Posted on 10/17/11 08:05 AM
In a nutshell: This is a really great problem with some obvious flaws that may leave you a bit underwhelmed.
The most glaring problem I had with this movie is the voice over in the beginning. When I heard George Clooney's crisp voice at the start of the film I thought, "Ah, this is THAT kind of movie." Except it isn't... The voice over technique is just used at the beginning and it simply explains things. Sure Clooney made a few good jokes, but it felt like an afterthought. It seemed as if Payne didn't think audiences would understand the characters he developed in his film so he added the voice over. It really rubbed me the wrong way, and I wished it wasn't there.
That being said, this is a very intriguing film. It presents many hurdles and hindrances that a man and his children must overcome and none of his options are easy. All these interwoven obstacles feel like they come about organically, which is hard to find these days. Clooney and Woodley are great as father and daughter (the younger daughter is also pretty great.)
Despite the the story presenting all these intriguing ideas, I felt like there was something missing. I don't know what it was, but when I left the screening, I knew that it wasn't a masterpiece, but I felt like it could have been. I really don't know what I could have suggested to Payne, but it's the kind of film that will sweep awards but won't be remembered in the long run.
Still I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, it made me laugh a surprising amount. Payne is able to wring humor out of very unexpected places. I highly recommend seeing this movie when it comes out, but don't be surprised if you don't "head over heels" love it.
Posted on 9/25/11 10:51 PM
A fun and disturbing religious romp... with GUNS!!! Yeah this movie kicks-ass. Well let me rephrase that, it kicks religious fanaticism in the ass. This is Kevin Smith's take on the Westboro Baptist Church, and the effects of religion.
Michael Parks and Melissa Leo give absolutely chilling performances. Seriously, Michael Parks is without a doubt the most underrated working actor. This is Oscar caliber acting here. As for the film, it's funny, and provides the viewer with a good time (unless your last name is Phelps... you might be more pissed at this film then.)
Even with it's over the top goodness, it's not perfect. It's a bit clunky, and there is somewhat a pacing problem (even though it's only like 80 minutes.) Still, this movie is a blast. Definitely worth checking out!
Posted on 9/19/11 09:26 PM
The film starts with a cough, a simple innocent cough. Though coughing is something we've all heard and done before, this cough is different. We know that the person coughing doesn't have the flu or a cold, but something much worse.
This person is Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), a woman who just returned from a trip she took to Hong Kong. When she arrives home to her husband (Matt Damon) and son, she says she's jetlagged. The next morning she collapses and has violent seizures. No one knows what's wrong or what to do.
Several people all over the world start to show the same symptoms as Beth. This causes the government to bring in the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization to help control the outbreak and hopefully discover a cure for the virus.
Once the virus begins to gain more attention, the film starts to play out like a medical procedural drama. It gives great focus to describing the process of quarantining infected people, stopping the spread of the disease and the effort it takes to create a vaccine.
Unfortunately, all these intriguing medical elements come at the expense of character development and emotional content. Many may find this off-putting, but the film still stands. Most of the characters we observe are doctors who have been trained to stay calm and detached in the face of death. It would have been nice to learn more about certain characters, but the film's main focus is creating tension and advancing the story.
Director Steven Soderbergh juggles an enormous cast of A-list stars in Contagion that includes Paltrow, Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard and Lawrence Fishburne. Incorporating so many characters and story arcs is often difficult to do well, but Soderbergh manages to make it work.
The only pitfall is that some are bound to be more interesting than others. The epidemiologist played by Cotillard starts off as a strong character when she attempts to pinpoint the genesis of the disease, but once that is discovered she essentially becomes pointless.
A key element to the film's success is Law's character Alan Krumwiede, an online blogger who is convinced the government is keeping vital information about the virus from the public. His character cements this film in the modern world, where technology and communication can lead to panic and anarchy during a global crisis.
Soderbergh's film is a tense thriller that is equal parts engaging and disturbing. Soderberg takes images and shots that would normally seem trivial and makes them terrifying. I have never been so petrified of a bus pole or a bowl of nuts in my entire life. With its propulsive energy and staunch realism, Contagion is one of the best thrillers of the year
Posted on 12/21/10 05:02 PM
That's all I could really say after seeing Black Swan. Let me just say right off the bat that when I saw this film for the first time, I was slightly underwhelmed. Yes, I loved the movie and was blown away, but I felt as if it wasn't exactly what I wanted it to be. Then I saw it again. Whatever I felt before was gone, I enjoyed the movie much more the second time around. This is without a doubt one of the best films of the year.
The attention to detail is amazing. Everything about this movie is oscar worthy. Natalie Portman is simply spellbinding. Even though parts were unrealistic, I never saw Natalie acting. I just saw a woman and her slow and painful breakdown. Vincent Cassel, Barbra Hershey and Mila Kunis all give chilling performances as well. Winona Ryder's part is very small but she still manages to be creepy as hell.
