drago25's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

Murderers Are Among Us (Die Mörder sind unter uns)

This was the first shown in my Post-War German film class - it being the first German film produced after the war ended. As such, it is a very important film. It's a little hard to judge overall, but I thoroughly enjoyed it all the same. I think it was important that a film released at this time sum up the sentiment of the German people at the time and I think it was very successful in that. I thought the directing was very, very interesting as well - a lot of cool shots and angles that I haven't really seen before.

Step Brothers

After Talladega Nights, it was obvious that Will Ferrell and John C. Rielly make a brilliant comedic duo, and obviously that is the inspiration for Step Brothers, where they get to act as ridiculous and juvenile as their Nights characters, but on another level entirely. And it makes for another winning comedy, in my opinion. The two play spoiled middle-aged guys who still live with their single parents, the two parents meet and marry, and they become step brothers - highly competitive step brothers at first. As you can expect, the plot is paper-thin, it's mainly a way to let Ferrell and Reilly let loose and improvise, showcasing the comedic ability of them and the rest of the cast - but the lack of plot made little difference to me (and it seems, to most audiences coming to this movie looking for a good time) because it absolutely 100% delivers in the comedy department. In fact, it delivers non-stop laughter - I don't there were any spaces much more than a minute long where the I and everyone else wasn't laughing throughout. You really can't go into a movie like this expecting much more than just to be purely entertained, and Step Brothers absolutely delivers. If you're expecting more than that, it's just silly. And not only are Ferrell and Reilly completely on top of their game - the rest of the cast is, as well. Richard Jenkins (playing Reilly's father) is surprisingly hilarious in this film - in fact, I thought he definitely stole several of the scenes he was in. Relative unknown Adam Scott playing Ferrell's smarmy, successful, asshole brother was excellent, as well. The entire cast is on their game and kudos to them. Will Ferrell had been faltering a little after such films as Semi-Pro and Blades Of Glory which were far from great, but Step Brothers sees him at the top of his comedic form. This is simply an absolutely hilarious movie from beginning to end, you will not be disappointed, go out and see it.

Heat
Heat(1995)

Utterly amazing every single time I see it. One of the greatest films of 90's and far and above the greatest action movie of all time. This is Micheal Mann's masterpiece - as he pits Al Pacino and Robert De Niro (in two of their greatest performances) against each other as a cop and a crook who have a mountain of respect for eachother but will stop at nothing to come out on top. Mann's style is constant and frenetically astounding, the writing is crisp, the original score great, it contains the infamous bank robbery shootout, one of the best action scenes of all time. Quite simply one of the best stories ever told on film.

Wings of Desire

The story of an angel who gives up his immorality for the love of a human woman. This is a remarkable German film - shot mostly in a beautiful, crisp sepia tone, with splashes of full colour throughout, this film is utterly profound and a must-see. The direction is brilliant, so many interesting shots and so well, written, too. Having Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds in there at the end was a very cool, pleasant touch to the whole affair, too.

30 Days of Night
½

The horror genre isn't completely hopeless these days, as some would say, but certainly the good ones aren't quite as frequent as the awful ones these days - which is why I found 30 Days of Night to be pretty refreshing. It takes place in the isolated Alaskan town of Barrow, where for 30 days and nights the sun doesn't rise or set, and the people who stay in town are cut off from the outside world (I mean moreso than they are by being in Alaska in general...). Based on a graphic novel of the same name, the film relies on this darkness and isolation and a large group of non-traditional, blood-lusting, terrorizing vampires for its scares. Though it's not really much of a "scare" movie persay, it more in line with action-horror - and it definitely succeeds in this direction. Indeed, one of the things I appreciated most was its relatively unflinching (though not terribly extreme) violence and some of the awesome kills it featured - if you're a fan of beheadings, especially awkward (and thus more realistic, I would think) ones that take a while where the camera isn't in too much haste to cut away - then you will probably love this movie. 30 Days Of Night also has lots going for it in the acting department- Josh Hartnett and Melissa George are cool as the female leads, it's always cool to have Mark Boone Junior in your film, Ben Foster plays another zany character as only he can and it's a delight, and finally the awesome Danny Huston is well, awesome as the lead vampire. The dialogue wasn't always as sharp as it could be, but then who is concerned about the writing too much in a horror flick? I didn't have any major issues with this flick, and I enjoyed it all the way through, so I think it's definitely worth checking out.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Hellboy 2)

Hellboy 2 is the perfect summer film, and not only that but it's a more-than-worthy sequel to the great first installment, as well as another success for the irretrievably awesome Guillermo del Toro. For this film, del Toro strayed from the Hellboy stories in the comic books and created his own story (with the help of Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, whose support he has always had), which is still chock-full of badass fantastical action but introduces a Pan's Labyrinth-like mystical fantasy element that is certainly welcome. The film starts with a fairy tale about a time when the world was divided into humans and elves, and they fought for dominion over the earth. A pact was made for humans to rule above ground and elves underground and neither would interfere with the other - until now, when a rebellious prince called Nuada tries to retrieve the pieces of his father's crown which would restore the elves power. This is where Hellboy and gang step in. The sequel really continues in the tradition of the first film in that it is very much an action thrill ride, with a strong sense of humour, and also has a lot of heart behind it - this time the relationship between Hellboy and Liz is even more prominent and even Abe even gets involved in a romantic angle. The film also introduces an awesome new character to the Hellboy team in the form of Johann Krauss, a man composed of and in control of ectoplasm who is held together by outer suit. The interaction between he and Hellboy becomes the central comedic relief for the film and also breeds an incredibly hilarious slapstick scene when Hellboy and Johann actually clash. Unfortunately, this film was released just a week before The Dark Knight and obviously got forced into the margins since TDK would have taken most if not all of Hellboy 2's audience. But I urge everyone not to overlook this film, I can tell you it's definitely a must-see if you enjoyed the first one or you're any sort of geek at all.

Transylvania
Transylvania(2006)
½

The only reason I sought out this film was due to it starring Birol Ünel, who I fell completely in love with in 2004's Head-On. And while that fact remains Transylvania's most redeeming factor for me, I'm still glad to have seen it as its a pretty good film on its own. The central character of the film is Zingarina (played by Asia Argento, daughter of legendary horror director Dario Argento), a French woman who travels to Transylvania to track down Milan, her boyfriend who she thought had been deported suddenly. I've never seen Asia in a role of any real substance before, so this was a pleasant surprise, as she does an excellent job. She plays the woman driven to the brink by love as being racked with a controlled chaos, which is well conveyed in the tragic defiance that seems to emit naturally from her beautiful face. I'm pretty sure I could watch Birol Ünel just standing in a field smoking a cigarette for two hours and I'd love it, but he's also good here. Unfortunately, the film loses any sense of focus from about half-way through. While this is somewhat appropriate due to the fact that the two main characters clearly don't follow any set life path, it is still the film's chief flaw. However, this is somewhat redeemed by the fact that, despite this, the film continues to breed some great moments and remains brimming with beautiful imagery. The whole thing is also continually shrouded in mysticism and Transylvanian Gypsy culture and that makes it always an interesting watch, at the very least. Despite its flaws, this is a film worth checking out.

