Sunday, April 30, 2006

Battlestar Gallactica: Season 1 (2004)

Cool-ass post-apocalypse in effin' space!

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Action Adventrue Drama Sci-Fi Series (USA, UK)

Starring: Edward James Almos (American Me; "Miami Vice"), Mary McDonnell (Donnie Darko; Independence Day)

Developed By: Ronald D. Moore

Overview: Following the devastating attack of their ages-old robotic enemy, the Cylons, the 50,000 surviving humans scour space in search for the legendary planet Earth, lead by the military flagship Battlestar Gallactica.

Acting: By far, without a doubt, Edward James Almos is my favorite character. Reminiscent of "Star Trek: The Next Generation"'s stoic Picard, he is intelligent and driven, yet his role is far more human, far less professional. Other characters include the drunk second in command, the paranoid scientist and the sexy Cylon in his head, the dying new president, and the upstart ace pilot. The quality of the cast is exceptional, better than many films. You know the actors have studied long and hard.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: The Cylons are nice. The Battlestar, the fighters, all the spaceships really, the unique camerawork used exclusively for the space scenes... Amazing. You can tell that a lot of money went into making this sci-fi look great, and for once they really thought about the space battles. They use a 360 degree field of combat, so it's disorientingly realistic, FINALLY.
Rating: 9

Script: When you start off with a plot scheme so rich that you really have to go out of your way to ruin the writing, you might think that the dialogue itself falls by the wayside a little. Imagine my surprise at characters that don't act like you would expect them to, and whose lines deliver so many intriguing synaptic sparks that you wonder why the deep-space is filled with so many wordsmiths.
Rating: 9

Plot: The show opens up rife with conflict, the stuff that takes half a season to resolve. From struggles with inner demons of guilt, duty, and addiction to the Cylons themselves, perfectly masked as humans, with their own goals and intense desires, you will become a fan very quickly. Add civil politics that crash waves against military authority and order, and you'll appreciate that this show will be running for season after season.
Rating: 9

Mood: I must add however that the standard conventions of today apply far too greatly for me to be completely immersed in this world. Things like phone cords, British accents, platinum blondes with mamarian implants, a Han Solo carbon-copy and Quanza-geared priests detracted enough from this category to make me groan for what I knew could have been a much better series. Sorry guys, it's good but don't make me swallow it up just because it's pretty.
Rating: 7

Uh, With Cylons like these, who needs friends?

Overall Rating: 86% (Intergalactic!)

Aftertaste: Will I continue to love this series, damn right, but as a good friend told me once, the most important thing about sci-fi is creating a culture distinct from our own. Having Greek Gods and 6-sided cards is really not enough to pull off a unique universe, regardless of the home-made enemy. Still, I've been told that I judge too harshly, that I have to watch the second season for the answers too many of my issues. Maybe though, it's not that everything gets answered later as much as the producers got told by the focus group what to fix.

Lucid (2006) * Hidden Gem *

Find the psychotic sheep. Hint: It's the only one staring at Joel

Genre: Comedy Drama Mystery Thriller (Canada)

Starring: Jonas Chernick, Callum Keith Rennie (Last Night; Flower & Garnet)

Directed By: Sean Garrity

Overview: The problem is not that psychotherapist Joel Rothman can't sleep or has three patients suffering from the same delusions, it's that he's starting to see what they are.

Acting: Callum Keith Rennie is quickly becoming my favorite Canadian actor, (sorry Alan Thicke). He is by far my favorite character in this one too, playing a man ever close to comitting violence. Any movie that has the potential for melodrama like this psychological thriller, but decides to add a healthy dose of comedy just to make a buffer for the excusable over-zealous main character... that's a good thing, and a nice touch. Man, even the kid is awesome!
Rating: 9

Cinematography: There are some pretty sweet bouts of imagery. The growing numbers of sheep on the bedroom wall and the rapid-fire editing for those hectic scenes all do a wonderful job of enhancing the visual experience. The closer we get to the end, the better this gets, the more you notice Joel's world falling apart. Oh yeah, awesome.
Rating: 8

Script: The writing style is one that not only speaks in the technical from time to time (which I appreciated), it also does well in having characters each with their own distinctly unique personalities, including the daughter. Thrillers can get away with cheap scares and mediocre psychological twists, but when they have genuinely interesting characters like these, it can make a whole movie. Really intelligent and often funny stuff with some neat wild theories.
Rating: 9

Plot: Thrillers risk being slow to start. This definitely wasn't. Thrillers can also risk being predictable. Not here neither. Maybe if you spent the whole movie guessing the next step or thinking about the conclusion, perhaps your theory would hold up. I'm not saying it's so full of twists that you'll be all wound up, but I found that I was more into the story than the mystery, and you know that's a good sign. I wasn't even trying to figure it out. I knew I'd be pleased either way.
Rating: 8

Mood: This Thriller is less Sliver / Basic Instinct and more The Machinist / The Jacket, so right away you have a mystery of the self needing to be revealed rather than some stupid crazy girl in love. It uses pretty common elements like blue filters and haunting music, suspense and the escalating threat of violence, so it's pretty familiar stuff, but why mess with perfection? It was great.
Rating: 8

Find the psychotic man. Hint: He may be holding a knife.

