C. Fields' comedy had the most impeccable timing, how his masterfully original performance was just out there hilarious. Sure he's got a funny accent and falls down and stuff, but don't let it fool you, it's fine, like the rest of the cast, but he ain't no Chaplin. Decent, no more.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: This was good though. There's a few stunts, a few neat sets like the picnic and the three floor apartment scene. The cars and the general store, the look of the thirties was well captured. Nice to watch.
Rating: 8

Script: The writing was decent, none of this was disappointing. That awful wife of his with that attitude and his mean neighbor lady and her kid. They get you feeling so bad for our poor hero. Though again I can't say that I wasn't expecting more from this King of Comedy. I guess I know why I don't hear too much about this guy...
Rating: 7

Plot: The story on the other hand was very fun. Honestly, most of this film is not about the oranges, it's about W.C. Fields trying to run a store, and actually GET to California. The oranges sort themselves out, don't worry about it. There were a few scenes that could have used a better writer, like when W.C.'s trying to shave while his daughter's using the mirror, but that trying-to-sleep out on the porch with all the distractions going on? That is classic awesome.
Rating: 8

Mood: This is what got me. The timing was not 'flawless', the comedy was not 'astounding'. I just didn't feel perfectly there. The terrible ladies are great and the movie was fine, but something was missing. It all seemed directed like a play, a little too contrived. The comedy was forced.
Rating: 6

The blind guy breaks all the windows and most of the lighbulbs, that 'stressful' kind of comedy

Overall Rating: 72% (It's A Movie)

Aftertaste: Frankly, I was disappointed in the 36th title seen from my 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book. I was really looking forward to W.C. Fields, and I will certainly give him another chance with his The Bank Dick, and another collection of shorts that's on its was from Zip.ca, but like I said, I think I know why W.C. Fields isn't the most famous film comic out there...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Daybreak (1939)

He loves her, she has secrets... This is my care face.

Genre: Drama Crime Thriller (France)

Starring: Jean Gabin (Grisbi; The Grand Illusion), Jacqueline Laurent

Directed By: Marcel Carné

Overview: A man stumbles out of an apartment, shot to death. Overnight, the murderer locks himself away from the law, contemplating the reasons behind the crime, while police wear down his defenses.

Acting: The acting, I suppose, was the best part. They didn't stumble over lines, they weren't overly melodramatic (except for the delirium scene, and that was intentional), but when you have so little to work with, you can't help but be dragged down by the rest. I've always found French film to be foppish, and this did nothing to help deter me away from that belief.
Rating: 6

Cinematography: Let's blame a lot on the quality of the tape. Let's also explain how unimaginative every set was, how the only interesting shot was looking down a tenement stairwell, and how France in 1939 was all around tacky in costume, art and architecture. Not only was this so boring that I was counting down the minutes constantly, but I was genuinely troubled by the degree of boredom that crept into me like a plague!
Rating: 2

Script: The sound quality made it almost impossible to follow these people. The 'English Subtitles' were lazy overviews of the actual dialogue that took place. One whole important scene was without subtitles at all. That aside (luckilly I'm French), the story was without drama, and such a bland recounting of professions of love and observations of others that you can tell this was early cinema, because no one today would dare use such common, everyday writing such as this tripe drivel. Boring!
Rating: 2

Plot: The story is a recounting of a murder motive. What gets me is that the man with the gun shoots through his door at cops, then for the rest of the night they try to capture and / or kill him, by shooting his lock (but are foiled by the DRESSER he puts in front of the door?!) or taking pop shots through his window. What a joke! As for the story itself: Boy meets girl, Girl has a past, Boy is jealous, boy shoots ex-lover. Who cares? Unoriginal and twistless.
Rating: 3

Mood: The mood of this one was all jealous impassioned rage and complicated love. What a crock of bull. This sentimental dolt is so jealous that he lets his passions run away with him and drive him to kill. Sorry, but I'm not buying your passionate fate. Get a brain in your head, Eurotrash! If all of France acted like this, it's no wonder the Germans wandered in so easily, everyone engrossed in love triangles while cops were spending 8 hours to break into a man's bachelor apartment...
Rating: 3

Jean Gabin, considered one of the better French actors... Ugh, he should have joined the Resistance instead

Overall Rating: 32% (Let This One Stay Broken)

Aftertaste: This was one of the films in my grand tome called 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. This was only available at the Public Library, and the version I saw was old and messed up. I'm starting to wonder if it's really worth chasing around these 'must see' classics. Perhaps the reason these films aren't on DVD, or even easily accessible around town, is because they're not as good as some gang of critics claim... Totally terrible film. Ick. Spit.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Season 3 (2002)

Look how driven he is! No one is safe from the evil eye of Grissom!