Miller's Crossing
½

There are always films in which I find it amazing how long it takes for me to see them. This is one of those. Miller's Crossing is undoubtedly one of the best films put together by the Coen brothers, I would put it right behind films like No Country For Old Men or Fargo. Set in the 1920s, Miller's Crossing is purely a gangster film. The plot is a little difficult to summarize, but it stars the awesome Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects) as a well-estasblished Irish gangster who has a falling out with his boss over a woman. Typical of the Coen brothers, they gather a fabulous cast. From the aforementioned Byrne to his boss played by the legendary Albert Finney to Marcia Gay Harden to Coen-film standbys John Turturro and Steve Buscemi, the cast is entirely astounding, and inhabit the very cool world of the film like few others could. One thing I found most remarkable about this film is the way in which it was shot. They utilize some really interesting, different shots and the cinematography is exceptional and very interesting - and this results in several brilliant, totally memorable scenes. This is a must-see for Coen fans and anyone really, and will especially be popular among lovers of gangster/prohibition-era flicks.

Control
Control(2007)
½

I've been anticipating the release of this film since I heard of its conception, and I'm proud to report that Control is an almost perfect music biopic. The whole Ian Curtis story is very close to me; being a longtime fan of Joy Division and just being very affected by the tragedy and its connection with the music. Unknown British actor Sam Riley takes on the massive responsibility of portraying Ian Curtis. This is a sensitive issue, being as Curtis was already almost a legend by the time he died at 23, and continues to have a lasting impact on the music industry and a massive following. Luckily, Riley handles the pressure very well and, in the process, delivers an astounding and completely truthful and honest performance. Riley will absolutely have a great future in the film industry; in my opinion, seeing how well he handled this loaded role, he should be able to handle much of anything (it doesn't hurt that he bears a striking resemblance to Curtis, either). In the tradition of many recent biopics, most of the music is re-recorded and performed by the actors themselves, all of which learned to play the songs for this film on their own. This is dangerous territory to enter considering the fanbase of Joy Division, but thankfully they do an excellent job and all the songs sound very fresh and worthy of their original counterparts. This is a first time directing a feature film for Anton Corbijn (being a music video director before) and he does a great job - the movie looks and sounds and feels fantastic. the black and white was a good choice, and Corbijn pulls some really interesting, striking shots out of his hat, and constructs an extremely solid film in the process. My hope is this film will serve not only to please the current Joy Division fanbase (as it did me), but will also introduce a new generation of music fans to the darkly beautiful and wonderfully bleak world of Joy Division, helmed by the iconic tragic figure of Ian Curtis.

WALL-E
WALL-E(2008)

Pixar has done it - that which it was inevitable they would create eventually considering their remarkable filmography, they have created a near masterpiece in WALL-E. An animated science-fiction epic that is more than 2001: A Space Odyssey than Finding Nemo, WALL-E (set in the year 2700) is the story of a little robot of the same name who has been left on Earth to clean up the awful mess we humans have left behind when we jetted off to huge space-cruisers in the stars to fall into a new life on unparalleled laziness and convenience. The adorable little robot's busy existence changes when a sleek female robot called EVE suddenly lands on Earth on a mission of her own. The promotional material for this movie could not have prepared one for the truly amazing, enjoyable, brilliant experience that is WALL-E. Of course, I wanted to see the film based alone on the cute antics of the robot in trailers and that every new Pixar film is something to look out for. But with totally astounding graphics and a story that works very well on multiple levels, it is way more than I expected. The film is very effective as a magical new children's film about a robot that is sure to be all the rage among kids, but it also has very intelligent, well developed themes of anti-consumerism and the environmental awareness that will get the minds of adult viewers working throughout. Also, WALL-E turns out to work also as a romance, and quite a beautiful, pure one, as well. They came close to it recently with Ratatouille, but this summer the awesome minds at Pixar studios have crafted a perfect film that is a joy from beginning to end, as well as an incredibly intelligent and thoughful and artistic film - do not miss this film.

Strangers on a Train

This film is classic Hitchcock. It starts off with an awesome set-up which springboards into a wonder of a film that rests comfortable among the likes the Rear Window & Vertigo as one of Hitchcock's best films. Two men meet on a train, one a bright, young tennis player (Guy Haines, played by Farley Granger), the other a slightly older, mysterious man who says he is a big fan (Bruno Anthony, played by Robert Walker). Bruno begins talking to him about a murder scheme he has thought up where one person takes care of the other's "problem", Guy thinks he is joking, but Bruno has taken Guy's passive agreement very seriously. Thus begins a classic murder tale as only Hitchcock can tell it, filled with his unique imagery and creative choice of shots. It's really one of those untouchably brilliant films that leave the viewer totally taken and enraptured, like other classics from the same era such as Rebel Without A Cause. The great cast and characterization keep the train running smoothly until the riveting conclusion. There is absolutely no reason not to see this film, it is a must-see classic of American cinema.

Hard Eight
Hard Eight(1996)

Philip Baker Hall is my hero. As is Paul Thomas Anderson. And this film, originally titled Sydney but then changed to Hard Eight, was Anderson's feature-film debut. He has since gone on to pad his filmography with some amazing films, including a couple that I consider masterpieces (Magnolia & TWBB). This film is very indicative of the style Anderson goes on to establish more firmly in Boogie Nights. The film, set among the bright and voracious lights of Reno, sets off in a very cool way. We see John (played by John C. Reilly, who rocks in this) sitting outside a diner, in distress over having lost all his money and having to pay for his mother's funeral. He stumbles across a dapper man in a dark suit named Sydney (the indomitable Philip Baker Hall), who offers to help him out. The film is admittedly narrow in its scope, focusing on a few characters in one location, but it doesn't seem to detract. Among all the cigarettes and the cups of coffee, bathed in the constant flitter of the casino lights, emerged an intensely cool film, that is a very fun watch, and not without its dose of pathos. The cast really adds a lot to the film, as does Anderson's unparalleled focus. And if you like any or all of his other films (and why shouldn't you?), this is one to seek out.

Paranoid Park
½

Like his contemporary Larry Clark, Gus Van Sant is very good at capturing a certain slice of humanity, a certain generation or age-group or community, down to a tee. This is what he does in Paranoid Park, which is the story of a young skater from Portland who accidentally causes the death of a security guard at a train station and must deal with the moral consequences. The plot is really paper-thin because it doesn't go much beyond this single cause-and-effect, but what the film does is entrench the audience in the mind of Alex (played by Gabe Nevins, an amateur actor, like the rest of the cast). One thing I can say definitively is that Paranoid Park is extremely well shot. The cinematography work by Christopher Doyle (long-time collaborator with Kar Wai Wong, whose films always look amazing) is fabulous. Van Sant presents the film also in a variety of medium and plays around with the score and the background sound that it really does make one sit back and think when watching the film, in this way it's somewhat Brechtian but still able to be appreciated at face value because of the interesting main character and story. The film seems to be mainly be about communication, or lack thereof. But therein lies the only significant issue with the film, which is that Van Sant didn't fully communicate through the film what he obviously intended to, or at least not as concisely as he could of. There are skateboarding sequences shot in a fuzzy tone sprinkled throughout the film, sort of like Alex's daydream. It is clear that these are intended to represent the escapism of skateboarding, how it acts almost like a drug for Alex and his friends. And it makes us wonder whether the skateboarding is only there for him to have something there in his life, since he seems so detached from everything else. So, these sequences eventually get across what they mean to but they also become redundant and by the 3rd or 4th one one wonders whether they needed to be there at all. Like his film Elephant, Paranoid Park beautifully captures a section of American youth-culture and tells a compelling character story while doing so. Because of this, the great look of the film, and its good soundtrack (I dug the inclusion of a couple Elliott Smith tunes a lot), it's worth checking out.

