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Posted on 5/10/10 09:11 PM
K. I won't talk too much into the PHONE. This movie was sooooo bad that I don't even want to go into my GOOD, BAD and UGLY tirade, it's just that bad. Why is it bad? Oh! Where do I start? It's a clone of the RINGU franchise and all its equally crapy American Remakes.
So let's take a roll call of all the Japanese movies that have girl-ghosts, long black hair, hair balls coming out of the faucet, awkward child behaviour and a strange abstraction of supernatural technology and not to forget the obsession with water. So here we go:
[list][*]Ringu[*]Ringu 2[*]Ringu 0: B‚sudei[*]The Ring[*]The Ring 2[*]Honogurai mizu no soko kara[*]Dark Water[/list]Did I forget any? I probably did. I thought Hollywood could overkill a story but this takes the cake. And how many times can one person stand to hear the same phone ring more or less non-stop throughout the movie. The haunting is all centered around the phone number instead of a silly video-tape. All those who have had this phone number have suspiciously died. Why ? Hell if I know, the movie was so bad that I popped it out of my DVD player and had to resist the temptation to shatter the disc. This movie is so bad that I'm gonna give the pit, the bottom, a great big ZERO
Posted on 1/20/08 10:41 AM
After months of hype, speculation and anticipation I finally saw what beheads Lady Liberty and chucks its head at our heroes. Does it live up to the hype? Is it a great monster movie? Is it even a great roller-coaster movie? Does it pump my nads?
I know that from day one that heard of the first little tid-bit of info of JJ?s secret project, I wanted to see it. The guy had me going with Alias ? until he had Sydney about to drop her litter, drop kick a man tied to a metal chair out of a window. But then I have to consider Lost, which has done no wrong yet (with the exception of the small and forgettable Nikki/Paolo story arc fiasco)
So what?s up with Cloverfield? Well all I could think of was fast-food ads and then the reality of fast-food. Stay with me here. You?ll see where I?m getting at I?m sure, it?s not very complicated.
You see and McDonald?s ad for a nice beefy juicy Big Mac, how I love my Big Macs. When I worked at McDonald?s as a kid, I could make them like in the ads where they look like this:
But when you go to McDonald?s this is what you really get.
Sure it?s still good, still eatable, but it?s just not delivering the goodness like the ad promises right? Not only is the Big Mac cheapened, the whole Big Maccy goodness experience is cheapened and you the customer are cheapened by being treated as lesser than deserving of the Big Mac seen in the ad. The whole process is cheapened.
Such is Cloverfield. The massive internet viral campaign that consumed geekdom for months and left us with dreams of the greatest nerdgasm since we saw those At-Ats stalking Hoth?s horizon was just a hamburger ad that gave us a lumpy burger.
What we got was Godzilla hold the cheese shot by the kids from The Blair Witch Project and nothing more. Ok the people look a lot better than in The Blair Witch Project, but at least Blair Witch had a punch at the end.
First the characters. There?s no development of them whatsoever. In a movie that?s shorter than 90 minutes and you got New-York city to destroy, there?s no time to develop characters, other than they are all hot and pretty and seem to be wealthy and trendy. Except for the guy holding the camera, but since he?s behind it we rarely see him.
The Story. Monster attacks city, humans do a lot of running, army does a lot of shooting. No really that?s it. Nothing else. Oh and they put in a little love story to justify the stupid humans sticking around when a huge monster is laying waste to Manhattan.
The Execution. All shot with ONE handheld cam. Because you see, we are looking at the output of a monitor of someone from 2032 studying the tape found in the Cloverfield site (aka Central Park). And when you have a low budget, what a great way to hide shoddy special effects than with shaky and grainy images? But the whole shaky camera gets annoying after a while. And did I mention the movie is only 84 minutes long? Despite that there were actually long moments in there, sad to say. Godzilla was bad, Godzilla shot Gonzo-style, well no, just doesn?t work for me.
Then there?s the monster itself. Its origin is completely unexplained and it just appears, wreaks bloody havoc and makes a mess of NY. And predictably we only really get to see the monster, I mean really see the monster, in the final moments of the movie and by then it?s kind of a disappointment. You know you?re expecting this:
And you get THIS instead
I would have expected a hint of explanation of what the monster is or was by looking at it, finally, but no it?s so inexplicably alien that it?s boring and even in full unblurred view, it?s so dark and undefined that the monster is pedestrian and just not sexy.
As a monster movie fan, I have to love the monster and I have to fear it. When I see the monster, I want to scream in delight. I want to see it smash shit up and enjoy it. It?s the whole point of a giant monster destroying a city and then I have to hate it enough to want to see it die. Well I just wanted Cloverfield to end instead.
But that?s not all. Abrams always Jumps the Shark in his television series, as mentioned above. And he did here also. The whole climbing to the top of the slanted building bit was completely inane. No one in the characters current condition could have accomplished this, not with a 50 story tall monster running around. I know one must suspend disbelief, especially in a giant monster movie, but it was so absurd, it completely turned my off to the movie.