Genre: Mystery Crime Drama Thriller Series

Starring: William L. Petersen (To Live and Die In L.A.; Manhunter), Marg Helgenberger (Bad Boys; China Beach)

Created By: Anthony E. Zuiker

Overview: This show follows a team of Forensic Crime Scene Investigators as they analyze clues, letting the evidence speak for the victims.

Acting:I'm guessing Grissom is going to be most people's favorite, but everyone in the cast is a great bunch of actors. The direction is solid and though there are flaws from time to time in the actual investigating, the characters are certainly not the problem. Great chemistry... Pardon the pun.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: The panoramic helicopter openings, the little special effects to explain the elements of a crime, a zoom in on some trace evidence, or a flashback 'might have been' with lens flares and effects filters really adds an element to the visuals. They always try to make the circumstances and the settings interesting and detailed, and don't forget it's Vegas, which is cool all on its own. For TV, this is awesome.
Rating: 9

Script: Sure sometimes a touch over the top, but not often, and sometimes the obvious lead is delayed for suspense. I mean after all these years, you'd think they'd know a little better (they do actually experiment less, so there does seem to be a learning curve), but the show is for the audience, not the characters. I will add that I've noticed the decent wit, and the 'tech' talk isn't all garble ("24" is horrible for that). Really good.
Rating: 8

Plot: There's always two crimes per hour and they always resolve it (not necessarily solve it). They do a touch of character development from time to time, but this show doesn't seem like it will ever focus on the characters. "Law and Order"'s success centered around very little character development, and lots of police and lawyerin'. Don't mess with that, it really works. Very cool stories. Top quality writers, though sometimes the plots are a little fantastical.
Rating: 8

Mood: This is the great equalizer. Sadly, they do things which seem more like propaganda than reality. Sorting through files and fingerprints within minutes, beautifully rendered computer programs that reconstruct faces, prints, voices or enhance images with flawless precision. These sorts of things make me think that the creator is trying to deter crime through fiction. Still better than any of the other "CSI" shows for that, but hey, it is fiction after all.
Rating: 7

Sometimes you want to be on the other side of the fence just to pretend you're the bad guy...

Overall Rating: 82% (Scope This One Out)

Aftertaste: I don't know what happened with this show. I mean such success bred more success, from this greatness to a brutish "CSI: Miami" with their laughable overpriced lab equipment and corner offices, expensive top of the line vehicles and terrible plot-holed writing, then from that to the even more outrageous "CSI: New York", with a constant bleak undertone and motives invented by overzealous, overdramatic mad scientists. Why? Who knows? Either way, the original is the best and I won't even watch that other garbage. I'll give credit where it's due. Kudos to "CSI". I love it.

The Balloonatic (1923)

Comic genius Buster Keaton is still a huge name in film. No that tie's not the reason.

Genre: Silent Family Comedy Romance Short

Starring: Buster Keaton (The Electric House; Three Ages), Phyllis Haver

Directed By: Edward F. Kline (Cops; The Playhouse), Buster Keaton (The Haunted House; One Week)

Overview: A man in a balloon crash-lands in the woods. He and the young lady he finds end up competing to see who the best survivalist is.

Acting: So this is an even shorter short than Neighbors, and perhaps the effort wasn't quite on par with his other, better known works, but the acting and the direction weren't the problem. You'll like it.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: Some nice camerawork, some good sets of the outdoor, but you can definitely tell the budget's a little lacking in comparisons to his greatest works. Still it's nice and professional, wouldn't have expected anything less.
Rating: 7

Script: The dialogue isn't strong either, but there's no need for it, it's a silent film with very little explanation necessary. For that reason, you get a 'good'.
Rating: 7

Plot: Admittedly the story is a little weak. It starts off great in a House of Horrors, then the guy is stuck in balloon and ends up in the woods trying to find something to eat and survive, competing with a woman out camping. I guess it doesn't sound all that bad, but as entertainment goes, I hoped for more.
Rating: 6

Mood: The stunts are there, but less daring. The choreography centered mostly on the 'trip and fall' and people landing on poor Buster. I must say the bear was a nice touch, but there's no crazy jaw-dropping stunts like I'm used to seeing in his full-feature fare.
Rating: 6

No idea this guy could have been killed in almost every one of his films..