Day of the Dead

The third film in George A. Romero's seminal zombie "____ of the dead" series, Day Of The Dead clearly occurs further in time in Romero's zombie-stricken world, wherein a group of soldiers and scientists are dwelling in an underground bunker trying to survive without any contact to the outside world. The scientists, led by Sarah (Lori Cardille), the film's especially strong heroine, and the off-kilter Dr. Logan (Richard Liberty), are trying to make some sense out of what's happening while the soldiers (led by Rhodes, the stubborn and ferocious new leader) get impatient. Day has a classic setup that enables the film to be right up along with 78's Dawn Of The Dead as a classic of the genre and another Romero gem. What really sets this film apart is in that it approaches the zombie question unlike any other film has. Dr. Logan is convinced that he can train zombies into becoming docile and subject to command, even having succeeded with one particular zombie in his care called Bub. The character of Bub is another special thing about this film because he is a full-fledged character and an integral part of the story instead of just something to be stopped (and it doesn't hurt that Sherman Howard would deserve a Zombie Oscar if there were such a thing for his performance). Day Of The Dead is thrilling all the way through and satisfies on most levels; for example the practical effects done by the master Tom Savini are phenomenal, some of the best I've ever seen! Gore fans will eat this film up because there's plenty to go around and also plenty of awesome kills to satisfy the blood lust of the most diehard horror fan. It is films like this that show how George Romero set the bar for the zombie picture, and prove he will always be the genre hero and will probably never be outdone.

Following
Following(1999)
½

Following was the debut feature film of now-famous director Christopher Nolan (currently helming the Batman films). It's a short, tight little film-noir about a man who, bored with day-to-day life, begins following people who interest him around, eventually taking up with a burglar and naturally finding himself in trouble. It is a very interesting (and necessary) film to watch if you are a Nolan fan, because it is very much a precursor to his near-masterpiece Memento, which was the next film he made after Following. In this film one can see Nolan developing his unique style which comes completely to fruition in Memento; a style characterized by a non-linear format and clever/unique shot choices. But besides being an interesting study-piece, Following is a good film in its own regard; I found it to be compelling throughout and marked by some really clever scripting. I dug the use of the black & white, also. As a very cool film on its own, and an interesting look at the early work of one of today's most brilliant film auteurs, Following is definitely a film to check out.

Interview
Interview(2007)

Interview is a recent film directed by and starring consistently brilliant actor Steve Buscemi. In fact, it is a remake of a 2003 film of the same name by deceased Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh. Buscemi stars as Pierre, a political journalist who is forced to do a interview with an "it girl" soap opera star named Katya, played by Sienna Miller. It's a minimalistic concept that results in a snappy, dialogue-driven character study. Indeed, 75mn of its 90mn run-time are spent in one set with the just the two characters interacting with one another. Interview is very much an actors' film, which is what I would expect from Steve Buscemi, who you could definitely call an actors' actor. This is the first time I've seen a film directed by Buscemi, I only learned after watching this that he has directed several films before (which I intend to check out asap). And his directing style meshes well with the material, showcasing the fine performances of the leads and remaining largely unburdened by anything other than the developing relationship between the characters, their revelations and their conflicts, the human drama that naturally erupts when two people at the end of their rope are in one place for a significant amount of time. The only real beef I had with the film is that I'm not sure I liked the way it ended; underwhelming to be sure. But overall, I really liked this film, and it really shows why Buscemi is so well respected; that he can put in such quality work both behind of and in front of the camera. His co-star deserves a lot of praise for her work in the film as well. Buscemi fans, scoop this one up!

American Drug War: The Last White Hope
½

American Drug War is a new documentary by Kevin Booth (longtime friend of Bill Hicks and founder of Sacred Cow Productions) focusing on the "war on drugs" in the U.S., started by Richard Nixon and continued on by each subsequent president, which costs billions of dollars to taxpayers and has been proven to be extremely unsuccessful. Booth delves into every aspect of the drug war, covering its inception and history, its current status, theories surrounding it - leaving no stone unturned. It features a variety of fascinating interviews on both sides of the "war" zone. This documentary is comparable in quality and nature to The Corporation, in that it completely covers this one topic so well that I definitely consider this the essential documentary on the American drug war. This film is an eye opener and (like The Corporation) it should be seen by everyone, especially Americans.

Inland Empire
½

Inland Empire is David Lynch's most recent weirdo opus. And after seeing it for the second time yesterday, I feel confident enough to write something about it (not really review it so much). In many ways, Inland Empire is one of the more linear films among Lynch's more Lynch-y "art" films, but it is still one of the more difficult ones to decipher at times. But this is a non-issue because I don't believe Lynch has made any film intending that it has to be deciphered, leaving it to the viewer to either appreciate it at face value or come up with their own interpretation. IE stars Lynch-darling Laura Dern as an actress preparing for the biggest role of her life. She begins to fall for her co-star, and things get complicated and deliciously Lynch-y. This film very much differs visually from his other films because it was shot on DV; which is one of the reasons the film got made, because it made scenes much easier to set-up and shoot than they would be using film. Indeed, Inland Empire is, in many ways, a pastiche film. It uses segments from some of Lynch's short-films, especially "Rabbits", and utilizes a variety of different looks and settings and images. Essentially, Lynch began shooting scenes that were never intended to become a feature, but then he began to see the bigger picture it was developing into, and his vision became focused and the scenes already shot consolidated until we got Inland Empire. One thing that can definitely be said is that Laura Dern gives her best yet performance here. She would have deserved several Oscars for her wonderful performance, but unfortunately Inland Empire is nowhere near mainstream enough to be have been considered. It took this second viewing to realize I loved this film, it is indeed some of Lynch's best, most accomplished work. It does things that I've never seen before, and leaves an indelible impact at its finish. Typical of a Lynch film, it features a beautiful, haunting score (which, oddly, was not done by Angelo Badalementi) that will stay with you afterwards. Lynch fans, DO NOT miss Inland Empire.

Lenny
Lenny(1974)

I wish I was more familiar with Lenny Bruce before seeing this. For the completely uninitiated, Lenny Bruce is probably the most famous stand-up comic of all time, because he opened the doors for pretty much every comic to come after him. He started doing edgy, risk-taking comedy while nobody else was doing anything remotely unconventional. Uncompromising as he was, he was even arrested several times for things said in his act. 1974's Lenny is a really cleverly constructed biopic starring Dustin Hoffman as Bruce. The film is clever for a number of reasons. For one thing, it's done in black & white and I think that enhances the picture, which uses some really cool lighting tricks and some evocative imagery. But the most interesting thing about it is that it is structured like a documentary. We have the narrative of Lenny's life as he rises in the comedy world and his trials, romances, etc, then we have his stand-up routine (which seems to be a spot-on job done by Hoffman), and then there are interviews with major characters/people in Lenny's life which run throughout. All that business has the potential to become a mess, but because the film is structured exactly as if it was a documentary, it's a clever device that works to great effect. Seeing this made me realize how strong Dustin Hoffman started out his career. Before appearing in Lenny, he had put in brilliant performances in classic films such as The Graduate, Midnight Cowboy, and Straw Dogs - and his work in this film only carries on that string of great performances. As well, Valerine Perrine, playing Lenny's wife Honey, was astoundingly good, and heartbreaking. For any fan of either Hoffman or stand-up comedy in general, this is not a film to miss.