I wanted to love it so bad, I wanted it to blow me away, to rock my world. After the movie was over, I still wanted to love it so I was confused and dejected. I wasn?t sure how to react. I wanted the beefy goodness of an Arby?s Beef ?n Cheddar
And all I got was this lump
A 2 outta 5.
PS. JJ Star Trek is coming... I'm watching you...
Posted on 3/10/07 01:40 AM
Every few years, a sci-fi/fantasy film comes along that changes every thing; the rules, how films are made, our expectations, the industry, the whole enchilada. In 1968, the release of 2001 set it all off. 1975 gave birth to the summer blockbuster with teeth when Jaws scared the living crap out of its audience. In 1977, Star Wars rewrote the concept of sci-fi movies and the world's culture was changed forever.
Then in 1986, a sequel to a movie about a stowaway alien was taken to the next level with a commando of marines wiped out, leaving a woman and her flame thrower and an assault rifle. She took on a 15-foot tall alien queen and her army of drones in order to save a little girl and audiences in the theaters stood up in Super Bowl glee, cheering like mad raging fans when the bay door opened and Ripley stepped out with her yellow loader. With Aliens James Cameron re-wrote the "us vs. them" alien theme and created the first tough-as-nails heroine. That alone was a revolution that merited Sigourney Weaver the front cover of Time magazine.
But Cameron would come back a few years later, proving that with an astronomically insane budget (for the time) of 100 million dollars, one could make a special effects driven movie and still have a superb story to boot. And he also managed with great directorial skill to actually make Arnold Schwarzenegger semi-funny. With Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Cameron created a rift in cinema. Film buffs can now tell simply by looking at a movie's special effects, that the movie is either pre-T2 or post-T2. After T2 things changed. Movies like Jurassic Park were now possible. And the string of disaster movies that followed were also made possible. You can thank James Cameron's vision for this.
Then in 1999 the mother of all cinematic culture shocks took place when The Matrix gave birth to the third millennium. The Wachowskis simply tossed the book out of the window and inspired themselves from so many other sources it's hard to point to a sure source; but one thing is certain ? The Matrix changed it all. Special effects were completely innovative. The storytelling was unheard of in mainstream cinema. The visuals were unparalleled. The philosophical complexity is still perplexing philosophers of all kinds to this day. The lay masses were prepared for some flashy, wire-fu, gunslinging, fast-talking coolness, but what we got was something that changed our culture forever.
It was time for the next step, the next bounding leap to the next level. There have been some contenders. The shoulda-coulda-beens, like the Sin City blunder. Or even the Lord of the Rings trilogy ? which I affectionately call the Bored of the Ring trilogy ? which was nothing more than a big bucks production of a not so interesting book which replayed variations of the same fringing score over and over again.
Ever since the first clips and stills from the production of 300 surfaced on the web, hopes had risen that perhaps this was the next step, the next cinematic evolution. It had all the promise, a classic telling of the mythological story of the Spartans; hero mythologies and archetypes is what the human psyche is built upon. It's why The Matrix was such a success. But sadly this film is not one of them.
But that?s not to say that the film isn't a great work of art. It is, succinctly put, a bloody fantastic work of art. The story is simple ? very simple. The preview says it all. The thousand nations of the Persian Empire descend upon Sparta. There, it's said. But it's not a spoiler, everyone has seen the previews. But the simplicity of the story takes nothing away from the film. Is there nothing as simple as the smile of a child? Yet it fills us with happiness and contentment.
So can esthetically pleasing violence and death. In the end this film is all about death and meeting it with honor. The Spartans are a society of warriors, trained from birth. They are inspected at birth and if they are not perfect, they are discarded in a pit. If they are chosen, they are trained by men to fight and to never surrender, to never give up, and that death in battle is the greatest of honors. One must return from battle with his shield, or on it ? any other way would be a disgrace. And this is how the film begins, a short training montage of sorts which shows our protagonist rapidly growing up into the warrior King Leonidas.
Leonidas soon gets a message by horse that the Persians are coming, the Persians are coming. The messenger ain't no Paul Revere but some arrogant Persian errand boy who gets quickly "dispatched" by the King after getting shot down by the queen in what is the most remarkable comeback in years. But then, it could only happen in such a movie. Les jeux sont fait. The war is inevitable. Leonidas must consult the Oracle. This time it isn't a little old lady baking cookies but a young naked teenager smoking who knows what and babbling into her attendant's ears that Sparta cannot wage war.
The King cannot in good conscience leave his country undefended so he takes 300 of his best "bodyguards" and goes for a stroll on the beach. Not very long afterwards, the all-out war begins, and this is where the film really shines. What did you expect? This film isn't about peace, bunnies, and daffodils. It's about the kill, the blood, ripping wounds, fire, screaming, chest pounding, testosterone, ferocity, manliness, honor, destroying your enemy, fun times.