The direction, cinematography, production design and score are all astounding. Darren Aronofsky knew exactly what he wanted. His trademark "stalker cam" is frequently used throughout the film. It's simple but effective. The sets are wonderful to look at. Blacks and whites are richly placed in each scene, with many other subtle touche as well. The camera follows Natalie's Nina so gracefully, it barely feels like your watching a movie. The score borrows greatly from the actual play "Swan Lake" but this helps make the film feel more fluid and consistent.
Overall this is a thrilling movie experience that can't be missed. If you can't buy into the story, or you aren't a fan of the melodrama/horror hybrid, you can at least appreciate the technical aspects of the movie.
Posted on 9/02/10 07:33 PM
This may not be the most celebrated Hitchcock film, but it is one of his favorites. The only other Hitchcock film I've seen to date is "The Birds." Yes, I am missing out on many classic films, currently working on it. Anyways, Shadow of a Doubt is a masterfully made film. It is more suspenseful than most films I've seen in recent years. The subtle acting of the two leads also helps propel this film.
This film is, once you boil it down, about the relationships between two characters: Charlies and... well Charlie. They are both seemingly nice people, and it is established early that they are not interested in material things. Of course both have deal with this very differently. In the beginning of the film Hitchcock makes their relationship appear as if it may lead to a sexual one. Of course they are Uncle and Niece, and so seeing the two flirting and being close make the viewer very uncomfortable. It is rather brilliant.
There are so many motifs, subtleties and attention to detail that makes the film intriguing without even focusing on the plot. Hitchcock uses camera angles, recurring themes and photographic images to aid in the storytelling. Take the introductions of Charles and Charlie. Both these scenes are parallel to each other, showing both characters lying on their bed, shrouded in shadows. These small touches, and motifs really drew me in to the film, and made me yearn to watch more, and isn't that what a film is supposed to do?
There are several images in the film that are hauntingly beautiful. As Charlie's brother stands at the train station, becoming enveloped by the shadows of the train, When Uncle Charlie is describing his hatred for rich widows and turns to the camera and says "Are they?," And the devastating scene of young charlie realizing that her uncle is getting away with his crime and stares at him in the doorway. All of these images will most likely be etched in my memory for eternity.
This film has no gratuitous violence, in fact it has none. It is a quieter film than most thrillers today. I will need to watch it again in order to pick up on the numerous details of it. I suggest you do the same.
Posted on 8/23/10 08:53 PM
Well I'm not sure who thought this was going to be a good movie. There was never a single joke that made me laugh. All the humor in the film is at middle school level. Everything the movie tries to make fun of about the twilight series is either so obvious that it isn't funny to begin with, or the joke is so desperate for a laugh that it relies on shock value.
The only redeeming quality of these recent spoof movies has been a strong supporting actor that makes you smile, regardless of the fact that he/she is in a piece of crap movie. In Date Movie it was Alyson Hannigan, in Epic Movie it was Jamya Mays and Darrel Hammond, and in Disaster Movie.... well there was no one. The actress who plays "Becca" really nails Kristen Stewarts mannerisms, but of course no one really cares. Annelise Van Der Pol from "That's So Raven" always makes me smile, and it saddened me to see her in this movie. She is so much better than this.
Vampire Sucks is actually a large improvement from Disaster Movie. There are much less random Mad TV actors pretending to be celebrities or pop culture figures here. The acting is slightly better, and it's somewhat better shot. Still, saying Vampires Suck is a better movie than Disaster Movie is sort of like saying Diarrhea is better than having Dysentery. Either way, it's pretty shitty.
Posted on 7/27/10 07:26 PM
It is a daunting thing James Cameron did, making "Avatar." How do you follow the biggest film of all time? Well you make a sci fi film with some of the best use of 3-D visual effects and create a new method of filmmaking, that's how. "Avatar" is an experience, and experience that you will not want to end. The world of Pandora is so inordinately beautiful, all you want to do is allow the images to wash over your eyes.
The movie stars Sam Worthington as an ex-marine who is taking his twin brother's place in the "Avatar Program" after his untimely death. There he meets Nyeteri (Zoe Saldana), and eventually falls in love with her, with much disapproval at first from her parents (yes this does sound similar to Titanic and many other movies).
As I said before, this film is a visual stunner. In fact it's so stunning that the vast majority of people who have been raving about it have overlooked its glaring flaws. The plot is about as original as the movie "Leap Year." Pocahantas, Dances With Wolves, are just a few names of films that Avatar borrow it's plot from. There were times during the film that the dialogue was sub par at best. It is not the best written film, but as I said, many people are over looking this fact.
