Posted on 10/20/12 06:04 PM
first of all, this picture is a kind of so-so, it blurs the line between serious drama and soap opera, some of the solutions are working well, some of them ain't. the director was known for his masterful story-telling in his earlier movies (the boxer, my left foot, in the name of the father), but recently he made some crap movies (get rich or die trying, dream house). maybe he can function best in one and only one paradigm, and this movie just partially crosses its ways with sheridan's irish catholic paradigm. the crucial point of this movie is guilt and change, as a sort of redemtion.
this movie is a remake, not a carbon copy, but close enogh to it, of a danish more artistic picture brodre. we have a good brother, his wife and a bad brother as main characters and whole family and community as supporting ones. a good brother goes to afganistan for his turn, goes missing and is presumed dead. his bad brother tries to kinda step in his shoes, to take care of his brother's family and change his ways so he can become a better man. the wife tries to stay a good person by doubling her love to the children. but the good brother comes as a changed man, suffering from PTSD...
some of the moves are good and classy, sam shepards little bravado is a touch of class, jake gyllenhaal is good as fresh-out-of-the-prison man who wants to change his ways. natalie portman does a decent job as a decent, simple military wife. tobey maguirre is just not that big actor as his role is demanding, but still it doesn't go to miscast. the ending plays out too simply, without much needed complexity, but still it is the price of hollywoodisation of an european movie. the rest of transition is done without much fuss, the less experienced viewer won't see it's a remake. the edgy melodramatic moments will spoil the feeling of watching this work.
but there is more to it, there is whole lot of context. first, it is a rarity nowdays to make a decent movie on some complex premises. it is a brave thing to do, from the economic point of view: most of the movies play safe with siplicity. it's not particularly brave from the political point of view in the time when every politician everywhere is changing their position more often than changing socks.
in this movie war and PTSD segments are secondary to guilt and redemption, and change of ways as the main topic. guilt and redemption is a standard motive from the bible, seen in literature and movies. this time it works just to a point, because it's not the only focus. it works with tommy and barely works with sam. the main reason for it is playing safe and not daring too much to get into the PTSD segment. maybe because maguirre's acting is not good enough to pass the shell-shocked phase of an army veteran to a more complex work, maybe because of the lack of screen time, maybe because of not-so-good ballance of segments. war segment is done kinda oldschool, reminding me of vietnam war movies, sam's captivity is done with a special touch of brutality, like in the deer hunter.
in a conclusion, watch it with the hurt locker aftertaste, because these two are kinda complementary. someone said on my hurt locker review that the hurt locker is a rare movie that can connect us with war veterans of our (younger) generation. this movie can do the same thing, and more movies like that will come in the future. it's simple - the first serious movies about vietnam war came five years after the war was over, the first movies dealing with the veterans came a couple of years earlier, but still. don't forget that wars in afganistan and iraq are not quite over yet. with more of the historical distance, there will be even better movies.
Posted on 10/14/12 03:30 PM
works on some levels, doesn't work on others. it's not really the kind of a movie that will end up in anthologies, but it's not bad at all. and it's quite an original work.
arthur is a borderline-retard who is a vigilante, dressed up in a superhero costume with toy-like add-ons. he is aware of not being a superhero, but doesn't see any other point of hope for fighting against the crime. he has three or four characters that genuinely care about him: his boss from work is a kind of elder brother figure, the crackhead prostitute he saves in one of his actions, his psychiatrist and a sympathetic police captain. except woody harelson, most of the casts are well-known and good TV actors. directing and the technical aspect is far from perfect, but what can you get from a low budget movie with a canadian tv station as one of the co-producers.
it's not funny movie, not in a conventional way. most of the time it's awkward to laugh, having in mind that the main character is a mentally disabled person, even though it's labeled as comedy. that kind of tone brings it close to unwatchable, but for the time of being, forget about ethics and stay put. there are two levels that are seriously underrated in all the talk about this movie.
forget about superhero comicbooks parody, the central character is retarded, and you are an asshole if you laugh at him. forget about superheroism and vigilantism for the same reasons. this is a drama about mental health, and a very good one. woody harelson's low key performance adds to it. on the other side of the story, it is a very serious deconstruction of heroism. it is about every day heroes, without super powers, childish gadgets and silly clothes. arthur is on the mental level of a child, so his perception of heroism is comic-book like. the respect he earns from "the grown-ups" has nothing to do with his vigilantism: he saves his bosses son, and he saves a girl and fights a drug-dealing chain.
it's flawed, but still... my recommendation
Posted on 10/06/12 01:43 PM
literal adaptation? yes. over-the-top? yes. a mash-up of styles? yes. but it works.