If seeing Leonidas eating an apple with delight while standing on a pile of eviscerated bodies and speaking of civility doesn't crack you up, this movie isn't for you. This movie is for the animal inside ? the one that wants to rip off the head of the co-worker who's pissed you off one time too many but you can't do anything about. For the one who's punched in a wall a few times. For the one who wants to scream. For the one who wants to fight. This is a man movie. It's not a girly movie, it's not a date movie, it's not a family movie, and it's not for the warm fuzzy people. This is for those who dreamed of being those Greek heroes.
I say this because when I was in the theater, there were all the people who could be offended by this movie. Young children under the age of ten should not being seeing decapitations and dismemberments the likes of which are shown in this film. Not to mention the orgy scene. I don't know if I'd like to answer those questions as a parent, after the movie. Then I got that funny feeling looking at all those hijabs in the row in front of me during the very nude sex scenes. Here we have a restrictive culture where showing a woman's hair is proscribed, coming to a movie with naked teenagers' breasts the size of a building thrown in their faces. Oh the irony. Plus, you'd think that the sight of a man's naked ass wouldn't incite so much giggling in 2007. But I digress; I should be reviewing the film.
From start to finish the film is visual feast that grips you from the fuzzy Warner Brothers logo to the end credits. Everything, every smallest detail is bathed in this light Gaussian blur with a golden overexposed hue. They never let go of it, except perhaps for the night shots, which take on a spirit of their own. Graphically from the start you know the movie is all CG with the exception of our heroes and their foes. But after maybe 30 seconds, you stop caring. You begin to look at it in another light, as perhaps the greatest mesh between live action and animation ever combined. All this latticing creates an ethereal glow to the storytelling that elevates it to its proper level, mythology. You feel now that you are neither in your time nor your world. It simply works.
To top it off, the story is very well laid out. For those expecting one great big battle scene and then a cut to credits, you'll be disappointed. The story, as stated earlier, is simple, but not feeble either. There are flashbacks. There is also the question of politics ? it's Greece, if this film didn?t mention politics I was walking out ? and with politics come political games and backstabbing. How little things have changed over time. There's also the passionate love story between Leonidas and his wife, who becomes influential during his departure. The meeting between Leonidas and Xerxes, the Persian God-King is intimidating and hilarious at the same time. Leonidas has the same funny bone has a certain William Wallace.
And the acting, for such an epic, effects-driven film, is rather impressive. Gerard Butler brings just the right level of intensity to his King Leonidas, which is, of course, kind of over the top. But a leader of men must be strong and intense to charge them into battle and almost certain glorious death. And Lena Heady, as Queen Gorgo, plays a rather strong woman in such a man's film and doesn't serve as set decoration, despite being very pretty. This review won't bother with all the players. But all of them are played very well. None stand out as bad apples. There is no Katie Holmes in Batman Begins here.
The film isn't a revolution for cinema as the trailers foretell, but it does open doors for the way we can tell other great stories of our mythological past with greatness, like never before. The CG effects are so perfectly well-mastered that at no time, lost and immersed in the story, could I tell this was shot in my hometown of cold Montrťal and not in Thermopylae, Greece. This movie succeeds in the way that I want to see more mythological stories told in this fashion now. The stories are plentiful, and now the technology to bring them to life is more than advanced, and the creative minds born and bathed in comics, graphic novels, modern sci-fi and fantasy are making movies. The time has arrived.
A bloody five out of five.
Posted on 2/26/07 03:18 PM
At last, a documentary about my favorite word of all time, "fuck." Now if the word fuck offends you, you may as well stop reading now because fuck is my favorite word, and the film is called Fuck, so I'm not going to shy away from using it.
Fuck doesn't have a big outline to begin with. It's mostly built of vignette interviews with media personalities, politicians, scholars, and the sort. The film, though it revolves around the use of the word "fuck," is mostly about the reds and blues in America. The film is divided into neat little sections (or vignettes) that all begin with fuck: Fuck Politics, Fuck TV, Fuck Movies, etc., all with people representing the liberal and conservative sides rambling on and on about their ideological viewpoints.
Thankfully we have comedians and queasy conservatives. Drew Carey, going on and on about class distinction. George Carlin's 1978 HBO special about the seven dirty words you can't say on TV (and he says them all). Then they bring out the big gun, Billy Connelly. Now that guy just doesn?t let it go and is of course hilarious as usual.
Most entertaining is witnessing the conservatives squirming not to say the word and trying to defend their point of view. Especially the uptight Michael Medved and Miss Manners, Judith Martin, who after too much embarrassment is seen unplugging her microphone and leaving the interview.
A shockumentary on the word fuck would be incomplete without the ubiquitous presence of Ron Jeremy. Is there a fucking documentary on pop-culture in which he doesn't appear? They also had other porn stars, such as Tera Patrick and her husband Evan Seinfeld.
