Daniel's Message Wall

About Daniel

New York, NY
Favorite Movies:
Pan's Labyrinth, Koyaanisqatsi - Life Out of Balance, Dogville, Brazil, The Maltese Falcon, Citizen Kane, Casablanca, Reservoir Dogs, The Third Man, Blue Velvet, Dead Man, Pulp Fiction, La Vie en Rose (La Mome), Coffee and Cigarettes, The Big Lebowski, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Sweet Smell of Success, Chinatown, Kill Bill: Volume 2, A Boy and His Dog, Million Dollar Baby, Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, The Hudsucker Proxy, The Corporation, Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Children Underground, Memento, Run Lola Run (Lola rennt), Seven (Se7en), Hotel Rwanda, The Thing, Day of the Dead, Fargo, Cabaret, Manos: The Hands of Fate, The Grudge, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Dances With Wolves, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Being John Malkovich, The Truman Show, Best in Show, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Safety Last!
Favorite Actors:
Harold Lloyd, Humphrey Bogart, Andrei Tarkovsky, Peter Lorre, Clint Eastwood, Peter Sellers, Orson Welles, Ivana Baquero, Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Lloyd, Joseph Cotten, Johnny Depp, Isabella Rossellini, Benicio Del Toro, Michael McKean, Fred Willard, Stephen Colbert, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Alfred Molina, George Pal, Bob Hoskins, Tom Savini, Basil Rathbone, Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, Hugh Laurie, Steve Carell, Michael Madsen, Ethan Coen, John Cleese, Woody Allen, Morgan Freeman, John Goodman, Tom Hanks, Fred Williamson, Tony Curtis, Warren William
I try to give star ratings according to the genre, the context of the time it was made, and the subject matter being tackled. A movie tackling really big themes and making bold steps deserves a reprieve from a few blunders, whilst a formulaic comedy really needs some perfect footwork to be worth watching. At the same time, some genres really can't get a whole lot better. No Blaxploitation can really be called cinema, but for their context in cinema history, are given fair ratings. That said, the 4 and 5 star films manage to transcend their genres limitations (An action film with a good plot, a horror film with a good acting, a comedy with character development, etc.) 3 star films are average, they fall in line with their genres expectations, whilst 1 and 2 star movies might give you a pretty poor impression of the entire genre itself, and leave a bad taste in your mouth even for good movies of a similar theme. That isn't to say the movie itself is bad, it merely shows the rather seedy, unsuccessful side of a genre. Plan 9 From Outer Space is a film worth watching, but because it represents the same Sci-Fi genre as "Alien" or "The Day The Earth Stood Still." Poor films are necessary to appreciate the good ones. Finally, entertainment value is something I really can't rate, but I'll note in a review. I really enjoy some pretty terrible movies, but I'll star them for how they are crafted and executed, and only rarely will I favor or deride a movie for its sheer entertainment value alone, or simply because I dislike it's content. When I do, it'll be obvious.

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Daniel's Ratings

  • The Man from Earth

    The Man from Earth (2007)

    February 24, 2010

    Continually bordering on brilliant, and brought down by a lack of cinematography, production skill, and a rather overpowering mid-movie twist that simply spills

  • Encounters at the End of the World

    Encounters at the End of the World (2007)

    February 24, 2010

    Herzog is an eccentric, and perhaps an acquired taste. This film hits you with the immediate bluntness and selfishness of a rookie documentarian, but an awareness that the man speaking from behind the camera might actually be someone worth listening to... not in a traditional documentarian sense of neutrality or cautious respect... but more akin to an entertaining and slightly absent-minded uncle waxing poetic and seeming a bit ridiculous, but still holding the room at rapt attention.

    Encounters at the End of the World simply follows that eccentric uncle as he wanders around base-camp, talking about whatever wanders into our out of his mind, making unabashedly random and whimsical commentaries with glacial surety. It drags on, but Herzog is simply too forceful to let you go, and you end with a feeling that you were forced along for the ride but weirdly don't regret the experience.

  • Cocalero

    Cocalero (2007)

    February 24, 2010

  • The Conscientious Objector

    The Conscientious Objector (2004)

    February 24, 2010

    Hero-worship is all too common, and this film sadly overindulges to the point of making an otherwise worthy subject instead a 2-Dimensional poster-boy for politically-correct heroism. However praiseworthy Desmond Doss's story, convictions, and actions may have been, the documentary does little to explore any emotion other than diamond-in-the-rough praise, with a requisite prelude of ingratitude and hardship. In the end, little is explored beyond a simple narrative that reads a bit too much like a propaganda film or comic-book reimagining (indeed, the film-maker cites his boyhood facination with a comic-book about Doss.) Doss himself is a bit too vague to provide much insight beyond that of a strange form of directors-commentary... and we are left with a sadly isolated view of an otherwise remarkable story, unable to connect any strings or make any inferences other than a big, blaring neon light leading down a path to hero-worship with as much substance as a Hollywood script-writer could manufacture in a weekend. Truly, the substance must have been there... but its direction and cinematic narrative structure have far too many stars in their eyes to unearth more than a few heartstrings to tug at.