this is an omnibus with three stories from graphic novels (fancy word for comic books) sin city by fran miller. the stories are set in basin city, a combination of chandler's los angeles on rye, thompson's las vegas on ether and city of the future on extasy. time setting is also undetermined, cars vary from 30-es to late 50-es and 80-es ferrari, clothes from trenchcoats via heavy metal leather jackets to g-strings, fishnets and s/m kits. dialogue is noir, monologue is ultra-noir and the physics of the action is taken directly from pulp comix. the cast is stellar: action heroes plus the tarantino/rodriguez ususal suspects. the color is not noir black and white, it is a two color print with the fly color details (taken from european graphic novels): blond hair, red blood, blue eyes and sick yellow skin. it rains constantly.
it works. i don't know how, but it works. the adaptation is kinda page by page (miller is credited as a screenplay writer), but there is also lots of directing touches, there are fight scenes taken directly from exploatation movies. there is blood, there is skin, there is an eye for a detail. and it's not a trashy pulp fun, it's not just a parallel universe that mixes lots of pop culture memes. sin city is our past, present and future, it is a hyperbole of human corruption and power games.
Posted on 10/06/12 01:04 PM
ok, the story is not very developed, it's not even very believable, but what it lacks in originality and depth of characters, this movie compensates with lots of style.
it's not the first time that we see los angeles and hollywood as a modern-day babylon, it's propably not even the last time. but told from the angle of an aging english career criminal, the subtext is getting generally good. we see the dark side of an average success story. terence stamp is simply great as a "cockney geeser", and so is peter fonda as a washed-up music producer. there is more of a crime story, there is a kind of social story about the industry that eats its own stars, but this is mainly introspective look in the direction of a wasted life. a special feature of this picture is something extraordinary: flashbacks to london's swinging sixties where and when main character's life went to a completely wrong direction.
the atmosphere is great, the direction is almost invisible and therefore secure. doing it low-key is the right way for an intimate story. my recommendations to indie lovers.
Posted on 9/28/12 05:35 PM
the opening is inviting: a silver platter human teeth pulled out leads to a series of murders. somewhere along the way they are revealed to be inspired by the byblical four horsemen, there will be four victims (actually five, but it's just a plot twist), and four killers... it gets more and more unreasonable, and plot is just a wessel to carry around a half-boiled puke stew of ideas, some of them can't be combined with others. there is also some subtle racism, some not so subtle miscast (zhang ziyi, who doesn't speak english as a character who grew up in a basic american suburban family). dennis quaid is seriously underacting, but it's reasonable with that kind of messed-up screenplay, and he is maybe the strongest link.
i grew up in 90-es, watching psyvho thrillers and when i see one starting ot the TV i have a compulsive need to see it to the end, no matter how bad it will turn out to be. let's be reasonable: nowdays it can't be good, the genre is used up, all the ideas about serial killers are already seen many times. horsemen is mixing many earlier movies into one piece - the gothicness of seven, the gore ofe the saw series, some stuff from primal fear and silence of the lambs any many others. does it make it any good? no. there are some good details, like run-down detroit as a setting, and maybe one or two oneliners. and the whole styling is wrong: it's not movie-like, it seems like a music video, but it is also anticipated: the director is a veteran of music video industry.
if you are a hard core fan of serial killings on a screen, watch it. otherwise - avoid it like war, plague, hunger and death.
Posted on 9/28/12 04:58 PM
some time ago, i've heard a story about a pro sportsman (i don't remember who was the guy, nor which sport he played) who watched some sports drama from the 80-es before every game he played. he would put a cassette in his VCR and watch only the first ten minutes of the movie. over and over again, game after the game. and he had never seen the whole movie.
it is kinda extreme tactic, but it can be applied on this flick. well, not just the first 10 minutes, but i think the finale should be cut off. the main problem of movies today is orientation soley on the plot, trying to make it more and more original by twisting it into a gordian knot. and the problem with the gordian knot is simply that you can't solve it in an elegant way. considering this and many other movies, the ending is always a mess without much point to it.
too bad the premisis was kinda alright on the artistic level: two FBI agents come to a god forsaken town to investigate a grizly triple murder masked as a car accident. the only three survivors are a nine-year old girl, a young junkie woman and a wounded police officer, and every one of them has their own side of the story. it makes it basically a psych suspense version of rashomon. as the story goes on and on, there are some twists...
taking one detail at the time, script seems a bit lame, all the morals carefully inserted to an interesting story are corny to the bone. but when the story has no morals in it, this movie is a scary and gory kind of fun. the title hasn't much to do with the rest of the movie, but it ain't the worst ever. bear in mind that it was the first jennifer lynch movie in 15 years, after boxing helena, an interesting, but overall freakish shocker.
jennifer lynch has a famous last name, but she is not hiding behind it, her direction here is pacy, action-oriented, and the only "lynchian" part to it is general wierdness scene by scene. the cast of characters is great, bill pulman and julia ormond, maybe two most underrated actors nowdays, are simply great, and despite the fact their characters have no motive at all after the plot twist, their performance is on the highest level.
worth watching for the sake of gory fun. that fun is prety pointles, but fun doesn't have to have any point. but it won't be the best thing ever, let's be honest.