Sure the documentary is funny as hell, how could it not be? With a DVD feature like a curse counter, incrementing every time the word fuck is mentioned, it's pretty funny. By the way, the word fuck ? with all its colored nuances and variances ? is used over 800 times in less than 90 minutes, making for an average of 8.88 uses of the word fuck every minute.
But the documentary is fucked, if you pardon my French. To begin with all the interviews are shot with a black backdrop, making the overall appearance bland and kinda boring after a while. And after six years of Bush in power, even this lefty is getting tired of red vs. blue docs over trite subject matter that only distracts from real issues.
I was expecting a documentary on the word fuck; instead it was yet another doc on ideological division in America. I was expecting some background research; it is a documentary after all. Some more history other than the rapid-fire debunking that fuck wasn't an acronym for Fornicating Under Consent of the King or something of the sort.
All we were treated to was an endless barrage of Hollywood stars pitted against conservative talk radio folks, all set up to mock the right. And it was an obvious set up to mock the right's prudish and Victorian attitude towards self-expression. This just plays into conservatives' constant paranoid conspiracy accusations that Hollywood is out to destroy American values.
If you are going to make a documentary on a dirty word go the way of philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt who wrote a fantastic book called On Bullshit and went all out to make a dirty word intelligible, not just spin it into life by having stars quote they favorite use of the word.
It could have been so much more. More intelligent, more in-depth, more penetrating, more stimulating. I just can't put my finger on it but this bird just doesn't fly. I wasn't even interested in seeing the DVD extras on this title. The documentary itself has little structure and just feels like it's rambling on in an amateurish sort of way. There's too little substance and much too much flash. To much importance is given to the political aspect and you get this from the beginning as Janeane Garofalo -? at the very beginning of the film -? starts ranting about Reagan setting America two steps back and then Bush, sixteen steps back. I just wanted out. I had enough. "Fuck it" I thought.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Posted on 2/26/07 03:37 AM
I sat, frozen stiff in fear, the low tone reverberating in my skull, the image of the young girl praying in front of me. I was afraid, and as I sat there paralyzed by the horror, I slowly realized the one truth that had escaped me: Maybe I should press the play button the menu screen was prompting me to do. I knew I was in for a ride just by looking in to the glazed eyes of a brainwashed young girl enraptured by whatever thought of God she was experiencing. But nothing could prepare me for the scene from which this still is taken.
Jesus Camp is simply the first horror documentary ever produced. It sent more chills down my spine than watching Regan mutilating her genitalia with a crucifix in The Exorcist. Never have I seen anything more revolting than what goes on in this movie. This is the neo-conservative/evangelical version of the Hitler-Jugend (Hitler Youth), but worse because they begin brainwashing these children when they are at a stage when most children can be made to believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
And the film comes out swinging also. It begins with Levi, a home-schooled boy watching a cartoon explaining that the world was created 6000 years ago where humans and dinosaurs lived together. We learn that 75% of home-schooled children are evangelicals whose parents have become disenchanted with the separation of church and state and truly believe in creationism and that the Bible is the only true answer to any question about the world. You see, Levi was saved at the age of five. What does a five year old need to be saved from anyway? For touching his peepee?
We also meet Rachel, and we learn from deleted scenes on the DVD that she believes has gifts of prophecy and speaking in tongues, and can speak directly to God. She also believes that God has preferences for certain churches. Roman Catholic churches are way too boring for God. He likes the ones where the folks are dancing and screaming His name.
Another young girl, ten years old, practices her dancing to Christian heavy metal. She talks about the Britneys and how sinful they are because all they sing about are boys and sex. She goes on that she must dance for God and not for the flesh and that sometimes she does dance for the flesh and she must repent and that she also is a sinner; such a little tramp ? I jest. Ten years old and she?s already consumed by Christian guilt over flesh. I wonder what will happen when she gets all hot and bothered over a boy when she gets a little older. The therapy bills are going to be through the roof.
We didn?t even get to the camp part yet. This is where things start to get weird. The camp, called Kids on Fire, at Devil?s Lake ? Kids, fire, devil? coincidence? ? is basically a brainwashing camp for young kids that begins by scaring the crap out of them by telling them that the devil is always after young kids because they are easy to sway. Yeah, that will get their attention. At their age, they?ll believe you if you tell them there?s a monster under their bed, even if they see none as they look under it.
What?s really grotesque is the camp counselors all seem to believe in this entire BS. Before the kids get there, they bless the hall, the seats, the stage, they even ask that the devil not meddle with the PowerPoint presentations ? which tell that sins are punished with death complete with a blood dripping font.
They also bring out some Sunday school teacher or speaker to tell them about the evil of abortion. These kids are 6 to 9 years old, they don?t even know about sex (because sex education is evil because it will teach them to want to have sex) but they know about abortion and that?s evil also. And they are being trained to oppose abortion before even understanding what it is. A cardboard cut-out of George W. Bush is brought out so that they can pray to him ? like he?s some saint ? to have him select conservative judges so that Roe v. Wade can be overturned and render abortion illegal. During all this chanting of ?righteous judges, righteous judges? the girl, from the menu, raises her hands, with streams of tears flowing from her eyes ? the most dramatic and gripping scene of the entire movie and most likely the most worrisome. At this point, I?m in total shock.