Overall Rating: 84% (A Real Eye-Opener!)

Aftertaste: My stupid city newspaper, the Ottawa Citizen, gave this two and a half stars out of five, saying it was mediocre, full of plot holes adding that the ending was obvious. What a crock. Roger Ebert gave Flight 93 five stars in the same paper, though, so I took the whole cinema section with a grain of salt. I remember one day when I was a child, I wanted to see Labyrinth, and my friend's mother told us to go see Pirates because the Citizen said it was one of the best movies of the year. Reluctantly we did, only to find that it was the worst movie I'd seen in my life (at the time).

All four of my guests thought Lucid was great. What's the lesson here? Don't listen to newspaper movie reviews, listen to me.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Public Enemy (1931)

James Cagney, Gangster extraordinaire, but picture him dancing in a sailor suit.

Genre: Action Crime Drama

Starring: James Cagney (The Roaring Twenties; Footlight Parade), Jean Harlow (Reckless; Hell's Angels)

Directed By: William A. Wellman (Beau Geste; The Ox-Bow Incident),

Overview: Prohibition means big bucks for Tom and Matt, but w
ith every great opportunity comes great risk. This is their story.

Acting: James Cagney is one of the world's few actors whose presence is... omnipresent. There's just something about the way he delivers his lines that commands people to automatically like what he's in, and Cagney is certainly becoming one of my favorites. Everyone else in this is great, except for the way-melodramatic Donald Cook, who plays our anti-hero's straight-and-narrow brother.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: There's a machine gun ambush scene which used a real machine gun and live ammo. There's something to be said about a gangster movie that uses real guns, my friend. Besides that, this is ripe with suspense and silhouetted shootouts in the rain. When you see themes and images that you've seen dozens of times and they still haven't gotten old, you quickly learn what the world 'Classic' means.
Rating: 8

Script: "You're a swell dish! I think I'm gonna go for you!"

The Noir elements of this script are so great that it had me wondering if it was simply a sign of the times or if it was way out there on purpose, Sin City style. The decision I came to was that it didn't matter, since the script is so right for James and his underworld crew that you'll be trying to pull off the accent because everything they said was so cool.
Rating: 8

Plot: Granted, the end was a little abrupt, but the tale itself was original while still being familiar. Those proclaiming to be Gangster/Noir fans but who haven't seen this would most likely get thrown on the ground, surrounded and kicked about the head and face, all while being called 'Poser'. This is such definitive of the ganger genre that it was featured in an episode of "The Sopranos", while Tony chuckled at the moral lesson it tried to teach.
Rating: 8

Mood: This movie is ripe with 'the look'. Rolls Royces driven by men in pinstripe suits and fedoras, gritty dialogue, Bostonian accents... it's a real smash-up tale of the rise and danger of the 20s prohibition-busting gangsters, with a nice couple of subplots to keep you entertained, not to mention all the face-slapping going on.
Rating: 9

"Why yes dear I WOULD love some freshly squeezed grapefruit juice..."

Overall Rating: 82% (A Spectacle For All To See)

Aftertaste: The only problem I had with this movie were the occasional slow bits, where the mother threw in her two-cents, or during the beginning when we saw these characters while they were kids, the child actors were truly weak, but those short moments aside, it was really inspirational, really fun, really repertoire. You'll be glad to have seen it, for sure.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Big Parade (1925)

Reluctantly accepting a cigarette that travelled to France 'a la Papillion'

Genre: Drama War Romance

Starring: John Gilbert (Queen Christina), Renée Adorée

Directed By: King Vidor (The Crowd)

Overview: In this story of a young playboy gone to war, we follow him in his experiences camaraderie, love and battle.