So why did I give this film a positive review you may ask? Well the film is so revolutionary and even though the plot is tired, its still better than most of the crap hollywood has been making. The visual awe of the film does start to wear off after a while and then the film starts to become a bit boring. Perhaps if it was 20-30 minutes shorter? All in all this film is worth seeing, for it will be remembered by enhancing the possibilities of film making.
Above was my original review of Avatar, after the first time I saw it. I gave it an 80%. I am now reevaluating my review after seeing it three more times. This films does not reward repeat viewing, and it doesn't help if it's seen on a 19 inch TV and is in 2D. The "awe" of the visuals I felt when I first saw the film quickly wore off by the 4th time I saw it. Every moment I was watching the film, I couldn't help but think of other films with the same plot. "Wow, this is just like Pocahontas" or "I'm pretty sure Fern Gully have that line?." Yes that isn't a reason to dislike a film, but I found the disturbingly similar themes to be off putting.
The script is also weak. The dialogue is un-engaging and sometimes pretty lazy. If this is the most successful film of all time, why do I care so little when these characters speak? I even laughed at times. "I see you" in particular felt overused and very corny. I'm not asking for Tarantino dialogue, but I expect something interesting and different.
And for the love story, well it has got to be one of the least developed couple in cinema history. When Jake first joins the tribe, Nyteri felt like she was getting punished. Then we see her give him a look, and he looks back. Then he nudges her while they are flying. Next thing I know they are getting it on. Seriously? I know months have passed in the movie, but to us its been 30-40 minutes, and nothing intimate happens between them. There isn't a moment where Jake realizes that he loves her, or visa versa. Just really poorly handled.
Finally the film is way to long. After less than two hours I started looking at my watch, hoping this movie would end. It's repetitive, there are scenes that are not needed, and with repeat viewings the movie starts to get boring.
I still give the movie props for being well acted, directed and shot. Though this is the most successful film of all time, it is far from the best and definitely not the most original.
Posted on 7/05/10 03:29 PM
In Leu of Inception opening up next week, I thought I would go back to a film that deals with similar issues. Paprika is an engrossing and imaginative film that is greatly aided by it's gorgeous visuals. It's rare that you see an animated movie with an R rating, but that only helps Paprika. The film is about a woman who is developing a product called "The D.C. Mini" which will allow people to enter the dreams of others. She has an alter ego named "Paprika," who is a dream warrior. One of the people that Paprika is helping is a detective who is having a recurring dream that is troubling him.
Then the film starts to head into almost a crime drama territory. The D.C. Mini has been stolen and the detective is starting to learn what his dream is telling him about his past. What makes this film so hypnotic is the thin line between reality and dreams. There will be many points in the film when you won't be able to tell if what your seeing is real, or just part of someone's imagination. This fusion of dreams and reality is beautiful to watch.
Of course a film cannot rely completely on visuals if it wants to be a truly great film (talking about you Avatar.) Paprika has a great premise, and the characters are strong. The detective's story is actually one of the more interesting parts of the film. Despite the fact that he is hand drawn, his emotions and struggles seem as real as anything in the live action world.
I think this is top notch animation, and I would encourage anyone to watch it, not just anime fans. The movie will keep audiences engaged and minds provoked.
Posted on 1/06/10 04:59 PM
Wall-e is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful film in recent memory. The first 40 minutes of the film has virtually no dialogue. The wizards at pixar realize that words are not needed to express emotion. The image of Wall-e staring at the television screen as "Hello Dolly" plays, longing for a companion is heartbreaking. Do not be surprised if tears are shed during this film.
Wall-e starts in a deserted earth, barren of human and plant life. Humans overused its resources and were forced to go to space until Earth is able to be inhabited again. Then the film transitions to space where Wall-e runs into a spaceship filled with humans who are completely dependent on robots. How is it possible that an animated film be so emotional, satirical, and entertaining all at once? Pixar seems like it can do no wrong, and Wall-e (widely considered Pixar's biggest risk) paid off. It's a beautiful film and one of the best animated film of all time.
Posted on 1/06/10 04:48 PM
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a gem of a movie. It's one of the best films of the decade and of all time. The combination of amazing performances, an emotionally wrenching love story, and a quiet observation on the mind and how we cope with love and loss aids this movie into the category of masterpiece.
Writer Charlie Kaufman has written some of the strangest, yet most brilliant screenplays of the past decade. His dialogue is realistic and juicy, and his characters are carefully written and truly beautiful to watch on screen. But, there is so much more in this movie than simply the writing. The direction is also stellar. There is a trippiness in the way Joel's memories get erased that make the film fun, confusing and entertaining. I do not want to even talk too much about the plot due to its importance. The less you know about the film, the better your first viewing experience will be.
If you have yet to see this amazing film, rent it and just let the images wash over you.