These kids are completely being indoctrinated for a culture that doesn?t exist. When they come of age, they won?t fit anywhere and they will self-destruct. When nature kicks in, where will they turn to? Because we all know how well Ted Haggard turned out, don?t we? These poor children are being programmed for a war they think is coming. An ?end of days? war. They are taught that they are the generation that will bring about this end of days and save the righteous. These sorry kids are going to crash when they will have to meet real world responsibilities after being raised as warriors in God?s army for a war that never comes.
A disturbing film indeed. I couldn?t take my eyes away from it. It?s beautifully crafted, produced, and executed. It doesn?t concentrate solely on the children and the camp. It also sidetracks on a radio host for Air America who is undoubtedly a Christian but one who opposes the evangelicals as being off-message and a danger to American society. Having kids in camouflage makeup with weapons chanting songs about being God?s army, well that?s definitely being off-message, I should say. Why not let them have AK-47s while we?re at it?
The film reinforces the now almost-stereotypical image outsiders have of America; which is one of extremism and contrasts. One should fear expressing one?s opinions in America for fear or reprisal of whichever group that would begrudge said opinion even though America claims to be the land of the free, home of the brave. After watching Jesus Camp and other such documentaries, you come to believe that the U.S. is a Christian fundamentalist country in the same sense that Afghanistan is a Muslim fundamentalist country; only the theocracy hasn?t been established yet ? though not that far off. But it seems it?s only a matter of time.
I think Jesus Camp serves as a dire warning to the rest of America and the world also, that it is wake up time. These extremists have had enough time and that maybe now would be the right time to pull the plug on them before things start getting really creepy. Just like Ted Haggard says in the film: ?If the evangelicals vote, they determine the election.? Well maybe the non-evangelicals need to rock the vote.
If this movie doesn?t scare the crap out of you, you are one of them. A disturbingly perfect 5 outta 5.
Posted on 2/25/07 05:59 AM
A Global Warning indeed. The documentary is quite depressing in the sense that once the viewer is done, he or she will be left with a feeling of despair, a feeling that it's too late for us to do anything about global warming. Despite what Al Gore may have to say about it.
As a Canadian I never knew much about Al Gore other than the stiff, silent and very boring politician he was portrayed to be through American media. I never knew how much of an environmentalist he was until the media blitz surrounding the opening of An Inconvenient Truth. It was only in February 2007 that I got around to seeing the documentary.
Let's face it; An Inconvenient Truth is a glorified PowerPoint presentation with a stage, video cut-ins and a soundtrack. But despite being a PowerPoint presentation and all the boredom that this entails, the producers and the director managed to make it into a completely engrossing and captivating presentation.
The auditorium is a mock auditorium built from the ground up on a huge sound stage, all designed to get the best angles and lighting. It was all planned, rehearsed and re-shot until it was done right as is depicted in the DVD making-of extra. But the viewer doesn't mind this. This is just icing for the movie. This is the presentation he gives all the time across the globe anyway. The producers just wanted to capture it in the best possible light and the reviewer sees nothing wrong with that. What's important here is the message and not the paper it was written.
Believe it or not, Al Gore can actually be funny and entertaining despite the dire emergency of his message. He starts out by quipping "I'm Al Gore, I used to be the next president of the United States of America." the people laugh "I don't find that particularly funny." he says smirking. But the jokes are to lighten up his message which is truly doom and gloom. If we don't clean up our act or should I say, our planet... we're screwed.
And Al Gore has the presence and demeanor to drill it into your head convincingly. If I ever have any reproach to offer to the Greenpeacers of this world - a group of which I am a member - is that they all look the same, the beard, the long hair, the skinny physique. Basically they have the vegetarian pot-smoking tree hugger stereotype working against them. Want to convince the lay people, look like a credible leader. And Al Gore does just that. He comes out like a giant on stage and owns it. And he talks passionately but not obsessively, which also works in his favor.
Then he lays out the truth. The world is going to snuff us out if we don't do anything about and we need to do it now. He does it so efficaciously you just want to sign up to anything and do whatever he asks of you to save the world. This film definitely needs to be seen by everyone. Because I will surely not dole out the gargantuan amount of information expressed in this film, there is simply too much of it for a single review.
The message is clear and repeats what science has been telling us for decades. The earth is warming. The icecaps will melt, the water will rise. The hurricanes will get stronger, the droughts will intensify and it is all due to man made pollution. And all the data is there and the consensus is irrefutable despite what the American government does to re-write scientific data to seed doubt in the minds of Americans so that the economy can perpetuate the damage it does while making the rich richer.