Overall Rating: 66% (Not All That Much Ballonacy Going On)

Aftertaste: This was the last on the DVD compilation of Buster's stuff, and though we enjoyed it, it just wasn't anywhere as great as the rest of it. Either way it's not deterring me from seeing any of Buster's work, and I'm glad I saw it nonetheless.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Neighbors (1920)

Oh don't fret, Buster gets even, over and over and over again!

Genre: Silent Family Comedy Romance Short

Starring: Buster Keaton (Convict 13; Hard Luck), Virginia Fox (The Love Nest; The Blacksmith)

Directed By: Edward F. Kline (The Bank Dick; The Frozen North), Buster Keaton (Daydreams; The Boat)

Overview: Like a modern Romeo and Juliet, this is a story of two star-crossed neighbors whose parents hate one another, but funny... and without all the killing...

Acting: After Buster himself, Joe Roberts, who played the daughter's father, was my favorite of the cast. He was also in Our Hospitality, and he does an even better job here. Melodramatic without being over the top, him, Buster, and all the cast are comic masters. Excellent direction.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: The main shot of the yard of the two houses with the laundry line between them is incredible. The simplicity and versatility of that set really makes for full attention on the players and all their antics and tomfoolery. I'm never disappointed with the stunt choreography either.
Rating: 8

Script: There were even a couple of groaners in this one. Puns normally make me think that a film is horrible, but it's not only forgivable here, it's actually kind of endearing. As for the telling of the tale without sinking too deep in the mire of too much dialogue? Terrific!
Rating: 8

Plot: This is a touch Comedy of Errors, a touch Romeo and Juliet and a lot of tricks and stunts and circus acts. As comedy shorts go, it's pretty regular for simplicity of plot: two neighbors want to get together but their parents are always at odds, and Buster invents little practical joke pranks to get his beloved's dad. Cute and funny.
Rating: 7

Mood: As with all Buster's stuff, he knows that what the audience came for is an action packed stunt ride. In this he manages to do a three man shoulder stand several times, and sets up a 'flyswatter', or a plank that swings back and forth hitting people in the head and in the rump constantly. Such classic stuff you could never find anywhere else. It's a shame that doing this today would be considered cliché, but all the best stuff is always remembered forever. Amazing!
Rating: 9

See this man's stunts and you'll know where Jackie Chan got his inspiration.

Overall Rating: 82% (Get To Know This One)

Aftertaste: This short was included along with Seven Chances, and though it's not a full feature, it's got a lot more laughs, especially when the cops get involved and Buster always trying to get away from them. The race humour (mud and black paint causes mistaken identity) might be a bit off, but if you see it as a comment on law enforcement the laughs double. It's great to be able to laugh at police sometimes. Actually, all the time...

Seven Chances (1925)

See how old this is? They were still using sundials!

Genre: Silent Family Comedy

Starring: Buster Keaton (The Saphead; Speak Easily), Ruth Dwyer

Directed By: Buster Keaton (The General; Our Hospitality)

Overview: When a down on his luck businessman inherits 7 million dollars, he goes on a mission to fulfill his part of the obligation: to be married by 7 PM tonight.

Acting: Buster Keaton. His acting and direction style is more subtle than most people of his generation, and the physical acting portions of his films are what he's all about. I don't think I'll ever have a problem with this guy. He's amazing. As a director, he also knows how to pick a good cast, that's for sure.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: Aside from the great and dangerous stunts that Keaton pulls off, he knows some pretty good cameramen. Vignetting, scene set up, cropping, all those extra brides chasing him scene after scene cracked me up constantly. I must admit, the shooting of this was critical for the comedy, and it's terrific.
Rating: 8

Script: Silent film tends to tell just enough without overdoing it, but sometimes suffers from under-explanation from time to time. Not so with this one. The dialogue was just enough to get us going and even the narrative had some art in it, even if it was only a branch through the season. Perfect for the genre.
Rating: 8

Plot: The story isn't as good as Our Hospitality, it's definitely a thinner plot, but great nonetheless. Man inherits money, but has to get married in the next few hours. He proposes to his lady, and she takes it the wrong way. By the time she's changed her mind, his inheritance is all over the paper with women lining up outside. The chase is the best part, cause that's when Buster gets stunty!
Rating: 7

Mood: Comic stunts is this man's forte and though I was wondering when they'd kick in, I was NOT disappointed when they did. He prides himself in danger I suppose. In this one, he's lifted about 15 feet in a crane and swung around with only his hands to keep him safe. He runs in front of a movie train and rolls and falls down mountainsides. If you don't appreciate this kind of stuff... You suck.
Rating: 9

A church full of women to marry, including one black lady and a dude with a beard!