Rambo (Rambo IV)

I went into this having not seen any of the previous Rambo films. Anyway this the second franchise revamp by Sylvester Stallone, bringing back the John Rambo character he made famous in 1982's First Blood. Like 2006's Rocky Balboa (which was as well received as 2008's Rambo seems to be), Stallone not only stars in but wrote and directed this film. This seems to a big benefit to both revamps, because who knows these characters better than Stallone, being as he was the heart of both franchises. Anyhow, it's many years later and a haggard looking John Rambo is living in Thailand as a simple boatman. Next door in Burma, the Burmese military is wreaking havoc on the Karen people, with mass atrocities occurring daily. A group of missionaries approach Rambo to convince him to take them into the region so they can help the war ravaged people there. Of course, the reluctant hero is resistant at first but eventually gives in and ends up being inextricably involved in the conflict. Not surprisingly, Rambo follows a pretty typical action movie formula and it doesn't really bring anything new or inventive to the genre - but who cares? There's something to be said for following a tried-and-true formula and being hella entertaining in the process. Stallone breathes badass as Rambo, and it's even more awesome that he's older, grittier, and completely set in his ways - which is summarized in the classic line: "When you're pushed, killing's as easy as breathing." The bottom line is that Stallone knows exactly how to please action fans and obviously Rambo fans, and he absolutely delivers on all levels; acting, directing, and writing. The acting among the rest of the cast leaves something to be desired, but again, this is not a big issue. What 2008's Rambo sets out to do is kick your ass without any pretense, and it absolutely does. Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen as much badass on a screen as I did in Rambo, and it's also very likely the most extensively violent, bloody action film I've ever seen. And as long as you're cool with that, don't expect any more than you're supposed to get from an action film, and don't have a weak stomach, Rambo is absolutely worth seeing and should kick your ass completely.

Kids
Kids(1995)
½

After seeing Larry Clark's film Bully for the first time a few years ago, I bought into the stuff on the internet about him being perverted/exploitative, etc, and wrote him off as a filmmaker. Upon seeing Bully again several months ago, I shed the burden of such claims and realized it really is a great film. So now that I'm past that, I decided to check out the film he is most known for, Kids. Like Bully, Kids is an unflinchingly honest look at the lives of American teenagers in the 90s. Sure, it also has its fair share of teenage sexuality, but it's not arbitrary nor is it exploitative. The film involves a HIV-positive teenager (Leo Fitzpatrick) who is on a mission to deflower virgins in his area, carelessly endangering them. A girl (Chloe Sevigny) who slept with him in the past discovers she is now HIV-positive and sets out to find him. It's an unsettling and disturbing story, no doubt, but Clark shows us what intrepid filmmaking is about by presenting the sad reality of these kids' lives, refusing to shy away no matter how ugly the subject matter, which is as close to reality as possible, becomes. Several actors started out in this film who have gone on to be successful in the business, including stars Fitzpatrick (who also appeared in Bully, and was a recurring character in the amazing HBO television series The Wire) and Sevigny (who has appeared in several wildly successful films such as Boys Don't Cry or American Psycho), and also Rosario Dawson (Sin City, Clerks 2). One of my favourite characters in the film was Casper, who, I've just discovered from his IMDB page, sadly committed suicide at 25. The film had a pretty cool soundtrack, also. This is a landmark cult film, and a very interesting one, and it's worth seeing for that alone.

Crumb
Crumb(1995)
½

Crumb is Terry Zwigoff's quintessential documentary about legendary underground artist Robert Crumb, famous for his unique, highly strange and sexualized style, and for revolutionizing the comic and art world with it. I was vaguely familiar with the man before seeing this, but not as much with his art, but luckily Crumb is a very good introduction to the man, as well as a wonderfully constructed, very entertaining examination of Robert and also his more troubled but also talented brothers. Zwigoff leaves no stone unturned and really gets to the root of the matter, and by the end one has gained a great understanding and appreciation for the subject matter, which is generally the purpose for a documentary of this nature (about an artist or a particular body of work). To my understanding, this was a very well received film critically and won an award at is premiere at Sundance or some major festival, and I can see why. I would put this on a list of essential documentaries.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

I don't know how this film slipped under my radar. I remember wanting to see it when it came out a couple years ago, but I suppose it just slipped my mind. Anyhow, I borrowed the DVD from a friend and was delighted at the film I found inside. I love both Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer, so the pairing of them is such a great idea, and it adds to what it, in and of itself, a swell film. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is basically a modern rendition of the film noir, but instead of taking itself seriously it is very tongue-in-cheek, self-referential, and a pretty awesome dark comedy. Like the genre it alludes to, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang constructs a pretty involved plot narrated in parts by Downey Jr's character, who is a thief that ends up posing as an actor, and once in Los Angeles, of course, gets involved in a mystery. He gets involved with a Hollywood-ized gay private detective called Perry (Kilmer), and runs into a girl he had known since childhood (Michelle Monaghan), who also gets wrapped up in the mystery. Kilmer and Downey Jr. have pretty chemistry, and play off each other remarkably well. Both are great actors so its not surprise they carry most of the film and make it very enjoyable. Monaghan I found to be surprisingly good, since it seems like she might be just a pretty face. Sometimes the way the film was constructed (with halts for narration and pulling back to remind us this is definitely just a film) didn't completely work, but it never detracts from the experience. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a really fun film, I'd recommend it to everybody.

My Blueberry Nights

Like, I imagine, anyone who had seen any or all of Kar Wai Wong's previous wonderful films, I was very excited at the prospect of his first English-language film. But what I got was a decent film that was pretty underwhelming considering the brilliance of some of Wong's other films (especially In The Mood For Love and 2046). I can only suspect that something was lost in translation in the English scripting, because the film itself is chock-full of same amount of visual flair, style, and wistfulness that Wong is known for. It's an absolutely beautiful film, a treat to watch and to listen to also because of the fabulous soundtrack (another Wong trademark). But the script is considerably lacking. And I have to wonder about the casting of Norah Jones, who had no previous acting experience. She looks great in the film and seems to be belong there, but her delivery is significantly lacking. Indeed, even an actress who is usually awesome like Rachel Weisz just doesn't seem to deliver. I really enjoyed the work of Jude Law and David Strathairn, though, and to a lesser extent, Natalie Portman - so I can only suspect it's largely due to the script that some performances aren't all they could be and that the film is completely lacking of the usual punch Wong's films have. In the end, My Blueberry Nights is somewhat of a disappointment and I think I'd rather see Wong stick to what he knows best. If you haven't seen any of his work, go back and watch In The Mood For Love or Fallen Angels or any of his previous films, and then see this just for the sensual delight it is.

Midnight Cowboy

My god, it took me much too long to see this film. But when I saw a cool new edition of it on sale at HMV for relatively cheap, I just had to buy it and see what I had been missing. Turns out, it was a lot! Midnight Cowboy, an Academy Award winner from 1969 stars Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight very early in their careers (it was I think the second feature film for both of them). They star as "Ratso" Rizzo and Joe Buck, respectively. Buck has just arrived from Texas with the intention of being the young cowboy stud lover for all the women in big New York. He meets Rizzo, a sickly man of the streets who forms a friendship with Buck as they both try to make it on the voracious streets of the big city. There's not much to say other than its a classic. A perfect film. It's a master-class in acting, editing, and direction. You can really see how it really must be a very influential film - some of its iconic scenes have been mimicked or referenced many times in other films and television shows, and it really appears to be ahead of its time in terms of American filmmaking. Midnight Cowboy is an absolutely unmissable American classic, so make sure you see it at some point.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Judd Apatow does it again! or should I say Peter Segel does it; because, seeing as Peter Segel, an Apatow regular who stepped up to the plate for this one, not only stars in but wrote this film, it really is his success. Forgetting Sarah Marshall comes from the Judd Apatow stable which is storming Hollywood right now, having produced a number of great comedic gems in the last few years (40 Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad, etc). Segel is Peter Bretter, a successful composer who begins the film by being dumped by his long-time girlfriend Sarah Marshall, a popular television actress. Peter sets off to Hawaii to forget his troubles (at the urging of his step-brother, played by the awesome Bill Hader), only to find Sarah and her new obnoxious pop-star boyfriend are vacationing at the same resort. A hilarious and surprisingly honest and heartfelt comedy ensues. Kudos to Segel for writing a totally awesome script and for also handling his first lead role exceptionally well; one is able to completely empathize and latch onto the luck-less adventures of this born loser and feel the lift when he starts to win. You've also got to give the dude tons of credit for putting his junk and everything else of his body on full display several times throughout the film - he's one brave hombre. Russel Brand, who plays Sarah's almost unbelievable new boyfriend (and who is an English comedian), is also completely awesome - I look forward to seeing him in other things because he nearly steals every scene he is in (successfully in a couple cases). Anyway, this is a really good movie and very worthy addition to the continually fantastic Apatow line-up.