This is one good thing An Inconvenient Truth and Al Gore doesn't do, is start pointing finger at companies and rich politicians. He never makes use of cheap tactics, demagoguery or sophistry. He just keeps the focus on the message, the issue. Not that companies and rich politicians don't need to be lined up and pointed at as the culprits; but the film has nobler intentions, to change the world, not start a spitting contest. The message aims to unite and gather people, not to further divide. Because America surely does not need more division it needs unity in front of this looming catastrophe that needs urgent action by the country to help the rest of the world face what could end civilization.
A climactic 5 outta 5. I urgently request that everyone who hasn't seen An Inconvenient Truth, do so quickly and if you have, encourage others to do the same. In the meantime please visit http://www.climatecrisis.net/ to see what you can do the help save the world. This is necessary.
Posted on 1/15/07 10:13 AM
Not even a Quick and Dirty review. Just a selfless promotion. Go see this movie if its the only movie you see this year. In fact, I predict it's the only movie worth seeing this year.
This movie had me in shock, tears, on the edge of my seat, gripping the arm rests with my heart bursting out of my chest.
All this before the title even showed up on the screen in the first 2 minutes.
Posted on 9/03/06 09:18 AM
Why ?The Illusionist?? Because of genius actor Edward Norton who can go toe to toe with acting gods like Anthony Hopkins and not come across as an amateur. Because of Paul Giamatti; who can play any type of role and still be convincing. Because I had to know if Jessica Biel could actually act without the help of props like a bikini or a shower stall. Because of the superb poster and trailer. I just had to.
The Illusionist is what can be called an art house movie. Everything in here looks and feels like it?s time period. Even the lighting and image quality is reminiscent of the period. The Illusionist is of course a film about a master magician at the turn of the 20th century and it is predictably a transcendent love story, the ones that usually fill this cynical reviewer with the urge to purge the contents of his viscera, but considering the powerhouse actors here, it was well worth it.
It?s a simple story really, boy meets magician, magician disappears (along with a tree), boy learns magic, boy meets girl, boy is poor and girl is an aristocrat, young couple is separated by circumstance and they meet again by accident and now the love story is of epic proportions? You see the simplicity of the story? It gets better.
Eisenheim, the Illusionist, returns to Vienna after 15 years of traveling the world to learn all the magic one could possibly learn. Attending his spectacle is Chief Inspector Uhl. As an inspector with strong arm tactics and Gil Grissom caliber abilities, Uhl is there, despite his deep admiration for Eisenheim, for more subtle reasons. He?s attending the presentation as a ranger for his boss, Crown Prince Leopold and his soon to be wife Sophie. If you cannot foresee what?s coming next I suggest you stop reading here.
Still reading? Good. Because despite the predictable fable about to take place; the execution is absolutely mesmerizing.
Of course our protagonist needs a helpless victim from the crowd, during is second presentation and the now present and nefarious Crown Prince gives up his fiancťe to the magician. Eisenheim recognize his love from the past that has kept his heart beating for so long. At this point the romance is rekindled and in order to run away together, away from the ambitious and treacherous Leopold ? and yes he is a very, very unpleasant man.
I?ll say no more about the story because the twists and turns of this story are to pleasing to have them revealed before the reader sees this wondrous film.
First, the prime directive for the viewing of this film was the sublime actors. Edward Norton, as Eisenheim delivers another great performance as the transfixed illusionist with a broken heart. Although some scenes lack the power and intensity this reviewer knows he can deliver, when one has witnessed the Oscar caliber performances of ?Primal Fear? and the skinhead masterpiece that is ?American History X? or the brilliant psychological oeuvre d?art that is ?Fight Club?. But none should forget that here he plays a sly reclusive calculating magician and for that one needs focus and tranquility. But the performance does lack a little bit of the ?Umph? factor yet still remains awe inspiring.
This is only amplified by character actor Paul Giamatti who for a small bald man can be superbly intense and intimidating as the Chief Inspector. His play on the quiet but never unheard inspector is nothing short of breathtaking. He can scream determined authority even when mumbling and chewing food at a table. The intense look of speculative wonder in his eyes during Eisenheim?s performance is put simply, priceless. His bearish accented voice is marvelous. Paul Giamatti is quite possibly the new Pacino.
Jessica Biel is surprisingly good considering the company she keeps in this film. No butt cheeks, no cleavage, no sensuous hips. And she can deliver. This despite my sarcasm makes me happy. Maybe she can now turn to roles that don?t require her to be ?The Hottie? of a film. As gorgeous and well put together she is, she can actually act. Although she couldn?t even steal any little bit of thunder from Norton or Giamatti ? and no one could really ? she plays the role of the aristocrat with ease and composure. At no time does she look like the bimbo-du-jour placed in a movie simply to look pretty. Although her scale is limited, she holds her own.
And Rufus Sewell as Leopold, this must be said, is captivating. He takes the role of royalty to a level we rarely see in such movies, where the king or prince is often a farcical caricature we all enjoy to imagine of leaders. He has convictions but has a very bad way of going about ruling. Not to mention he?s a majestically conniving, wife-beating, evil bastard that looks regal up to the end.