Overall Rating: 80% (Seven Chances is a First Time Hit!)

Aftertaste: A great movie with a couple great friends. Keaton is the kind of guy whose movies you can watch every few years and never get bored on. You know why his name has endured through the ages, and it's cause he's insane! Can't wait to see more of his stuff.

Premonition (2004)

Extry! Extry! Read all about it! Oh... Sorry buddy...

Genre: Horror Thriller (Japan)

Starring: Hiroshi Mikami, Noriko Yamamoto (Ju-on: The Grudge 2)

Directed By: Norio Tsuruta

Overview: Based on the manga story called The Newspaper of Terror, this tells the tale of a man who is haunted by a newspaper article that predicts people's deaths.

Acting: The acting is certainly not this director's forte. It's quite obvious that Japan is afflicted by melodrama, but with such trendsetters as Korusawa, I suppose I can only blame a little. This director started doing straight to video stuff, and now he's moving up to international status. I think this will be a good stepping stone for him, but he needs a bit more experience. Maybe someone will give him a real budget next time.
Rating: 6

Cinematography: Visually, this movie has a few effects flaws. The CGI is far too low budget for the explosions, the paper, the blood and gore stuff, everything actually, but I got over it. The angles and the camerawork on the other hand had some good work behind them and you could tell they were well storyboarded. Professional, but knowing the weakness in the CGI, they should have stepped away from so much of it
Rating: 7

Script: In hindsight, nothing stood out as being particularly well written. I bet there was a lot lost in translation. Given the budget, I don't think they got the most poetic and refined crew of wordsmiths. I'll tell you though, the story's angle of the dilemma was a good route to take. Enjoyable.
Rating: 7

Plot: Man reads future, doesn't stop it, tragedy strikes. Man starts seeing premonitions all over the place. The plot centers itself around the question 'Is this future changeable, and if so what are the repercussions?' Sure, it starts a little slow and develops more at the pace of a thriller, but there's a point at which this movie completely redeems itself: the climax is nice and deep. A very original dark reckoning of the soul.
Rating: 8

Mood: With a look imitative of Ringu (The Ring) the dark, haunting feel of this film is pretty immersive. The fact that the paper itself is a mystery as to whether it's good or bad is a nice touch, and the music and lens filter effects enhance the feel perfectly. As for that climax, it really sucks you in and keeps you there.

Rating: 8

After all this time hoping to save his daughter and when she asks for cold cream, does he have it? No!

Overall Rating: 72% (I Predicted As Much)

Aftertaste: This is one of those movies that I watch BETWEEN movies. You know when you're vegging at a friend's house and "
American Idol" is on? Right. Like that except better. I woke up and turned TMN on Demand on and started watching the movie before work, then watched the rest when I got home. One of those short films that you don't feel too bad knowing it's not going to be great, but you watch anyways just to see how that little part of the film world is going. Free movies are guiltless, might as well enjoy them.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Last Days (2005)

Michael Pitt does a great stoner

Genre: Experimental Music Drama

Starring: Michael Pitt (Murder by Numbers; Bully), Lukas Haas (Lathe Of Heaven; Brick)

Directed By: Gus Van Sant (Gerry; Elephant)

Overview: This third installment of Gus Van Sant's cinematographic trilogy, Last Days is a dramatic parallel of the final days of Kurt Cobain.

Acting: The part of Blake, as played by Michael Pitt, was very convincing. He plays someone 'on the nod' very well, does a great job of being eccentric and forlorn without seeming suicidal. There's no real signs of the end for this character, except for his own natural personality. A very subtle yet powerful role by all. Gus is big on characters and acting. I knew this would do well.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: The look, or more specifically the framing and the camerawork is what this film focuses on. Like with Gerry and Elephant, Gus attempts to bring us the lens perhaps more than the story. Sadly, I found that this was the weakest of the trilogy, including in the cinematography, but this is a successful attempt at high art.
Rating: 8

Script: "Do you talk to your daughter? Do you say, 'I'm sorry that I'm a rock & roll cliché'?"