1408
1408(2007)
½

So, as it turns out, there were a couple solid film adaptations of Stephen King's work in 2007; which is cool, since they tend to be hit or miss. The other hit was Frank Darabont's adaptation of The Mist (Darabont also directed two of the better King adaptations in The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile). Although 1408 isn't quite up to par with The Mist, it's still a pretty solid, entertaining, if not overly scary, film. The success of The Mist rested largely on Thomas Jane, in my opinion, his talent and presence made the movie. This is the case also with 1408, as John Cusack brings some serious class and presence to the role. The role in question is that of Mike Enslin, a writer who has made his career visiting and writing about all the supposedly haunted places he can find. He only believes in what he can see, and it is with this in mind that he travels to the Dolphin Hotel and its room 1408, which has an incredibly gruesome history and reputation, and which nobody else is allowed to stay in. What made the short story work (it can be found in the book "Everything's Eventual") is that the horror isn't couched in the totally evil or supernatural, but is largely delivered on human terms. What Mike begins to experience is his whole life up to this point folding back upon him, and this is his true horror. His divorce, the death of his daughter, the strained relationship with his father - the evil that is within room 1408 itself reflects what is inside Mike, and brings other terrors to the fore besides that. This makes it a very visceral and psychological story, and this represented pretty well in the film. And it ends up being emotionally resonant also with a powerful ending. Once again, this is largely due to Cusack, who carries the role with the same class and presence (and talent, of course) that he does every role. The rest of the cast is pretty insignificant, Samuel L. Jackson is just going through the motions to get paid here obviously, but it's a pleasure to see him in it all the same. 1408 is a good, entertaining adaptation, it'd be a solid rental choice, at least. It also brings to the game one of the best lines in recent memory, when John Cusack, about to explore the mystery of the room, says: "Let's 'Encyclopedia Brown' this bitch."

The Darjeeling Limited
½

I watched this for the first time last night, and though I definitely enjoyed it I didn't feel it resonated well enough then to give it a proper review. So I watched it again tonight, and it definitely found its way to being, in my opinion, another great film by Wes Anderson; who, while remaining largely in his own idiom and not making the same artistic strides as some of his contemporaries (Paul Thomas Anderson, for example), has established a phenomenal run of films within his particular universe that are all totally wonderful and endearing and amazingly rewatchable. The Darjeeling Limited, Anderson's 5th feature film, is not so much concerned with plot as it is with character and the moment-to-moment. It stars Wes Anderson-regulars Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman along with newcomer Adrien Brody as three brothers who meet on a train in India. Their father has died recently and they are estranged from their mother, and they reunite to go on a sort of "spiritual journey". This is definitely one of the funniest of Anderson's films, but it also has the same amount of pathos and similar themes to his other work. Once again, Anderson sticks to what he knows in terms of filmmaking but also once again, it works out beautifully. Like all the other films, this one features an awesome soundtrack, a great script, and great acting on all fronts. Right from the start, Wilson, Brody, and Schwartzman inhabit their respective characters comfortably and play off each other wonderfully. I think this might very well already be my 3rd favourite Anderson film after Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore - but who needs favourites anyway? The Darjeeling Limited is a fantastic and memorable addition to the Wes Anderson universe and should be appreciated right along with the rest.

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
½

Boy, do I ever love a good documentary. Which is exactly what I got with The King of Kong and then some. Generally, to make a really good doc you need a really good subject that hasn't been touched on too much. This is what we have. The documentary follows a budding rivalry over the top worldwide score record on the classic arcade game Donkey Kong; a record set by Billy Mitchel in the early 80s, who has since went on to became as famous as one can be from such a thing. Set against him is introduced Steve Wiebe - a loving father and husband and everyman who decides to devote himself to beating the record. He is the classic underdog, and the film sets this up so well, the events of the various record attempts and controversy around them unfolding right before us. The viewer should become very involved, rooting for the underdog and booing Mitchell, who essentially becomes the villain of the piece (and with that haircut, it makes sense). The subject matter is simply classic, and surprisingly inspiring, as the film becomes less about the game itself but Wiebe's dream of accomplishing something after a life of failures and half-successes, and the obstacles he faces along the way. It really is a classic story, except that the events and the participants are real, and it happens to involve an arcade game. Entertaining on so many levels, The King of Kong is absolutely a must-see.

Roger & Me
Roger & Me(1989)
½

After pretty much dismissing Michael Moore because I really don't agree with his methods and think he's hell of annoying, I decided to go back to one of his earlier films just because. After all, it's not my contention that Moore is a poor filmmaker - quite the contrary, he's a really talented documentary filmmaker and whether or not you agree with his points or his politics, his films grab your attention. I'm thinking mainly of Bowling For Columbine - after that, I too, like so many others, were swept away thinking this dude really knew his shit and was sticking it to the man. I've changed since then, though, and have come to distrust the way his films are edited in particular. ANYHOW, Roger & Me is a very early film by Moore in which he focuses on the closure of several plants by General Motors in his hometown of Flint, Michigan (the town he rambles on about in every other film, too), and his Moore's futile efforts to meet with the chairman of GM. Watching this film, you really get the impression Moore just might be an egomaniac, because the film focuses to no small degree on him - it even starts out with childhood pictures and films of him, like I care! The other major problem is this. Obviously I don't expect the film to be objective in any way, he has a point he tries to make from his point of view. Which is something about the soul-lessness of the corporate entity for eliminating 30,000 jobs, moving the plants to Mexico (where the cars can be made much cheaper), and indirectly causing a lot of hardship and poverty. The issue is that some of the people interviewed who Moore places on the "evil" side of the argument (the corporation) make much more valid points than Moore does. Especially one GM representative in particular who is shown repeatedly. Moore obviously attempts to demonize him - but the whole time he's making perfectly valid, intelligent points to the effect that corporations are require by law and by their stockholders to maximize profit and not consider what effect its actions might have. This is how the corporation has worked since the beginning, it's just the way it is, so to try to demonize the corporation's representatives when they're doing what they are required to do, as it has been set out by law, is essentially pointless. This was really an unforgivable flaw to the film - if the main point of your completely objective documentary film has little to no validity, it doesn't help the effectiveness of the film. Obviously this was a very biased review, but I figure it's okay for a film by an incredibly biased (and obnoxious) filmmaker.

The Sea Inside (Mar Adentro) (The Sea Within)

The Sea Inside is the real-life story of Ramón Sampedro, a tetraplegic in Spain who, after living with his condition for 30 years, attempts to fight for his right to end his life with the help of some others. This was Javier Bardem's break-out role. Now he is internationally recognized and an Oscar winner, but this is really where first began to get noticed. And it's no wonder - Bardem's mastery of the lead role is indicative of the type of brilliance he would later bring to No Country For Old Men. The film is largely about the relationships he forms from his bed with several women, also his relationship with his family who has cared for him for 30 years, and coming to terms with the injury and before. That was the only odd thing I found about the film, that we only see merely a glimpse of the character's life before his injury. But I can see why this is done; after all, Ramon's life, as it was, began again after he fell. The direction and cinematography is typical of a Spanish film in that it is creative and stylistically. But this I have to expect from director Alejandro Amenábar - who displayed just as much stylistic flair in 1997's Open Your Eyes. The cast is great all around but the film really centers on Bardem, and this is a great chance to see some of his earlier work, so do it!

Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no haka)

So I had this film on my "to see" list under the impression that it was a Miyazaki film, just because I wasn't paying attention and it seemed like his style. Anyhow, it turns out it isn't. But this 1988 animated film belongs right up there on the highest echelon of Japanese animation along with the likes of Miyazaki's Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke. It takes place in Japan during World War Two, and its main characters are a young brother and sister: Seita and Setsuko, respectively. With their mother recently deceased and their father away fighting with the navy, the children are left to fend for their own, in the face of constant bombings and general turmoil. I don't think I've ever seen so tragic and realistic a plot in an animated film, but it results in an astounding, extraordinarily powerful film that may leave you emotionally drained due to its impact. Grave Of The Fireflies is a perfect example of how well developed and serious an art form the animated film can be, especially in the hands of a Japanese director. From now on I'll be mentioning this film in the same breath as Spirited Away or Akira - as it truly is wonderful, often strikingly beautiful film.

I'm Not There
½

I'm really glad a traditional biopic wasn't the aim for I'm Not There, a film about legendary musician Bob Dylan - because Dylan is a hard person to define, and, indeed, this film is supposed to portray (as it states in the credits) the "many lives of Dylan". And in a very brilliant move, each version of Dylan is played by a different actor; you have Cate Blanchett, Ben Whishaw, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Marcus Carl Franklin, and Richard Gere. So, instead of the traditional biopic (which is often a dud, see Ray), what I'm Not There delivers, from director Todd Haynes, is a surreal pastiche of many of the different "characters" Bob Dylan has played throughout his life, and through his music (which thankfully plays a significant role in the film). It's pure inventiveness and I can pretty much guarantee you haven't ever seen a film like it. It's hard to quantify all the actors playing Dylan, as they're all working towards different things and are all excellent in their own way - Cate Blanchett really does deserve special mention though, for being able to embody the spirit of Dylan so completely. The rest of the cast , with the exception of a couple characters, is good but fleeting. Charlotte Gainsbourg is great, though, and I'm completely in love with her after this (she was also in 21 Grams). I also have to mention David Cross's portrayal of poet Allen Ginsberg - this is ten shades of awesome; I love David Cross and to see him playing one of my favourite poets was one of the best things about the film for me. I think this film could be interesting to anyone (if a tad confusing to the pedestrian movie-goer), but especially if you're a Dylan fan, this film is essential viewing. It's just as successful as Martin Scorsese's documentary No Direction Home in capturing the musician, but in an entirely different, unique, almost magical way.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

There can sometimes be nothing quite as satisfying as a good crime drama - and then these types of films are best for me is not when they're dealing with a big and thrilling event, but when a small group of characters struggle amongst themselves. This is what makes such awesome films as Fargo and A Simple Plan work, and this is what works in Sidney Lumet's latest film, Before The Devil Knows You're Dead. This quaint, inventive crime drama is about two brothers, Hank and Andy (Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman, respectively), desperate for cash who plot to pull of a robbery to solve their financial issues - except the store they intend to rob happens to be owned by their parents. It's quite a unique take on the crime drama, and this promising concept results in an overall satisfying film. Lumet is a contemporary of directors such as Martin Scorsese or Stanley Kubrick, and though he never had quite the same success or was as consistent, he has brought some great films to the screen such as Dog Day Afternoon. Clearly, he still has it: as the film has a vivacity and inventiveness that one hardly expects coming from a director over the age of 80. It's quite an accomplishment in terms of filmmaking. This is aided by Kelly Masterson's script, which is really good, and brought to life by a fabulous cast. Hawke and Hoffman are both tremendous as the two brothers, and though seeing them as brothers takes a while to accept, they have an unexpected chemistry. Hoffman had a very impressive year in 2007 - with great performances in this and Charlie Wilson's War, and though I haven't seen it yet, he also received praise for The Savages, also from 2007. Though he didn't win any of the big awards, he definitely proved again to be the one of the hardest working and most respectable character actors in Hollywood. Though, for me. the stand-out performance of the film came from the great Albert Finney, playing the father. To say what makes his work so special might spoil the plot, but suffice to say he is excellent. This was another one of the really good, must-see films from 2007, which I still think was an amazing year for cinema in general - check it out.

Superman Returns

It took me a long dang time to see Bryan Singer's revamp of the Superman franchise. Clearly I don't need to get too much into the plot - everyone is familiar with Superman, being the most iconic and influential superhero of all time. This film's plot starts with the superhero returning to Earth after 5 years away wherein he left to confirm the destruction of his homeworld. He returns to face his arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor. Singer chose to cast an unknown as his lead in the form of Brandon Routh. What concerned me when I heard the casting and before I watched the film was that I wasn't sure how that would go, because of how youthful Routh looks (and is, I guess). In fact, the entire cast is on the young side (ie: Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, James Marsden). The concern of Routh turned out basically unfounded though, because I thought he did an excellent job. Admittedly, I still haven't really seen any of the previous films with Christopher Reeve, so I can't really compare the two Supermans (or, indeed, films). I remember hearing how massive the budget for this film was, and it shows. The production value of the film is unbelievable. The film is amazingly polished - but that was one of the things troubling me: the film is almost too polished, it has an irrevocable sheen that is attractive, but its only purpose seems to be to cover up the film's weak points rather than to enhance it. The score is your usual symphonic arrangement, meaning it's pretty generic and doesn't add anything - this is excluding the iconic Superman theme from the original films, of course. But, despite all this, it's no secret that Bryan Singer is a fantastic director (The Usual Suspects is proof enough of that, and he had already made one of the best superhero films to date in X2) : and in his hands the film is still a really good watch. I mean, it really is an enjoyable film, it just really doesn't do anything new and it didn't seem to be doing much revamping (unlike its sister film, Batman Begins, which totally revitalized the Batman character). The film was really too long for a superhero film, as well - clocking in at around 2.5 hours (though it wasn't hard to sit through, it's still too long). In the end, I look forward to seeing if they ever do a sequel, because if Singer is behind it, he could very well do what he did with X2 - which is produce an exceptional sequel to an average first outing.

The Basketball Diaries
½

Unlike the title suggests, luckily this film has little to do with basketball; other than its main characters being on a team and there being several scenes of it. In fact, the Basketball Diaries is the real-life story of Jim Carroll, now a successful writer, who spent his teenage years in Manhattan getting severely messed up on drugs along with a couple of his fellow Catholic schoolmates. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Carroll, in one of his first major roles. His performance in this film was probably somewhat overshadowed by his turn in What's Eating Gilbert Grape? a couple years earlier - but I think it's in this film where DiCaprio shows the best early indication of the immense talent he already had at 21, and how much he would grow from there. The film itself certainly doesn't slouch: I dug the direction & cinematography; many attempts have been made in films to recreate the drug experience, and they're usually not very successful. It was done really well in this film, though. Although the only way we can really consider the cast is as "Leo & the rest of the cast", the rest of the cast happens to be formidable. A young Mark Wahlberg is fun to watch (you can see where he got his tough-guy reputation early on). I was really surprised to see stand-up comic Bruno Kirby as the basketball coach - it surprises me he didn't have more of an acting career after this (other than bit comic relief parts, I mean), because I thought he was excellent, and there was nothing comic about the role whatsoever. I love Lorraine Bracco, as well. Anyway, there's an element of the poetic that seems forced sometimes, but that still connected with me. And in many ways, it's a story we can all relate to - made even more powerful by the fact that it's a true story. Not the greatest film ever made, nor the best drug film, but I really liked it, and it's worth seeing if just to see more of DiCaprio during his formative years as an actor.