The soundtrack takes some turns that somewhat displeases by over emphasizing the drama taking place. Without revealing the story-line, at one point the score sounded more appropriate for an epic battle scene between massive armies than it did for grieving someone?s death. But altogether it was a great soundtrack that felt just right for the period.
Now for the eye-candy; the cinematography. This reviewer is tempted to use some profane expletives to describe just how perfect every single frame of this film is. This gem of cinematic beauty could be viewed with all sounds muted and still be greatly enjoyable. Every scene is overlaid with an amber hue that gives the imagery an antiquated feel that reminds the viewer of turn of the century photography. And just like early 20th century cinema, the film has a gradient halo blacking out the edges of every one of the Gaussian blurred images. The tones, the lighting, the contrast, everything feels perfect, everything feels 1900s. A work of art to behold.
The film also plays with the viewer, never revealing the story too quickly or precociously. It only drops hints and some clues in the imagery and just when you think the story becomes predictable, it turns on the viewer and does this a few times. Just like a magician, the film makes the viewer want magic to be real and for love to be eternal. The ghostly apparitions in the second half of the film are simply brilliant. Or maybe because this reviewer thinks this is how ghost should emerge from the other side, should they exist.
In surprising turns, Hollywoodland actually produces wonderful and intelligent films, but sadly this film will be forgotten by the masses whose appetite for mindlessly entertaining movies with explosions, machismo and non-stop action is becoming insatiable.
Do you believe in magic? I believe in The Illusionist and it?s why I give it a vibrant 5 outta 5.
Posted on 6/18/06 12:48 AM
It‚??s wonderfully crafted films like Empire Falls that keep American cinema alive. It‚??s not a movie, it‚??s a film, it‚??s artful cinema. And why it went relatively unheard of with such a powerhouse cast and brilliant storytelling is beyond the scope of this reviewer‚??s imagination.
Empire Falls is a small mill town well past its heyday but still retains it‚??s New England charm that could keep a photographer busy for months. Empire Falls, where everyone knows everyone, deals with its inhabitants with focus put on Miles Roby a shy passive man who‚??s afraid to take chances. He is gracefully played by Ed Harris, who can play just any type of role and play it perfectly. Miles is haunted by his past, by his mother trying to make a better life for her kids despite his deadbeat dad, her love affair with a rich man whose widow torment‚??s Miles to this day. He has a daughter, Tick, of angelic beauty who also has her own troubled teenage life to deal with in the ultimate level of Hell, High School and an ex-boyfriend with violent behavior. You can see the complexity of the story that will unfold.
Miles only wants to do his best for him and his daughter and tries to keep everyone happy, even if this means being nice to the man who‚??s about to marry his ex-wife. Janine, uneducated, unskilled in matters of life and still in love with her ex-husband. She‚??s brought to life by Helen Hunt who seems perfect for this role. Meanwhile Mile‚??s father Max is always on the lookout for handouts, up the minor mischief and suffers from a Hemingway complex. Such is his nature, as he has been in and out of jails all his life. Max is played brilliantly by Paul Newman and by brilliantly I mean The Verdict brilliant.
Miles‚?? dream is to expand his diner, the Empire Grill, into a more upscale restaurant with the help of his culinary inclined brother David, played here by Aidan Quinn with relish though his low-profile role is a bit under the radar. To do this Miles must get a liquor license for the restaurant. But you see, he‚??s not the owner, the old widow Mrs Whitting is and she‚??s been dangling carrots in front of Miles‚?? eyes all his life. Payback for her husbands infidelities with Mile‚??s mother. She owns the town and pretty much everybody in it.
When this fails, Miles gets together with his brother and the bar owner of Callahan‚??s team up to soup up her bar into a dining establishment. To accomplish this they need a bank loan. Guess who‚??s on the board of directors? So of course this new blow pushes Miles over the edge and he finally quits being everyone‚??s welcome matt.
There‚??s much more going on in this film but telling would deprive the viewer of the feast that is Empire Falls which ends in a little victory sure to please anyone whose ever been manipulated by folks with power and not much else.
The cinematography in this feature is just fantastic. They seem to always get the perfect shot, the perfect angle, the perfect atmosphere for the scene. Everything about the look and feel of this film is a propos. You want to live there just for the scenery. The score just matches the scenery seamlessly.
The acting in this character study is Oscar perfect. Paul Newman, Ed Harris, Aidan Quinn, Helen Hunt, Phillip Seymour Hoffman not playing a gay man, Joanne Woodward as the old widow has such elegance and poise it almost feels wrong to hate her character. Dennis Farina plays the gym-owning wife stealing Walt with just enough greasiness to keep him semi-likable. Theresa Russell is unrecognizable and plays the flirtatious waitress at the Grill and former crush of Miles but now she‚??s with his brothers who both think Miles is unaware. Robin Wright Penn plays Mile‚??s mother in the flashbacks that haunt Miles. And Max‚??s younger persona is played by Josh Lucas who has to act like Paul Newman acts; which is no small feat. Not to forget the unknown Matt Blumm who plays a 20 year old Miles and has the same brow and lower lip as Ed Harris, the resemblance is, kinda freaky.