Half the movie is Blake high on smack, mumbling to himself or to others. We don't really learn much about the characters through dialogue, it's really like you're visiting people who know each other and don't need to talk about things cause they know already. For that this excels, for the true 'slice of life' of it all, but though I expected less dialogue than mainstream, I wanted as much as with Elephant or Gerry.
Rating: 6

Plot: You'd better like a slow movie. Perhaps this would have been better alone, since movies this quiet invite discourse and distraction. I would have liked a touch more drama, perhaps a scene closer to the moment of his death, him writing the suicide note, who knows. I wanted more.
Rating: 5

Mood: Some very poignant scenes in this one. The music is fantastic, the tone is cautious, the drug-induced haze is ever-present, and that conversation with the record exec made me realize how deep this character's self-loathing was. Gus worked hard to make this good, and though a little slow, it was neat.
Rating: 7

Music's his passion, and the only words you'll hear clearly spoken are the ones in the songs.

Overall Rating: 70% (High-Art That Will Have Seen Its Last Days In The Mainstream)

Aftertaste: This will certainly not be liked by the common people, and a lot of people, including myself will categorize this under 'Experimental'. I guess that means, "You really gotta be into it to like it and never recommend this to your friends cause they'll hate you, unless this is exactly their thing". Certainly not Gus' best work, but looking forward to his next one.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Fateless (2005)

Touching portrayal but the plot's as thin as this guy...

Genre: Drama (Hungary, Germany, UK)

Starring: Marcell Nagy, Áron Dimény

Directed By: Lajos Koltai

Overview: This is based on the true story of a Hungarian Jew sent to a concentration camp.

Acting: Without question, the roles, not only of the father and the family, of Marcell and every single person involved at every step, was astounding. I found the most interesting acting was right at the beginning and at the end, when we see the Budapest citizens and how they react to the Jews, pitiless and resigned. Powerful stuff.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: Take the camps from Shindler's List, add the architecture and interior designs of The Pianist and Sunshine, throw in a dash of Saving Private Ryan for city-scapes and effect filters, and there you have Fateless, a well staged, properly thought out film that played it completely safe with nothing new to add to the genre, drawing its cinematographic success specifically from other similar films. Impressive for a first time look at the genre, this was a boring and pathetic repeat of the same old movies.
Rating: 7

Script: The other films mentioned above had an angle, Shindler gave historic perspective, Sunshine was a generational tale, each movie taught us something. Yes there was an interesting slant on how he tried to find joy among the memories of that place, but Life is Beautiful did that first. You know, the writing was fine, but not enough to make me think anything great.
Rating: 7

Plot: The story was boring. Is it wrong to say an important film about persecution of Jews during the Holocaust was boring? Hey, guess what? 'Important' film is my meat and potatoes, so I've already seen all the other ones that said the exact same thing, and better. This one had nothing new to tell. I've seen the horrors of the Holocaust in about 10 other films. Stop repeating everything!
Rating: 4

Mood: Like with the cinematography, the mood was safe. This isn't the kind of movie that makes you sick and hide your eyes or cry endlessly. It's not overwhelming, so you people who pussied out for Shindler might like this one better. Quality themes throughout, some good alienation / lack of identity / displacement stuff at the end, but overall nothing spectacular.
Rating: 7

Journal Entry: For as much as I was glad to have been rescued, it would have been nice if they had given me a little change of clothes...

Overall Rating: 68% (Fateless? Lacked Willpower Too...)

Aftertaste: The film disappointed me utterly. When I told people I was going to this, my invite said how this was "unlike all the other holocaust films because it's more about our character's perception". I thought it would be like an escapist rendition, a sad yet joyous recounting filled with the fantastical because the truth was just too horrible, hence very powerful juxtaposition throughout. That would have been cool, but instead I got the most common, blandest concentration camp story I've ever seen without any slant whatsoever. Please...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 5 (2005)

Uncouth, selfish and proud. Meet Larry David, as himself...
Genre: Comedy Series

Starring: Larry David ("Seinfeld"), Cheryl Hines (RV)

Created By: Larry David

Overview: The ongoing saga of Larry David, creator of "Seinfeld", as himself in the hilarious comedy about being an uptight no-etiquette Jew living in Los Angeles.

Acting: There's other celebrities constantly interacting with our hero. Ted Danson and Richard Lewis are regulars on the show, playing themselves, but people like Super Dave Osborne and Rob Cordry ("The Daily Show") play neighbors and the like. Obviously this show has a crazy budget (such prooves as Dustin Hoffman in the Season Finale). Big names, big talent, great direction.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: Alright, the sets aren't that elaborate but the show is bright and professional with different camera mediums and a big budget, so that's nice. Some jokes wouldn't normally be as good if the framing or camera work was static, so there's a real effort in incorporating the visual element in the humour. That gets points.
Rating: 8