Posted on 9/08/12 04:50 PM
believe me, i didn't go to a theater to see it, i didn't even buy a new TV, a pair of glasses and a DVD. i waited it to come on the TV when all the novelty wears off, and see it in a normal, 2D form. and i think i didn't miss much, except for the 3D hype.
some crtics said, righfully so, that visual effects are primary to the story and the characters. i couldn't agree more, because the story is a cliche supermarket, characters are shallow as a shallow grave and the visual part is spot on, with likable CGI and disney-like animation, not to mention all the fx and explosions.
it starts with a veteran narrator in a wheelchair (born on the 4th of jully) telling the story of his life and coming to pandora, a minning planet inhabited with dinosaur-like creatures (jurassic park) and humanoid natives in touch with the nature (dances with the wolves). he is a part of a gang of mercenaries and scientists, each group has its own goals, mercenaries to secure the valuble resources, scientists to explore the planet. he works with both of them as an infiltrator in the native setlement through avatar (native-like replicant operated by a human). he befriends the natives and in the process he switches sides, so do the most of the scientists. and then the war comes in, and that would be the final third until the open end, perfect to make a sequel.
so, there is something for everyone, from simplifeid criticism of modern american capitalism, action, inspiring speaches taken from any mel gibson movie, all the imaginable war movie cliches, cameron's obsession with the frontier psychology to the death of the current vasquez girl. there is also some of mother gaia in tune with nature zen crap, the idea of a living planet taken from solaris, and the cult of a noble savage. that last was the most irritating for me, since i don't believe in noble savages, and for me nobility is something connected to civilization.
don't get me wrong, this is not at all bad movie. it's actually good, but so not original that it simply beats the point for me. maybe i'm too old for that kind of fairy-tale. maybe i have seen to many movies. but i am sure that someone less expirienced and less cynical will love it.
Posted on 9/08/12 04:03 PM
one of the movies i would be interested in my high school or early college years. it comes out like a symbology thriller, and is easy enough to watch... the plot twists are expected, the suspense parts are somewhat corny and this movie's numerology is over the top even by the esoteric standards. nevertheless, it fits in the genre niche started with dan brown novels. but all the questionable quallity wears off just before the end, and this movie ends in steaming pile of crap and melodramaticism spiced up with quasy-moral.
the atmosphere is pretty gothic / noir, and it looks sexy for mallgoth kids. visual identity is ok, a bit cheap and digital. it is an interesting expirience to see jim carrey dead serious, and a song by she wants revenge is a highlight of the film. and it ends here.
by the way, don't get the wrong idea that sanitary standards in north america nowdays are on the same level as, i don't know, the 30-es.
Posted on 9/02/12 04:15 PM
you will have to really tune in for this one. this is not a movie that should tell a fictional story, this is a moqumentary type of movie. it's still fiction, but doesn't work that way.
the story kicks off with don, a marketing executive sent on a mission to ensure some quality control in a slaughterhouse in colorado, the major supplier of the big one, a best-selling burger. this serves only as an introduction to fast food industry.
the industry itself is shown from every aspect in an easy way that everyone should understand. the workers are mostly mexican illegals, the production line is too fast and accident-prone, a local rancher says his side of the story behind the meat industry, a local restaurant manager complains about having no control over the stuff he sells, a highschool girl is there to show the world of entry-level workers in the fast food industry, there are also enviromental activists and there is more and more colorfull characters...
as i said before, there are too many characters in the plot, so it makes it complicated. the cast is good, the roles are well played, and the plot story is told as smoothly as it can be. it's pretty balanced and objective, which is rare in both fiction and documentary movies on the subject. it's also somewhat biased, as expected, but doesn't fall into pathetic propaganda.
Posted on 9/02/12 03:45 PM
ok, i saw it on the TV, and for the first 30 minutes i kept wondering what the fuck is going on. this is kinda monty python joke on the new age. the complicated plot is there to make this flick watchable during the exposion of all the new age shit, from existentialism to enviromentalism, and philosophy itself. and ofcourse, there is religion, political debate, success story, ascetism...
the cast is brilliant, playing their roles on their expected level. (and above, in the case of mark wahlberg.
but there's a catch: i think this movie has existence on its own, it doesn't communicate with the audience. it's comedy, but it's not actually funny, it's very consuming and needs a lot of concentration. it leaves the taste of one of those nights with good friends, lots of pot and every plan going down the toilette, while the friends are really into bullshiting about philosophy and the meaning of life. it is not that interesting if you are not in the same mental tune with them.