Acting: There are so many characters worthy of mention that it's obvious Vidor spared no scene from focus. From the love interest to Jim's two soldier friends, from the officers to Jim's family, everyone plays their role with appropriate humour, drama or tragedy. Making a film so versatile in their genres like this one where we go from comedic romance to battlefield drama can't be easy, but the cast made it look like it was. Really amazing.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: King Vidor may not have been as big on imagery as he was on realism, but his stories are still visually stunning and poignant. The scene with the caravan of over 300 trucks going up the road to the front lines, followed by the march across the wasteland field and the night attack... I don't know how you couldn't be moved by this.
Rating: 8

Script: There's quite a bit of intertitles in this one with war chants, real drama, and real character development. I've said before that the silent era has to do what it can to minimize the dialogue, to tell the story through acting, but after seeing this, I realize anything can be done, as long as the delivery is good, and this certainly delivers.
Rating: 8

Plot: A war movie. Great. There's going to be battle and shooting and loss and we're all going to be sad. I guess I'll watch this scene where he meets a girl... Ok, well this scene has turned into half the movie already... Wait a minute! This is actually a good story that's different than the rest of all the war movies out there? An actual story about one man's journey? A character study rather than a historical account? Well THAT's original!
Rating: 9

Mood: The silent film is a crap shoot. Sometimes you'll watch a film so old that the contextual relevance is gone. War, love, friendship, these are all the strongest of concepts, and when you watch this you will certainly be there with Jim during all his trials and tribulations. It's nice to have a war movie that isn't all war. It's almost like the director was explaining what they were fighting for... hmmm...
Rating: 8

She says "Would you marry me if I was THIS fat?" He hears, "I'll only marry you if it's THIS big."

Overall Rating: 84% (March Out And See This)

Aftertaste: For the movie that is the highest grossing silent film of all time, I'll agree that you should spend your money on this one. It's serious enough, funny enough, honest and deep enough to appease everyone who watches it. There are so many World War II stories out there, but to date this is the third World War I film I've seen yet. All Quiet on the Western Front and Joyeux Noel are both highly recommended in my books, and this has certainly earned it's place in the trifecta.

The Dark Side Of Oz (1973) * Top Picks *

Hi Kiddies,

It's rather difficult to rate a film when we start off reviewing a movie that doesn't actually exist, so rather than analyzing this like I usually do, let's start with some background.

You all know that The Wizard of Oz is one of those movies that you've either seen, regret not yet having seen or at the very least, know well enough about. It's a modern classic, and it plays on TV all the time around Easter. Without debate it's considered a great movie, one of the American Film Institute's Top 100 (actually it's number 6, right between Lawrence of Arabia, and The Graduate).

Now that we're clear about that, less of you may know that Pink Floyd's 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon was one of the top selling albums ever made, holding the Guinness World Record for being on Billboard Top 200 charts longer than any other album, ever, just over 11 years... straight. Clearly this sound recording has made a name for itself in history.

And now the doozie: Pink Floyd's album, Dark Side of the Moon was made in synchronicity with the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.

What that means is if you queue up the album on continuous repeat while playing the movie, you will clearly be made aware of 10 obviously blatant planned coincidences, or 'synchronicities', not to mention constant commonality in overall themes throughout the film in general, though the band has always denied it.

Over the last few months, I've been planning to see this for myself lately, and what do you know, coincidence and synchronicity heard my cry and my little town's Indy theater decided to have a showing of such a unique experience as you would be remiss to observe.

Here is the most well-known example of the synchronicities present in the film: The song The Great Gig in the Sky begins when the tornado storm scene begins, and ends when that scene ends, followed by Dorothy coming out of the house, greeted by a vivid Technicolour Oz. At that very moment, the song Money begins (much to the cheer and applause of the full-house audience).

I was going to describe another scene when the crowd cheered in amazement and mention two or three other interesting moments where the album is clearly meshed as one in the film, but I think I prefer the thought that you will go out of your way to see this on your own and experience it all yourselves without any more spoilers. To tell more would be like giving away the plot.

For anyone who suspects that this is purely coincidental and believes it to be simply an interesting experience, I say you are, without a doubt, entirely mistaken. Every song in this album and every scene in the movie consistently proves the intent to create a sound recording meant to be watched at the exact same time as this popular family film. It's absolutely amazing.

Aftertaste: This was one of the most surprising cinematographic experiences of the year, not to mention of my life, mainly because it's severely sub-culture super-cool while still being popular enough to keep you out of the realm of the geek obscurity closet. The fact that you'll never see this in passing carries with it the significant weight of letting you call yourself a true patron of the Pop culture Arts.

To think that my little local independent theater would go out of it's way to expose this to the world, complete with a full house, popcorn and nice seats, makes it even better. Thank you very much, Bytowne.

In preparation for this post I did my research and discovered two more wonderful secrets. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, as well as Blade Runner, movies that coincidentally I happen to own were also meant to be synched up with Pink Floyd albums, Animals and Wish You Were Here, respectively. I'm very much looking forward to that in the near future.

I think anyone who wants to catch a glimpse of genuine subculture genius should watch this, and if you need any help queuing it up, feel free to leave me a
comment, I'll guide you through it.

Now in case anyone asks, if I had to give it a score using my scale, I would keep it at the 90% I originally gave it, with the plot suffering for the enhanced Script and Mood given in the first review.