8 1/2
8 1/2(1963)

I think it would be absolutely foolish for me to try to critique this film. Suffice to say I loved it and it is most definitely deserving of its reputation of being a masterpiece. It stars the always wonderful Marcello Mastroianni (a Fellini regular who also starred in the amazing La Dolce Vita) as a filmmaker who becomes preoccupied with his dreams and fantasies. I'm trying to decide whether this or La Dolce Vita stands as my favourite of Fellini's films that I've seen thus far -right now its still Vita, but I'll wager I wasn't even able to catch much more than half of what is going on in 8 ½, and so only through future viewings will I be able to fully appreciate it. Totally amazing.

The Conversation
½

I'd really like to say this is a perfect film, and it very well might be, but I think only another viewing or two can decide that for me. Anyway, The Conversation is a film made by Francis Coppola during, arguably, his prime as a director. It stars the great Gene Hackman as Harry Caul, a surveillance expert who runs into a personal conflict when he is apprised of the knowledge that the young couple he has been recording very well may be murdered. Everything about this film just pops. Coppola's direction is as tight as it can possibly be; everything about is smooth and efficient and maximized in terms of effectiveness. It is enhanced by a very good score that doesn't overpower but perfectly complements and sometimes enhances the tension. If Coppola is at his prime as a director here, so, too, is Gene Hackman. I've read on IMDB this is Hackman's personal favourite of his roles, and this is not surprising as it I think it's very likely his best performance throughout the years. Harry Caul, the ultra-secretive, ultra-cautious loner seems to be stream seamlessly through Hackman - he completely embodies the part in as much as it's possible. The film really does rest pretty much solely on Hackman, and the quiet magnitude of his work here makes it all the more memorable. This is considered a classic, and all the reasons above and more indicate why. The Conversation is not to be missed for any film fan.

Days of Glory
½

Days of Glory is a film I always heard a lot about, and finally got around to it. It's about a division of North African soldiers who played a large role in the liberation of France from German occupation during WWII, and the challenges they face to be accepted and recognized as foreigners - it focuses mainly on five or six soldiers. For the first half hour of the film, I was inwardly groaning a bit, because up to that point, though it's a great true story and concept for a film, it was being very by-the-numbers in terms of filmmaking, largely sticking to convention in terms of war films. However, after that, once the characters have been fleshed out and the weight of the story really comes to bear, it broke free from a lot of these conventions and proved to overall be a pretty solid film. It's interesting because it focuses on no more than a single division of soldiers at the most, and a few of the main characters at the least. It doesn't get carried away in terms of scope like many war films, and this is a good thing, since it is supposed to be the story of a small group of brave soldiers who have been largely forgotten by the history books. The stand-out of the cast is definitely Sami Bouajila as Corporal Abdelkader, one of the leaders of the North African outfit. He's very effective as the outspoken but principled young corporal. But none of rest of the cast slouches, either. While the film does grow some wings after the drudgery of the first 20-30mn, it still does fall victim to several war film conventions that certainly detract a little from the overall experience (such as the token weak/cowardly character or the surviving soldier as an old man visiting the graves of his comrades many years later). But regardless, the film tells a compelling story that sheds some light on a little-known aspect of the 2nd World War, and for that reason, and the fact that it really is a well-made, polished film, in the final analysis, it's definitely worth a look.

Michael Clayton

You can't ask for a whole lot more from a legal drama, because Michael Clayton certainly delivers. It stars Goerge Clooney as what is described as a "fixer" for a massive corporate law firm, and the situation he finds himself in when one of his company's best lawyers (and his friend) suddenly loses it at the deposition for a major case. Michael Clayton was one of the big films to receive several nominations at the recent Academy Awards. Does it deserve acclaim? For the most part, yeah. Although at at times it definitely perpetrates "that feeling" you get from pretty every drama of this nature, but I did really dig the way the film was shot and composed. It does have a really tight script, and in the hands of the capable cast the film feels pretty unique. George Clooney is somewhat of an enigma as an actor, obviously he's very much a leading man, but sometimes he can slip complete into a character (a la Good Night and Good Luck); here, he is definitely the leading man, but his acting is still pretty well solid, as usual. Tom Wilkinson plays the lawyer who goes a little off the deep end. Wilkinson is a brilliant actor, in my opinion, very underrated, and he especially excels at these types of characters - ones who have their backs up against the wall and have to react (see The Full Monty or In The Bedroom for further examples) - so its no surprise he is probably the standout in the film. Tilda Swinton, who won an Oscar for her performance, is also excellent - though I really felt her character was sidelined a little too much. She was an integral part of the plot, and faced off with Clooney's protagonist, yet she wasn't quite on screen enough to fully entrench her character into the proceedings; however, it's a testament to Swinton's ability that she was able to do so much with the part. This is pretty much a must-see film from last year, but it won't be a winner with everyone. Give it a shot, though.

Be Kind Rewind
½

This is a film I've anticipated from the first, for its wacky concept, refreshing and awesome promotional material, its director (Michael Gondry of Eternal Sunshine For The Spotless Mind fame), and its cast (anyone not hip to how awesome Jack Black and Mos Def are need to get their head examined) - so I was delighted to go and check it out yesterday. The basic concept of the film is great and ripe for hilarity (which it provides): All the tapes in a small video-rental shop owned by Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover) are erased by Jerry (Jack Black) after he becomes magnetized when trying to "sabotage" a power plant, and then friends Jerry & Mike (Mos Def) must set out to make their own versions of the films to cover their mistake and save the store. But there's more to the film than the zaniness of the film remakes; its very much about family, community, and brotherhood. There are many sweet moments along with the humorous ones. I've heard of some people being disappointed by the film - I wasn't. However I did expect a little more. Gondry is very good at balancing humour with other aspects of his films, but not everything he aimed for in Be Kind Rewind worked. There are some really great, laugh out loud moments, and it remains funny throughout, but it didn't quite acheive the emotional attachment it was aiming for always. But I loved the characters, Mos Def's especially, as it seemed odd at first for him to be playing a kind of awkward character, but he did it very convincingly. The film had a very unique look and fell, as well (something Gondry constantly brings to the table), there was a really cool "old-school" vibe, and some real vibrant grittiness that was really refreshing. I wouldn't recommend this film to everyone, its not at all your typical comedy, or film, for that matter. If you're a fan of Gondry's work, or Jack Black or Mos Def, or any combination thereof, it should please you as it did I.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
½

Damn, was this ever hell of a sweet film. It tells of the notorious American outlaw Jesse James (Brad Pitt) and his gang, and the eventual betrayal of him by Robert Ford (Casey Affleck). It deals with issues of celebrity and idolization, and is also a really intricate character study. Although it certainly has the connotation, I would hesitate to classify it as a Western, as about the only thing it has in common with typical Western is the time period and the type of characters involved. Some would see it as a slow movie, and it is to some degree, but this is to its benefit as the director has the discipline and patience to really showcase his actors' work, to focus on their character, this is what makes it a character study. It also deals in really striking imagery; the cinematography is sensational. The style of the film reminded me of a Terence Malick film - slow, but beautiful, and ultimately rewarding. Indeed, it's a reward to watch the great cast at work. I've been waiting for another really great performance from Brad Pitt, and this is definitely it; his interpretation of Jesse James goes completely against the grain, bravely giving us a truly flawed, troubled outlaw, instead of the 2D pure-grit type you might often get. The film really tops off an amazing year for Casey Affleck, too, as his performance here is even more great than his awesome turn in Gone Baby Gone. I'm reminded again of the pure charisma and drawing power this kid has, but also that he is able to completely immerse himself in a character, as he does here (which is different from his brother, who is more of a leading man). Kudos to all of the cast, which includes more sensational work from Sam Rockwell and Paul Schneider and others. This film is an artistic acheivement, and it you give it the attention and patience it deserves, you'll be thankful you had.

