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Shutter Island

Shutter Island

(2010)
2 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Before this film came out I developed an extremely well thought out and detailed formula as to how good it would be. It is as follows: Scorsese=amazing director, DiCaprio=amazing actor, therefore by the transitive property of films Scorsese+DiCaprio=amazing movie. So, did my formula hold true?

Well, the short answer is yes. Shutter Island was amazing and seeing it at midnight with a packed theater was quite a fun experience. Having said that, don't go into this expecting something on the caliber of Taxi Driver or The Departed, because that's not what you'll get.

What you will get is an extremely well shot, well written, well acted, tribute to classic horror films. Another name for this movie might have been, "Scorsese does The Shining." The sense of dramaticism is well maintained throughout the entire picture and the simple but menacing score creates a notable tension in the air. There is a constant sense of grayness that is clear right from the beginning, and the opening shot sequence leading into the main grounds of Shutter Island was nothing short of brilliant. Scorsese no doubt drew inspiration from legends like Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock.

Shutter Island tells the story of two Federal Marshals, Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo). The two are sent to a remote island off the coast of Massachusetts that houses some of the most dangerous clinically insane patients in the country. They are there investigating the disappearance of a deeply disturbed woman who murdered her three children.

DiCaprio, as usual, was phenomenal. Being with him as his character slowly uncovers more and more about the mysteries of Shutter Island, and the mental breakdown it causes him, is truly the most intriguing apsect of the film. Your state of mind is right there with DiCaprio as he begins to question the sanity of not just the people that surround him, but himself.

A large portion of the film is dedicated to very eloquent yet disturbing flashbacks of Teddy's life; visions of frozen corpses in the street, his deceased wife dissolving into ash in his arms, horrific consequences of war, and a strange little girl beckoning the question, "Why didn't you save me?" These scenes are where Shutter Island shines the brightest, a strange paradox, I know.

My one minor gripe with the film is that it sometimes seems that Scorsese lacked a bit of focus. The film flows extremely well, but I thought a better job could have been done on the psychological aspects. The images that Teddy sees are truly disturbing but the climatic reveal at the end of the film wasn't really as mind-blowing as I would have hoped. As I said, this is only a minor gripe and in no way did it ruin my experience. I just thought that there was a little more that could have been done to place it on the caliber of Scorsese's past masterpieces.

One aspect that I was truly blown away by was the music, or in some cases lack of it. So many garbage horror movies out there rely on cheap "horror gags" as they've been called; creepy music letting you know something scary is about to happen then SCREECH! Man, wasn't that scary? Something jumped out at you at there was a stupidly loud noise. There is none of that here. The music is so simple yet so sinister and foreboding that you can't help but feel uneasy. A few dark chords from an orchestra are all it takes. Some people I think wouldn't even call it music, just a series of notes played by strings, but it works so well here. If not for the music I think I would have marked this down another 10%.

Shutter Island is easily the first must see movie of 2010. While not on the caliber of some of Scorsese's past work, it's clear that a real professional has put this great piece of art together. Scorsese really showed some range here and while it's clear that his comfortable niche lies in the city and crime life, it was really cool to see him venture into new territory. As a side note, thank you so much to the Emerson College community for making the theater experience that much better. Roaring applause during the previews and opening credits really helped me get that much more excited. I think anyone that is in to films should see a midnight release with Emerson College at least once in their life.

Avatar

Avatar

(2009)
2 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Well, it's finally here. The 300 million dollar alien-western space epic Avatar finally hit theaters last night. The verdict? SEE THIS MOVIE!

I was definitely excited going in. I had read some early reviews and liked what I heard. The most notable quote that I read was "this generation's Star Wars." That is absolutely 100% true. As soon as I saw the shot where the ship initially lands on Pandora I knew that I was in for something unreal. While some may say that the beginning of the movie is relatively slow, as soon as Jake enters the Avatar for the first time, which is about 20 minutes in, the movie picks you up and brings you on an incredible journey that even your imagination never thought was possible.

As I'm sure you've heard, it tells the story of Jake, a marine who's confined to a wheelchair. Jake's brother is some super intelligent scientist who pilots a mentally controlled body called an Avatar. The Avatar's are made from human DNA, and DNA of the native people, The Na'vi, 12-foot-tall blue humanoids with tails. It is the job of the Avatar pilots to interact with the Natives and get them to move from their home so the United States can farm an element hidden within their planets crust, which is worth big bucks. Unfortunately Jake's brother dies and he is asked to pilot his brother's Avatar. From there the plot develops into what many think is a boring cliché. Yes, this movie is Pocahontas with aliens. This factor alone merited many reviewers to mark it down in score. I however, am a firm believer that the story is perfect for what Cameroun wanted to accomplish. Complain about the liberal biases all you want, the plot is a basic but beautiful tale about love and nature. In choosing a basic plot, Cameron wasn't trying to throw too much at you at once. The idea was to immerse you in this majestic and imaginative world. Could this be done with a more complex and original plot? Maybe, but I think that by using an easy plot, Cameron was able to envelop the viewers without them having to think too hard about what was going on. To put it bluntly, he knew most Americans would be too stupid to understand the incredible visuals mixed with a complex plot, *crosses fingers for a perfect Avatar 2.*

One the most interesting aspects of Avatar is the 3-D. I have seen 3-D done well in one other movie, and that was Coraline. Having said that, I can say that Avatar has perfected the use of 3-D in feature films. From the very first shot of the movie when I saw water droplets (or something similar) floating in zero-gravity, I was convinced that this was the way this movie was meant to be seen. The particle effects: leaves, bugs, splinters, just look so incredibly beautiful, I can't elaborate much more than that, you'll just have to see for yourself. While there are definitely shots that you can tell were meant to show off the 3-D, in no way were you ever pulled out of the experience.

The scenes where Jake and the native he falls in love with, Neytiri, travel through the lush jungles and floating mountains of Pandora are some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen in a movie. I am 100% serious when I say this, I was almost brought to tears with the spectacle of some of this scenery; it's that damn good. The Na'vi's view on nature is so beautiful and enticing that you literally feel connected to every living thing on Pandora. I won't give away too much, but the saddest part of the movie involves the death of a something that you probably wouldn't give much thought to normally.

Avatar is a spectacle. While it is not perfect, Cameron definitely kept his promise, this movie has single-handedly changed the film industry. I don't think I can ever watch another movie with computer animated effects. This makes Transformers look like a visual joke, which it was. I was completely pulled into this imaginative world from start to finish. To explain just what exactly I was feeling as I sat in the crowded theater would be impossible. I know this isn't really something that should be said in a review, but you really just have to experience this movie to understand what my mind and soul was going through. My friend said "it's not really CG, it's like James Cameroun went to Pandora and filmed a movie." Couldn't have said it any better myself. If you see one movie this year, see Avatar, it will be all you can think about until the sequel is released.

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Intel Hollywood Star Program (July 2012 - December 2012)
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