Empire Falls is brought to life with brilliant acting, superb cinematography and a true American story of love, hardship and fighting the rapids to swim to shore. Leaves the viewer wondering why more great movies like this aren‚??t made more often.
A 5 outta 5
Posted on 5/22/06 03:46 AM
I don't know how to begin to review this documentary from the HBO America Undercover series. It touches on a very delicate subject, abortion and the freaks that populate this Army of God. And by freaks I mean, some insane people who I believe just need a little nudge to cross that border into McVeigh land.
The documentary starts by showing us the Army of God's holy martyr, Paul Hill, who shot at 3 people and killed 2 of them all in the name of God. Then we meet this Army of God. Neal Horsely, Bob Lokey and Jonathan O'Toole being it's major players. They're all a few sandwiches short of a Sunday picnic. There's no other way I can this, they're nuts. When Bob Lokey was serving 20 years for murder, he, predictably of course, found God and proceeded to circumcise himself with a razor blade and he thinks this is all sane and for the greater good. Horsely, whose name is not without irony, is a man who practiced zoophilia or bestiality in the past. Jonathan O'Toole, who at 19 left his family to live with Horsely in another state so that he could be "groomed" for the Army of God's impending war on "Gomorrah" and joined the marines to learn how to use ordinance (I wonder why?)
What's frightening is that those who do have wives, those wives are relegated to being party hosts to get-togethers for the Army of God that seem to go down like a Tupperware party from hell. Parties where these rednecks from Alabama (and surroundings states) have fun re-enacting... wait for it... a Jerry Springer episode on sluts who aborted babies ‚?? you just can't get more white trash than that. I feel sorry for the people of the "redneck states", for whom, the Army of God is their cultural ambassadors to the outside world. I wish we could something else than this coming from those states.
What's even more frightening is a conversation between Horsely and Lokey. Horsely, the ever enlightened servant of God, speaks of seeing a male duck following a female duck around like the loser that he his, because he was, and I quote, "vaginaly defeated" but the girl duck. Oh now we are getting to the meat of the matter, the whole reason why all these men are so hell bent against abortion. Lokey proceeds to tell him that is exactly why he circumcised himself, because he to was vaginaly defeated. This militancy isn't about abortion, it's about control over the harpies, those sinful women who lead us by our gonads into the burning flames of hell. Well that's how they made it sound. This isn't truly about protecting children; it's about control over women. These are those types who could never get a handle on their sex life (no pun intended) or women. Women are evil temptresses so they must be controlled, herded, at any cost.
Militancy is never about the cause, it's about imposing a view on others, and it's about controlling others, to compensate for the hole, whatever it may be, in the militant's life. In this case, probably fears and/or feelings of inadequacy towards the opposite sex. It could have been any cause. Had they been born in Quťbec, they'd be hardcore separatists dedicated to the protection of the French language from the evil Anglo-Canadian Empire. Different cause, same behavior; they're simply wired for militancy.
They all hold blindfolded faith in the Good Book and use it ad nauseum as a defense and never truly answer a question. They instead quickly pull the nearest relevant quote from the Bible from their heads in dire need of scanning for tissue damage. They sound more and more like fundamentalists in the same vein as Al Queda. God is always on their side. One Tupperware hostess chants (literally chants) that they are the good guys and the good guys are always outnumbered and always win. The Army of God members all profess to have God speaking to them personally, on an individual basis (No information on whether one of them was told to become President is presently available). Everything they do was ordained by God and if God orders them to kill they will do so without hesitation.
O'Toole, seemingly the most naive and innocent one, because of his youth perhaps, also seems the most delusional. At the execution of Paul Hill in 2003, he said that a rainbow appeared, dark clouds looming behind it. Thunder and lightning were announcing the illegitimate death of Hill and that on the moment the switch was flicked, all the lights went out, on giant thunder clap was heard at the instant of death and then all the sky went quiet and rain fell. According to O'Toole, the rainbow was a symbol for the faithful and the storm a warning of the impending war on the faithless. Pat Robertson needs to hire this guy for his PR team.
This was another one of HBO's no holds barred gritty and quality docs on touchy subjects. They don't shy away from taking chances or close their eyes to phenomena they'd rather not hear about. During an interview, you can hear the interviewer relentlessly pushing to get more out of O'Toole that he was willing to share. And boy did we get an earful on jews, Al Queda, homegrown terrorism et al.
I can't get enough of HBOs daring docs and hope that my store will carry more titles in the future. The only thing missing was more background on these nutters who think they will save America from its foolishness.
I give it a 4 outta 5