Script: Can I say genius? Can I go so far? I'm torn. This show cracks me up so perfectly, in that way that "Seinfeld" didn't come anywhere close to doing. Each show, three things will happen that will come back and either bite Larry on the ass or cause hilarity to ensue. The comedy is one thing, but the wit of the humour is great. The whole show is him making fun of himself and pulling it off just right. Amazing.
Rating: 9

Plot: The fact that every episode in this season relates back just a little to an episode before is a nice touch. The constant ongoing stories are Richard Lewis' kidney donor search and Larry's investigation into whether or not he's adopted. The season is stand alone (I've only watched Season 1 besides) and easy to follow, with a nice little Finale. Very entertaining stories. So witty!
Rating: 9

Mood: The mood is comic etiquette flubs and Larry's selfishness show after exaggerated show. Sure, it can be over the top sometimes, even for itself, but you know, the fact that they make fun of the Hollywood actor's everyday lives and their quirks with a selfish Jewish perspective is "Pretty Good! Preeeety, preeeety gooood!"
Rating: 8

"Yeah, but who are we to judge what they're wearing?"

Overall Rating: 86% (Curb How Good This Is? An Exercise In Futility!)

Aftertaste: Admittedly I have a couple friends who don't see the humour, and Season 5 is the best I've seen so far, it's just so full of accusations and talk about inappropriate things in the context: Telling a handicapped person to wait for his toilet stall or telling a woman that the problem is not her mate's small penis but her 'huge vagina'. This show goes places that only HBO Pay TV would dare, and for that, everyone should give this Season a chance.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Bitter Tea Of General Yen (1933)

He's whispering sweet nothings... No really, they were saying NOTHING. BLA BLA BLA!

Genre: War Drama... Romance?

Starring: Barbara Stanwyck (Double Indemnity; The Lady Eve), Nils Asther

Directed By: Frank Capra (Pocketful Of Miracles; It's A Wonderful Life)

Overview: An American woman is 'rescued' and put up in General Yen's Summer palace, until she can be safely returned home. Their relationship based on opposing philosophies grows until pressed to the extreme.

Acting: Too melodramatic and uninteresting. I know I'll be watching a few more Frank Capra films in the next few months, but I hope that this director's other films has him focusing a bit more on the characters. These ones were just overly stereotypical, not in an ignorant or racist way, just two dimensional.
Rating: 5

Cinematography: The combat scenes were good, the fires and the action was poignant enough, the sets and costumes were elaborate, but what was special about the visuals? Nothing.
Rating: 7

Script: I don't know if the fact that this is one of the first talkies I've watched in a while, or if it's because talkies are still fairly new in 1933 that they have to talk endlessly, but Holy God rambling on and on! The drawn out speeches hit a point where you say, "Yeah, yeah! I get it!" and then you'll just zone out. Bla Bla Bla!
Rating: 4

Plot: Didn't care for it much. The whole time I was waiting for this story to get back to the main storyline (the orphans and the fiancee) until I realized this wooing the white girl WAS the main story. The Mah-Li plot worked well, but in the end it just wasn't my kind of movie.
Rating: 4

Mood: You want to know what a mood killer is? Painting a Caucasian to look like a black man, that's pretty bad. So is giving a white guy some Mr. Spock eyebrows to make him look Chinese. But besides that the sets were opulently elaborate and the theme was well maintained throughout.
Rating: 7

The concubine is discovered to be a snitch. So Yen gives all her jewelry to the white girl. Nice eh?

Overall Rating: 54% (Not My Cup Of Tea)

Aftertaste: As soon as I started watching this I knew I would hate it. It was uncanny. My first though was, "Oh no, this thing is going to be some long-winded drawn out story that will bore me to the end." The whole time I was waiting for them to finally stop talking. This is a movie that your mom might like, but not this guy. Talkies, early talkies don't necessarily benefit from having voice, it's overdone in this one. Silence speaks volumes.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Last Laugh (1924)

Not only is this cinematic genius but look at that 'stach!

Genre: Silent Avant-Garde Drama (Germany)

Starring: Emil Jannings (The Blue Angel; Waxworks), Maly Delschaft

Directed By: F.W. Murnau (Faust; Nosferatu)

Overview: A hotel doorman is demoted and faces humiliation at the hands of his neighborhood and hotel patrons alike. Considered 'a mournful dramatization of the frustration and anguish of the universal working class' this is surely a timeless classic.