I hope you all understand that this film, seen in this way, is truly a spectacle to enjoy, and it also reveals an interesting secret from an album enjoyed by so many millions of listeners. How better to expand your artistic horizons than with a good album and a good movie?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Boy And His Dog (1975)

Any movie that starts off with a dog sniffin' out girls for Don Johnson... pretty sure it'll be a good one.

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Drama Sci-Fi Comedy Thriller

Starring: Don Johnson ("Miami Vice", Tin Cup), Susanne Benton

Directed By: L.Q. Jones

Overview: This is the story of a young man and his telepathic dog companion as they scrounge their post apocalyptic wasteland for food, women and shelter.

Acting: I was impressed. There's just enough names to hold up this production, and when it's a little lax, the comedy's silly enough to make it work. Don and the dog actually have quite a nice chemistry. My guest commented on how good an actor the dog was, but that he wasn't sure about the telepathy since he could see the dog's lips moving...
Rating: 8

Cinematography: Mad Max was apparently inspired a little by this one. Little shanty towns and desert wastelands abound, and all the people scrounge and wear tribal attire, even a few sexy moments too, not to mention some decent action shootouts and dog attacks. And to think in the future all they have in the way of film is black and white vintage porn!?
Rating: 8

Script: "I hope that the next time you play with yourself, you go blind." - Blood

The best lines are delivered by the mutt. Sardonic and belligerent, constantly mocking his inferior human comrade, Blood the Dog is by far the funniest character. As the plot unveils itself we're greeted with something far deeper than standard explanations for what's going on. Real effort was put into the writing.
Rating: 8

Plot: So it starts off like you'd expect, man in a desert wasteland scrounging for survival, but the when we kick into the unique story of following the girl, it turns weird and funny and surreal, and as endings go, this is some awesome. What a lovely end. Nothing proves love more than this.
Rating: 8

Mood: There were 2 questions left unresolved: what are screamers exactly and why are those people wearing that creepy porcelain doll-face makeup? Sure from time to time the story went a little out there, but it was funny and amusing without taking itself too seriously, and you can't go wrong with that.
Rating: 7

They may have their differences, but in the end, the dog DOES love the Boy's new girl.

Overall Rating: 78% (Good Boy!)

Aftertaste: A fun time actually. This is one of those films I didn't expect much from, and I got a lot out of. I've always been a huge fan of the post-apocalyptic, even going so far as to watching The Postman (and I DON'T regret it!). I have something like six Apocalyptic or Post-Apocalyptic films on this site, and I'll be glad to add a ton more. It's one of the genres I'll be loyal to forever, just as much as Horror.

She Done Him Wrong (1933)

Was there ever a time when bling wasn't the thing?

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Starring: Mae West (My Little Chickadee), Cary Grant (My Favorite Wife; North By Northwest)

Directed By: Lowell Sherman

Overview: This is the story of Lady Lou, nightclub owner and diamond lover. Besides the usual problems, one of her scores of lovers vows to break out of jail and kill her, if ever he finds out she's been doin' him wrong.

Acting: This was one of Mae West's first films. I think she skinnied up for her later stuff, but as far as 'classic voluptuous beauty' is concerned, there was a lot of awkward posing and primping. I also read that this was the movie that made Cary Grant famous. Search me, no idea why. What the hell is up with 1933?
Rating: 5

Cinematography: There's a bar, a stage, a jail scene, and Mae's room. Some guys in costumes, and some women in really elaborate outfits. Oh and there was that scene at the end when there's a carriage! Once there was a time when all you needed was a set and an audience. Lars Von Trier pulled it off with Dogville, but the last time that stories didn't need interesting sets was when cinema hadn't been invented yet. What makes anyone think all a movie needs is a camera pointing at a person?
Rating: 3

Script: "Listen. When women go wrong, men go right after them!"

Granted, Mae did a lot for the industry, namely making people design a censorship board because her writing was so racy and suggestive that they had to pull the reins on her. I was expecting far more witty quips and one liners, maybe even some fresh ideas. Instead I get four crappy songs and one memorable quote.
Rating: 4

Plot: The story is a thin 3 acts, but that's ok, they poke holes in it to stretch the taffy-like plot out even more. Remember the old movies when one scene is all it took a guy to propose? Today that would be ridiculous, but we really understood that there was gushing love flying around and hitting people all over when that scene was on. This ends the same way, except without any spark or the slightest indication that there was any potential at interest, let alone love. Oh I get it, you wrapped up the story to have an ending. Ah... ok.
Rating: 2

Mood: It's funny, looking at the black servant lady and realizing she's inferior. Dump on her, that's amusing! Laugh along now. The other funny thing is looking at a chunky white lady with as much jewelry as Mr T. and thinking that it's cool as she walks around like a penguin with her too-high heels and a corset squashing the life out of her. In all fairness though, nothing beats filling time with a song or four... just to make sure the length is enough to call 'feature'.
Rating: 3

I pity da foo' who mack on mah diamonds!