  • Fall From Grace

    Fall From Grace (2007)

    February 24, 2010

    A satisfyingly balanced, and for that all the more scathing, look into a rather minor but vocal sideshow of the American Heartland.

    It feels like one of those micro-history books sitting in your local bookstore: focused on one subject and rarely if ever deviating to even briefly take a larger overview of its context, yet managing a true documentary level of implied social commentary, leaving the subject matter to work for itself. In that way, we can excuse this film for not tackling larger matters, such as Christian Fundamentalism as a whole, simply because Fred Phelps world is inherently isolationist and not open to these larger issues. The audience is left to interpret the morals and the role this group may have in the world at large, and for that, the film deserves a bit of praise considering the volatile subject matter that could easily have turned into a aimless hack-job. Instead, the documentary presents you with the axe, the grinder, and the instructions... and lets you handle the rest once the film is over. For that, its focus and lack of context is not misplaced: it knows the audience comes in with a preconception, and instead gives ammunition in the form of details, facts, and calm analysis. Satisfaction, and a fair bit of outrage, guaranteed... as long as one reads between the lines and doesn't make this narrow molehill of a subject into a broad mountain of disgust.

  • Our Man Flint

    Our Man Flint (1966)

    February 24, 2010

    A classic of the spy-genre, in its all-out parody glory. Age has only added a new sheen of humor, as we guffaw at the retro aura (the kung-fu grips, the 1960's womanizing, go-go dancing, and ridiculous faux-buddhist upper-class chicness.
    Our Man Flint is an essential entry in the genre of parody, and actually manages to stand on its own without knowledge of what it is trying to parody in a way that the more recent (and less sophisticated) Austin Powers has managed to do. Yet where Austin Powers is slapstick hilarity, Our Man Flint is buffoonishly mock-serious.... a parody style that fits the spy-film genre far more comfortably and more satisfyingly... and has aged remarkably well for a highly topical parody.

  • The Botany of Desire

    The Botany of Desire (2009)

    February 24, 2010

    Lopsided and a bit misdirected, but overall entertaining and informative. The Botany of Desire is obviously trying to entice people into watching a film about something that sends most people to sleep: agriculture and botany. Not a sexy subject in the least, it tries its best (most obviously, in its title) to make its subject appealing to a mass audience. As such, it gets a bit anthro-centric and pop-culturey... complete with gimmicky title cards and simplified narrative structures.
    Underneath all the polish though, is an informative and well-thought piece of educational film, notably the beautifully neutral section on Marijuana and the riveting socio-economic history of the Tulip. The genetic-food focus of the Potato, and the somewhat mythologized history of the Apple, the bookends of the film, fall short. Overall, it succeeds as education but looks a bit ridiculous as it tries to pantomime entertainment.

  • Crude

    Crude (2009)

    February 24, 2010

  • Style Wars

    Style Wars (1983)

    January 15, 2010

    An original, and simultaneously THE original, documentary on graffiti culture, and by extension and to a lesser degree, Hip-Hop culture in general. The 1980's of New York may be long gone, but they are captured here not with beauty or compassion, but with a detached emphasis on humanity.

    Well shot, well interviewed, and to a certain extent unbiased. At times it reads like a 60-minutes special, but at its best it provides a genuine, if sometimes too restricted and short, view into a world that has since evolved into something far more pervasive and different.

  • TerrorStorm: A History of Government-Sponsored Terrorism

    TerrorStorm: A History of Government-Sponsore... (2006)

    September 18, 2009

    A disconcerting blend of fact and fiction. Accurate but overblown analysis of past revolutionary false-flag events cast an inappropriately logical light on further "revelations" concerning the London, NYC and Pentagon terrorist attacks of the past decade. A great deal of this conspiratorial message fails to stand up to true logical analysis... and much of the evidence shown fails to explain proper context, interview credible witnesses, or even explain any of its own accusations in greater depth.

    Regardless, though, of the beliefs contained within, the film is laughably arranged with large red fonts punctuating word-for-word the narration, eerie warped images and a hilarious "special effects" mentality. I burst out in laughter as the film decries the use of mind-control fear-tactics as the film itself uses threatening music and huge, flaming letters to explain how you have been mind-controlled... and subsequently asked my roommates to re-watch the sequence to make sure I wasn't dreaming it.

    Hypocritical and overblown, look to cooler heads to explain that unwholesome truths are rarely as exciting and clear-cut as this film makes them out to be. True analysis is rarely this rewardingly outrageous.

    PS: As a response to the grandiose 5-stars on this site for this film, I would like to suggest that if anyone finds the information this film proposes to be even vaguely interesting, to please graduate to such writers as Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein or Jeremy Scahill for a much more level-headed and complex analysis of the true effects of US foreign and economic policy over the last 80 years.

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