Acting: Without a doubt, this director is turning out to be one of my favorites. So much of what he touched has turned into a masterpiece! I strongly urge anyone to watch this man's films. As for the hero of our tale? What a role, what an amazing role! It's a character study, it had better be well acted.
Rating: 10

Cinematography: I'm not certain how to convey the importance of the look of this film to you for the visuals. At the height of this expressionist age of film, Murnau does introspective dream sequences, haunting and exaggerated special effects that hit the nail bang on, and with the cinematographer's way of making every set grand, every scene art... I was floored. The fact that's it's ancient also reminds us of the innovations this film began for the entire industry. No seriously, go out and see this. My Lord!
Rating: 10

Script: Disappointing. We know of the wedding by the icing on the cake. There's a letter telling the porter that he's been reassigned, and the ending has a blurb before the Epilogue, that's it. It's great that there's no dialogue text in the whole film because we're made to understand what's said by context, but twice I was confused as to what was implied, and it frustrated me to know that a line of text would have solved it.
Rating: 6

Plot: The story itself is a man's outward descent into becoming a mockery, and his inward descent into Pride. This tale is a lesson in humility, and it is very clear: people are cruel and Pride is a sin for just this reason. Unfortunately, there are major changes in the Epilogue and though I still liked it, it could have got a much higher score if it was more visceral as it was throughout.
Rating: 8

Mood: The theme blends with the cinematography quite well. The dream sequence tells us so much about the character in a wonderfully surrealistic way. The elaborate uniform traded in for a plain white coat, the looming buildings, the perfect music, all shows us exactly what our Porter is thinking. In all ways, this film is about mood, with just enough symbolism to make you think and just enough down to earth 'feel like you're there with our poor hero' to let it carry you thoughtlessly on. Tremendous.
Rating: 9

Pride. Crushing miserable Pride...

Overall Rating: 86% (With a Work This Good, You'll Have The Last Laugh)

Aftertaste: I'm going to own this. It's that good. This movie made me search for everything this director ever made (a total of 11 films that have survived the ages). I've compiled the list and will see them soon. This F.W. Murnau is insanely great, and I want a little collection of his works. Will knowing who this is when no one else does make me a snob? Let's hope so... Oh right, the Pride lesson... Err..

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Foolish Wives (1922)

I don't know if this guy was lascivious or hungry. Terrible acting!

Genre: Silent Drama

Starring: Erich von Stroheim (Sunset Blvd.; The Grand Illusion), Miss DuPont

Directed By: Erich von Stroheim (The Wedding March; Greed)

Overview: A cunning Russian con plays a ploy to prey on the lonely rich wife of a US envoy in Morocco.

Acting: Ugh. The cousins are fun to watch, but this this is so over-the-top melodramatic that the plot itself suffers. Imagine making someone act so tragic that they go that one step further and actually DO melodramatic deeds? The actors did nothing for me, at all.
Rating: 4

Cinematography: The DVD version was grainy and dark. They should have done a little to improve the contrast filters on it at least. Digitally remastered might have been a better suggestion. Besides that, the look was uninspired. I have no idea why this is a classic. It's obviously not the camerawork, because it's bad, except for maybe the fire at the end.
Rating: 3

Script: The more I write this review the more I hate this movie. The script is fine. Not very memorable, not that good, but not that bad. Outdated and mildly interesting. The whole ploy is just making a friend then asking her for money?! Wow, what a con. Stupid.
Rating: 6

Plot: This story was originally 6 hours long. Good job on the editing because there's no way I would have sat through this bad a story for that long a time. With bad elements of Dr. Mabuse, this fares much better, but ultimately there was a lot of disjointed stuff, especially at the end because the story was edited as best it could, I guess, yet still failed. Also, too many characters, and why did tragedy befall all the time? Just random bad luck? Whatever.
Rating: 4

Mood: Some silent films look and feel like stereotypically bad 'silent film'. Dusty, outmoded stories than seem to really have no relevance, bearing or assume a level of intellect beneath that of our generation. If that's what they were going for, then they get top score. Sadly, I don't think they were going for dirty, grainy chopped-up garbage. The costumes and the lipstick... that's all that gets points.
Rating: 3

She's so sure he's not going to marry her that she burns down his house and kills herself... Twit.

Overall Rating: 40% (You'd Be A Fool To Waste Your Time On This)

Aftertaste: The 31st film seen on my list of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. Oh yeah. I'm still committed to this quick and easy guide to repertoire. At least I can say I studied this one along with the rest. Some are chores to endure and the rest are great cinema, but you know 1922 is just too much of a generation gap. This guy's just a knob.

Thief of Bagdad, The (1924)

Yeah, that's right boys, Brokeback Mountain got nothin' on THIS real man

Genre: Silent Adventure Family Fantasy

Starring: Douglas Fairbanks (The Black Pirate; The Iron Mask), Julanne Johnson (The Big Parade)

Directed By: Raoul Walsh (White Heat; Objective, Burma!)