Overall Rating: 34% (Done ME Wrong!)

Aftertaste: Thanks God it was short. In all fairness I didn't think that this was a movie that needed stopping. Most that sit under 35% are complete chores to endure. The whole time I was wondering when the crop duster was going to come swooping in and gas everyone...

If you didn't get that, you need to see more Hitchcock.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987)

It's really not that kind of movie, really

Genre: Drama (France, West Germany)

Starring: Gaspard Manesse, Raphael Fejto

Directed By: Louis Malle (My Diner With André; Lacombe Lucien)

Overview: In occupied France, 1944, life in a boys boarding school seems to offer solace from the war, until a new student with a secret arrives.

Acting: I don't know what it is about Hollywood that molests the best actors. If you've seen Amoldovar's Atamé (Tie me Up, Tie Me Down), then you'll know what I'm talking about. Antonio Banderras went from a brilliant Spanish actor to a bit of a laughing stock, all because he wanted to provide for his sick mother and his family over in Spain. Do you know what happens when European actors stay in Europe and make movies directed by European directors? This.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: Honestly, I could have used a bit of spicing up in this category. It was minimalist, not distracting, very professional and we got a great sense of the surrounding and the way these children lived, but walks outside and uncommon places like the bunker could have focused a bit more on the look. There's some directors who just need to make sure that the actor's expressions are clear. I like more versatility in my films. It's a medium of visual art. Make it more art, you know?
Rating: 7

Script: Funny, serious, awkward, extremely emotional, like the life of a child, with several conversations on study, or interpersonal relationships, on the present and a touch of future dreams, and a lot of moralising. The realism of students at a boarding school talking about class and what they're learning, well isn't that the point? There's no blatant paragraphs designed to let us know where the plot is coming from or where it's going, it's more honest, more real, less leading by the nose. In short, less Hollywood.
Rating: 8

Plot: This is about children dealing with very adult situations. Typically, a story about children in a boarding school, not to mention with priests as the even MORE severe authority figure, you expect the social dynamic to be a lot of "Underdog versus the Man", but this story does nothing like that. Everyone in this is human, the teachers aren't monsters (rather they're often catalysts and the voices of reason, humility and ethic), they're genuinely interested in molding the minds of the young in a positive manner. You may have heard of this movie before, and if so you know it's not a happy story, but for those of you who don't, it's really one of the better stories of it's genre, not all graphic and large scale tragic.
Rating: 9

Mood: Every time some little slight happens, the prepubescent boys spend their energy pummelling each other. Every sign of weakness is pointed out, every intellectually awkward moment is dismissed rather than investigated. Imagine a dramatic tale as handled by adults. Some real depth, some sentiment, maybe some intense drama. When taken over by children verging on adulthood, but not quite getting it, it makes the experience a truly unique one. Really special, and unfortunately, a story about children grow up all too fast.
Rating: 8

Ok, onnnne little hint about what this movie is about. See the Nazi in the back? Yeah, there.

Overall Rating: 82% (Not To Be Dismissed)

Aftertaste: Not a film that has burned itself into my mind, it is still one of those stories that make me realize one of two things: America is utterly retarded and film execs expects people to want film to be force-feed to them like pigs at a trough. Either that or I'm becoming a film snob. To be a nice little compromiser, I think I'll put myself somewhere in the middle. Why do we expect NOT to be treated, except in RARE occasions like Syriana, like people with brains who want to experience a film rather than spend life in front of a flashing screen? Officially, I now proclaim myself a greater fan of Europe's art than America's.

Cinema Paradiso (1989)

Stop thinking like that! This is a respectable site!

Genre: Drama (Italy, France)

Starring: Salvatore Cascio, Enzo Cannavale

Directed By: Giuseppe Tornatore (Maléna)

Overview: When a man hears of the death of the projectionist from his home town, he relives the memories of his youth, and the friendship they shared.

Acting: Alright, when you watch Foreign Drama, odds are they'll be brilliantly acted. European directors tend to have an even bigger ego than the stars themselves, so they rule the roost. This is a good thing. That way they can tell the actor to do it again as many times as it takes to get right. This one? They got right. Moving stuff.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: The style is minimalist, allowing the focus to be on the characters themselves, yet we are graced with many moments of artistic display. Scenes where we pan along an alleyway towards a church, or just the look of a family's impoverished home add a subtle subtext of why cinema is important to the boy, while showing at the same time why it should be the furthest thing from his mind, according to his mother. The lack of razzle-dazzle is perfectly on purpose, and really works.
Rating: 9

Script: Dramatic, funny, sad... every element of the perfect drama that is meant to sum up a man's life. We experience the world of a child as he grows up during the era of the Second World War and watch as the love of film gets passed down to him in little life lessons, regardless of the fact that the child only hears what's important. It's nice to watch a character's development when it's done so well.
Rating: 8

Plot: For me the story faltered when the boy hit adolescence. His desires for the projection booth were less pure than in his childhood, or in his return to the village after the death of his projectionist friend, but it is a wonderful story, and with such a powerful ending that you'll really appreciate what you've seen. Heart-warming to say the least.
Rating: 8

Mood: This film is about a boy's love of film, and the man who taught him everything there was to know about it. At the same time it is a sad tale of transition, a comment that we long for a simpler time, and when set in a small Italian village, where the best entertainment is the Cinema Paradiso, you find yourself very much immersed in its themes, an island of fantasy amidst a land of harsh reality.
Rating: 8

"Zee storee, she eez so booteefull! Hanamanachi!"

Overall Rating: 84% (Magnifico!)

Aftertaste: Well date movies tend to make movies better, no doubt, but this has been on my list for a while now, and I'll tell you that if you're looking for excitement, you won't find it here. This is European dramatic cinema, and it tends to be about as far from Kung-Fu Hustle as you'll get, but as we get older, we learn that an honest story about someone's passions and character might just teach you more than a backfist in the back of the head. A great touching film to share.

The Black Pirate (1926)

Oh Douggey, none can come close to your dapper poses.

Genre: Silent Action Adventure

Starring: Douglas Fairbanks (The Iron Mask; The Thief of Bagdad), Billie Dove

Directed By: Albert Parker

Overview: This is the story of a sole survivor of a pirate attack who seeks vengeance by joining a the crew of the ship that killed his men, including his father.

Acting: Douglas Fairbanks is the kind of action hero that's larger than life, and his dramatic poses are without peer, but regardless of the fact that he's a legend by his own right, the overall performances of his cast were either lacking in overzealous melodrama, or reeked of it in a bad way.
Rating: 6

Cinematography: The stunts in this one include the classic 'pirate cutting a sail and riding down it with only his knife'. There's great sword fights, swinging from ropes, explosions, and a scene where our hero captures a ship singlehandedly, all the stuff that you would expect from a good-ol' pirate movie. The stunts were good, but there was really something lacking in the camerawork.
Rating: 7

Script: There's a lot of "Argh, ye salty Sea-Wolves!" and a smattering of Thees and Thines, so that's a nice touch. The hero's plans and their disruptions genuinely add a nice element of depth. Without this script the story would have been lacking on yet another level. Sadly the words could not hold up the film.
Rating: 7

Plot: This had the promise of greatness. All the necessary elements were there, but it's a sign of the times when nothing more has been done than 'Guy wants to get even', 'Guy sets up a plot to get even', 'Guy gets even', and throw in a girl and a villain. It might be a compliment to say that this was one of the first and the formula stuck all this time, but to me, it has all been done many times since.
Rating: 4

Mood: Take a movie and fill it with stereotypes and you'll end up with something very predictable. Remember that doing this for the first time makes you original. Sadly, this film does not have the staying power of the ages that other silents do, because it's such typical stuff that it's been run aground.
Rating: 4

The pirate leader sees a man swallow a ring. Here he is putting it on after gutting the man open. Oh yeah, good pirate times!

Overall Rating: 56% (YARRRRGH!)

Aftertaste: With a sentiment almost identical to The Iron Mask, I found that Douglas Fairbanks, though a stunty and impressive man, just had no story to back up his adventure. As routine 'show-off then get the girl' stories go, this is probably the one that set the standard, because I've seen the same thing probably 20 times before. I'm sure your great-grandpa loved this movie. He'd have been right to. There were a lot less movies back then.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Silent Hill (2006)

Haunting imagery collides with dialogue so terrible that it terrifies the soul.

Genre: Horror Mystery Thriller (Canada, Japan, USA, France)

Starring: Radha Mitchell (Finding Neverland; Man on Fire), Sean Bean (The Lord of the Rings; Golden Eye)

Directed By: Christophe Gans (The Brotherhood of the Wolf)

Overview: A little girl cries out "Silent Hill!" whenever she sleepwalks. Much to her husband's chagrin, her mother takes her up to the haunted mining town in hopes that she might find the cure to her daughter's madness.

Acting: The cast is all proven. These actors are established, they're in films that were successful, so we've got a great solid foundation. Somehow Christophe Gans makes them unlearn everything they've accomplished in their career so far. What happened in Silent Hill was a train wreck, not a coal fire.
Rating: 5

Cinematography: If you're going to make a videogame movie with a formula that includes a huge CGI, latex and gore budget, and every time something looks not-so-good, throw money at it until it DOES look good, you're bound to succeed. Take the coolest and creepiest monsters from the game and convert them over to film. Sounds like a no-brainer right? Absolutely. It's effin' gorgeous.
Rating: 9

Script: "The Last Days are at hand, and I am the Reaper."