Overview: A thief falls in love with a princess. When the time for her marriage comes, he dresses up as a suitor in hopes to steal her away, but finds himself instead on a tremendous adventure for the rarest treasure there is.

Acting: The melodrama is insane in this one. The miming and overexpression... it's so out there that it ends up being... endearing. You know the classic image of the woman with her hand on her forehead as she slowly swoons? Yeah that sort of thing. So it's not great acting, but it's great mood. Hard to explain but you'll get what I mean.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: The 6 and a half acres that was used as a set is the biggest in Hollywood history. That has to count for something, and let me tell you, you can really tell. The city is huge, with sets easily 15 stories tall. Sure the monsters are a little costumey-cheese with wires and stuff, but on the other hand, there's monsters! This is vast in look...Breathtaking actually.
Rating: 8

Script: The writing was all old -school lingo like thees and thines while still praising Allah and in my opinion did well in not being racist (the writing, not the themes). The silent films tend rarely to have good wordsmiths, but reading the lines did in fact light me up a little. Definitely helped all aspects of the story.
Rating: 8

Plot: The story, though pretty formulaic, is overall original, and think of the time! This is one of the first Action Adventure stories ever filmed and though the stereotypes are all there (flying carpets, magic treasures, outrageous costumes), think of all the magic, danger and romance!
Rating: 8

Mood: Tremendous effort went into making this just right. I'll even include all the pantomiming in the mood it was so classic. Honestly if you see this movie you'll know what silent film is about. Big, bold and exaggerated, but man can it ever be exciting!
Rating: 9

Magic is everywhere in this film, but don't be afraid of heights

Overall Rating: 82% (Steal Yourself Away With This One)

Aftertaste: I was a little predisposed at not liking this. What a pleasant surprise. You watch this and you laugh at how ridiculous it is, with the ever-flexed bare chest and Arabian pants, the magic rope and all that happy go lucky thieving, but then the suitors and the armies and the costumes and sets get so elaborate you can't help getting sucked in. I was impressed. Yes, sir.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Invader Zim: Season 1 (2001)

Dib, GIR and the maniacal Invader Zim! GIR is definitely everyone's fav

Genre: Sci-Fi Family Animation Comedy Series (USA, Philippines)

Starring: Richard Steven Horvitz, Rosearik Rikki Simons

Created By: Johnen Vasquez

Overview: This is the story of Zim the Urkin Space Invader on his plot to conquer Earth, his insane robot GIR, and Dib, the boy who knows his plan and will do anything to stop him.

Acting: There's a couple big names in this: namely Kevin McDonald of "Kids in The Hall" fame. I don't know what's up with cartoons these days but this one beats them all in the realm of the voice. Often the joke is mediocre, however the delivery will kill you. This show would be nowhere near as good without Zim's over-dramatic zeal and GIR's whacked-out self. Tremendous stuff.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: There's a nice few scenes that have computer CGI animation with 3D rendering and all that cool stuff, but overall the common places like the SKOOL and the 'secret home base' have their own little neat flair. It's good, you'll like to watch.
Rating: 7

Script: The writing is awesome. Just for your information, I'm a 30 year old guy, and kids cartoons tend to suck... big time. This is different. It's for adults too, because of the writing. Talk of defeat and conquer are violent ideas, and easily half the jokes are wit based and not slapstick. It's witty, really a lot.
Rating: 8

Plot: Let me tell you nothing beats that pilot episode, but the show does certainly have lasting value. A couple of episodes made me wonder where the show was going, being somewhat disjointed and presuming a lot, but I've settled into that now and I'm looking forward to Season 2. If it's this good, I'm hooked for life.
Rating: 8

Mood: This is what keeps you coming back for more. Little things like the creepy nihilist teacher, Zim's different world conquering attempts, his house with a toilet in the kitchen, there's just so many strange things going on, it's like a whole other type of show. This is very original stuff and the comedy will often make you raise an eyebrow and laugh at the disconnectedness of it all.
Rating: 9

Zim plots to hypnotize the world with his puss-filled zit... Seriously not kidding.

Overall Rating: 82% (It'll Hold You Hostage, in a Good Way.)

Aftertaste: The friend of mine who recommended this is cooler for making me watch the whole thing, rather than be satisfied with the one little episode I did see many moons ago. Do I suggest that everyone else see this? Are Urkins green? (That's a yes :P)