Imagine yourself in a theater on opening night, a full house. Imagine how stoked you are because Horror is your favorite genre. Suddenly, everything is madness and for the first time the characters realize they're completely, utterly screwed. "It's ok. It's going to be ok," says the main character. Audience laughs, but you're still trying to get into it, you let it slide! Later, a scene when people are tied up, ready to be broiled over a spit, kids are screaming for help, while crowds of people surround. "It's ok. It's going to be ok," says the main character.

I throw my hands up in surrender.
Rating: 3

Plot: This plays out more like a videogame built by a team, rather than a story written by one person. Scene after scene of creepy events are more non-sequiturial examples of individual imaginations, rather than having a cohesive theme. The end has a good excuse for existence, and hence is tolerable, while there's genuine attempts and building a culture of this ghost town, but ultimately it's mom chasing after a little girl.
Rating: 5

Mood: When a scene is committed to scaring you, really freaking you out, you can't get away from it. Charred children, tortured soldiers, zombie nurses and a most impressive golem-like butcher are all prime examples of why you will love this movie. When so much insanity is unfurling itself around you without knowing the reason why, you want to follow deeper into that pit of Hell, in hopes that the next test will glean a clue. Oh yeah, creepy, gory and dark, just like you knew it would be.
Rating: 9

No matter what they wore, no matter how cool their outfits, they could never escape the horror that was BAD WRITING! *blood-curdling scream*

Overall Rating: 62% (Silent Swill)

Aftertaste: I don't like movies that make the audience laugh out loud several times when you went to go see some serious horror. This isn't Final Destination 3, where you got a free pass to go see it, it's something you paid top dollar for at a premier. Did I expect any better? I hoped, but did not expect. I called it: great look and feel with script and delivery that someone pulled out of a toilet. The gore didn't make up for the story, as much as this had a really spooky feel.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Crowd (1928)

Look hard, there's humour here... I just can't find it.

Genre: Silent Drama

Starring: James Murray, Eleanor Boardman

Directed By: King Vidor (The Big Parade)

Overview: A boy is born on the fourth of July, 1900. His father always told him that he would grow up to do great things. This is the story of his life in New York City, one of the seven million faces, trying to stick out of the crowd.

Acting: For a guy who started his career with this film, and who was a stage hand before, actor James Murray's personal story is actually quite similar to the one he plays here. The roles portrayed in this film are really honest, and are almost completely devoid of the melodrama you can expect from the silent era.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: The most impressive scene was after a particularly distracting incident. We find our hero at work trying to focus but we see numbers floating and spinning around his head as the events play themselves out over and over in his mind (a double exposure overlaid across his head). Besides that, this was one of those films that made sure the scenes were just right enough without detracting from the characters.
Rating: 8

Script: "Let me tell you! Marriage isn't a word, it's a sentence!"

Without a script so witty, this film would not have driven the poignancy of emotion that we experience scene after scene. With just a few words, we understand important life moments as those of the everyman, while still getting a genuinely great grasp of this one face in the crowd.
Rating: 8

Plot: Nine endings this director had to make before MGM would let him print the final one. MGM was not a fan of the unhappy ending. What MGM tried to do was end this movie the same way The Last Laugh ended, an utterly saccharine thing that was so out there that it was ridiculous: family wins a fortune and lives happily ever after. Well people didn't go for that... at all. So they cut it, and good thing too. This ends much better.
Rating: 7

Mood: Overshadowed with a constant darkness, this is the kind of drama that is all about peaks and valleys. Full of hopes and dreams, our hero strives to become what his father knew he could. Occasionally life throws us a curve-ball, and Johnny's special life, though still full of hope, becomes less of a certainly, and more of a struggle. This is the story of that life's struggle.
Rating: 8

Eventually this actor became a panhandler, even ironically asking change from King Vidor, the director.

Overall Rating: 80% (Stands Out)

Aftertaste: Considered a masterpiece, I found that ultimately, though the everyday story of the everyman was well told, it wasn't as bleak and dark as I had been lead to believe. This is the sort of life that befalls many people, and though a nice life study, I was a little too hung up with 'When is this going to turn tragic?' As early cinema goes, this is one that will stand the test of time, since the story is still ever-relevant, and the style of the film is still very apparent in today's works. Maybe that's also why I wasn't as impressed as I wanted to be.

Monsieur Verdoux (1947)

Humour. It is so fleeting when you think only of bleak depressing wastes of time like this film.

Genre: Crime Drama Comedy

Starring: Charlie Chaplin (Limelight), Martha Raye

Directed By: Charlie Chaplin (The Circus; City Lights)

Overview: This is the story of a modern day Bluebeard, a con artist who preys on women for their money, all to support his real family.

Acting: This Martha Raye plays this big-mouthed obnoxious woman. I think that in everything I've seen her in she's the same character, so does that make her a good actress? Uh no. God, Chaplin plays such a stupid fumbler in this and he does such a bad job of it, it's embarrassing, not to mention how he goes on and on and on. And finally, the opening scene has this family bickering with one another with stage direction so terrible that I knew to brace myself for the next two hours. Man I should have given up right from the start.
Rating: 3

Cinematography: Flick, short for Flicker. We all know that once they were called moving pictures because that's what they do, but did you have any idea that the very first movies made by Edison's company were called Flickers because that's what they were like back then? Right. Well flicker also means a brief moment, like the flash in my mind that is this film, soon forgotten, with therapy. Chaplin knew how to throw money at a movie and make it look good, that I'll admit. Don't care, hated it.
Rating: 8

Script: Frig, I got burned again. I should have know that all the Chaplin talkies would be the same. I don't understand how this could be recommended viewing! It's long winded, awkward and amateurish. I swear Chaplin got hit in the head in his later career. Mark my words, never again will I watch a Chaplin talkie. It's garbage, but at least it was better than Limelight.
Rating: 4

Plot: I will admit that there are some moments of intrigue, since it is a crime drama there are point at which you learn about the true darkness of Verdoux. It's mildly interesting to watch the lengths he will go to safeguard his family... his REAL family. To add elements of comedy and farce kicks all that's been built up like a jock kicking sand in your face at the beach while he steals your girlfriend. Not a good feeling.
Rating: 4

Mood: This piece of turd claims that it is comedy. There are really awkward moments when Chaplin does an out of context funny thing. He adds no follow-up gag, so here we are in a dramatic scene, then Chaplin falls out the window and they ask if he's alright, then they keep the scene going dramatically. This happens way too often for me not to get embarrassed for him. Oh and nothing beats a movie set in Paris, where everyone speaks English, except to say "Oui Monsieur", and "Merci", but I suspect I'll be seeing a lot of that when i hit the early 50s American stuff.
Rating: 3

Ok I'm going to try to make this as simple as possible...
Before: The Tramp= Good. After: Verdoux = BAD

Overall Rating: 44% (Ver-Don't)

Aftertaste: Well that was my Easter, 9 movies in 4 days, and plenty of time for the nightlife too. This was so bad that when I found out the other Chaplin disk had sent me was a Chaplin talkie too, I just returned it without watching it: A King in New York. Urgh.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

TV Carnage: A Sore For Sighted Eyes (2003)

The Gross Domestic Product will rise at a rate of 3%. See the power of Richard Simmons? Even THAT'S funny with his photo attached!

Genre: Comedy Documentary

Starring: Mr T., Alan Thicke, Jerry Orbach, Richard Simmons

Directed By: "Big Pinky" (TV Carnage: When Television Attacks; TV Carnage: Casual Fridays)

Overview: This is a hilarious look into the dark 80s and 90s, a montage of various commercials, hairdos, television and film clichés, all with the creator's running commentary (which is optional, but not to be missed).

Acting: I recall thinking that the acting in this was cooler than in the first one. There was more nostalgia in seeing The Fonz talk about people touching you in your private areas. I wouldn't say that the acting was as bad as the original, which is half the reason you wanted to see this.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: The thing about technology, is that it gets better, so in a way it's too bad that there more 90s footage, because it's less about really crappy special effects that we thought were cool, only because we hadn't seen it before. Is it wrong that I'm comparing this sequel to the original? No, my friend, it's important that we keep the bar elevated!
Rating: 8

Script: Pinky is almost just as funny as ever he was, but I'll add that he wasn't anywhere as memorable. The out-loud laughs we not as numerous... it's like he knows it's the third installment on a lucrative serial and though he may try, he might have gone a touch stale, in comparison.
Rating: 7

Plot: The issue I had with this one is the same as I had with the other one: there was no overall theme besides the non-sequitur of the channel-flipping. I know compiling some hundred hours of footage is hard work, but if there had been a study of a cliché like with the last one, it would have been much more enjoyable for me.
Rating: 6

Mood: Look, if you don't remember the 80s, fret not, there's a lot of 90s stuff in this version. But if you are of the generation who squints when they hear that people born in 1988 can now get into bars, then you'll find this to be quite a good time, but make sure you watch it with friends.
Rating: 8

Pff! It's just too easy. I'm not even going to try.

Overall Rating: 74% (Not Really A Bore, But It Won't Make Your Sides Sore)

Aftertaste: Frankly, this is not as good as the first one we rented. Amusing and entertaining for sure, but I, who watch a lot of stuff, will tell you that there's better ways to spend your time. I'm still committed to watching TV Carnage: Casual Fridays, and maybe even the pirate series he made. It's a lot of footage, and it's the best way to live the 80s: laughing at it.