Gone Baby Gone
½

I've been waiting to this film 'cause no matter anyone else says, I've always got big love for Ben Affleck, and I was excited to see his directorial debut. Gone Baby Gone is the story of two Boston private detectives who are hired to aid in the search for a missing young girl, and get in way over their heads. It's definitely a crime-drama by definition, but essentially it's a human-drama, and it calls into question basic, but important, issues of morality and responsibility. The kind of themes explored here (it's an adaptation of a novel, btw) definitely make this film more than your average crime-drama. What elevates it also is the cast (for the most part), the tight script (co-written by Affleck), and some smooth directing choices. What I really appreciated about Ben's direction with this film, is the sheer humanity of it. He portrays the city of Boston and its people in the probably the most honest way I've ever seen an American city portrayed in a film. The standouts in the cast are Casey Affleck (Ben's younger brother) in the lead, Amy Ryan as the mother of the missing child, and of course, Ed Harris, who you can always depend on for a solid turn. I've never really seen Casey in a meaty role like this before, but I've heard so many good things about his performances in other films, and I can see what the buzz is about - Casey Affleck obviously has a natural talent that just makes him shine on screen, he's great. I enjoyed Amy Ryan's work in the amazing TV show The Wire, and she's also fabulous here. And Ed Harris is Ed Harris, dude, he's just rock-solid. I think my only beef with the film is the character of Angie (who is the girlfriend/partner of Casey's character). At times, her character seemed completely unnecessary to me - she was just kind of there. And except for a few scenes, she was just kind of there, not much more than eye-candy. The uninspired acting of Michelle Monaghan in the role didn't help either, the whole time she was just kind of in almost every scene, forcing out a line every now and then. But other than that, this is definitely one of the best films of last year, and I can't recommend it enough.

Lars and the Real Girl

I think what is really special about this film is that it, in my mind, it firmly establishes Ryan Gosling as being among the top tier of working acting talent, today. He stars in this film as Lars, a completely reclusive and delusional young man who decides to form a relationship with a doll ordered from the internet (which, in his delusion, is completely real to him it would seem). I really can't say enough about his performance. I mean, it seems like he just showed some astounding acting chops in 2006's Half Nelson, and he brings it to the table again with another career-making performance. The character is awkward and reclusive to an insane degree, and part of you doesn't want to believe that Gosling, being a really good looking guy, could be this guy - but he pulls it off so well its completely believable and natural. Just wow. And he's Canadian, too, so that's awesome. Anyhow how about I talk about the film, maybe? The best things it has going for it is the acting and Nancy Oliver's screenplay - which is nothing short of brilliant. Kelli Garner is an actress I need to remember to keep an eye on. I remembered her from Larry Clark's Bully, and more recently from the short film The Youth In Us. Not only is she adorable, but she's really talented, and shows it here as Lars' love interest, Margo. Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider, and Patricia Clarkson are also all excellent. They completely do justice to the great script, even if the direction doesn't always at times - but this being Gillespie's second feature film that's probably just due to inexperience. And sure, the plot is probably implausible, or pretty close to it, but it's a film. Films are an art form, and nobody seems to be complain when any other art forms are implausible or unrealistic, so this can't be seen as a negative. This is elevated by, and made a must-see by, the amazing performance by Mr. Gosling and the great work of the supporting cast, along with the refreshing script.

Flags of Our Fathers

Clint Eastwood directing a WWII film? (two of them for that matter, but I haven't seen Letters From Iwo Jima yet) Awesome, right? Well, yeah, for the most part. I really did enjoy this film, it's got some great war sequences, a very interesting concept, and some solid performances coming out Ryan Phillipe (who I assumed would be awesome) and Adam Beach. What it didn't have was a certain something that I can't quite pin down, but the closest thing I can use to describe it is the lack of an emotional connection. Flags Of Our Fathers tries, it really tries, to establish a connection between the three war "heroes" plunged into a media frenzy that is mostly unwelcome. But the connection between those characters and the audience never seems to be really established, so by the end of it, you have a really good war film that didn't have near as much impact as it was intended to (this I expect from Letters From Iwo Jima though - from all I've heard it's the vastly superior film of the two). I have to take points off also for it beginning with the cliche of an old man suddenly remembering his younger days in the war (there's nothing with this in the entire run of the film, in fact it's almost essential, but to start out the film this way is a little contrived...Saving Private Ryan already did this and did it much better). The script seemed a little weak at times, also, and perhaps this is more the culprit for the lack of emotional connection than the directing - from all indications this film is definitely very well directed by Eastwood, as his films generally are. Flags Of Our Fathers is a good addition to the WWII film sub-genre, and its definitely worth a watch, I just felt it a little lacking by the end.

Letters from Iwo Jima

The companion piece to Flags Of Our Fathers, Letters From Iwo Jima tells the story of the American invasion of the Japanese island during WWII from the Japanese side of the conflict. For the first time that I can remember in an American film, the American soldiers are the "others" and our focus point is the side generally considering the enemy. This alone makes it one of the most ballsy films ever, and in its execution, its plain that it's also one of the best war films ever. Under Clint Eastwood's focused direction not only do we get a beautiful looking and exceptionally made film, but also one that finally allows one to feel compassion for the other side of the Great War. The film also, very wisely, is in the Japanese language; as such, taking another bold step away from the typical Hollywood war-film fare which often magically had German and Japanese people speaking English on their home soil for the benefit of the audience. The market for films in subtitles definitely seems more open for mass audiences since the massive success of Pan's Labyrinth, and this is definitely a great step forward. Anyway, for the film itself, the acting is phenomenal. Ken Watanabe leads a stellar cast of Japanese actors, all of which do swell work. The film is narrated sporadically in the form of letters written by the soldiers to their homes, a great device which, along with several flashbacks related to the 3 or 4 main characters, lends the necessary pathos to make the film work to maximum effect. The war scenes are absolutely great, as well. If you're going to see just one of Clint Eastwood's Iwo Jima pieces, then see this one - it is superior to its companion in every way, and is an extremely important film in its very nature.

24 Hour Party People
½

24 Hour Party People is a really fun look at the booming Manchester music scene of the late 70s and 80s. Our guide and narrator is television presenter and record-company owner Tony Wilson (played by the awesome Steve Coogan), who in many ways greased the wheels for the music scene in Manchester to take off the way it did (producing for example, the legendary Joy Division). The film pretty much has a style all its own, taking us through the scene largely in a sort of faux-documentary fashion. There are some great, funny moments and some awesome characters (all coming from real-life people), such as Andy Serkis as loutish record producer Martin Hannett, and the awesome Paddy Considine as Joy Division manager, Rob Gretton. The work of Coogan and most of the other actors is also great. It's a fun movie that doesn't take itself too seriously, and this more than makes up for its (relatively few) faults. If you've any interest in the British music scene at all, check it out.

Open Your Eyes (Abre los Ojos)
½

I'm glad that it's been several years since I saw Vanilla Sky (the American remake), and that it wasn't especially memorable, because having forgotten most of the plot I could enjoy the original without having to compare them (as such I won't compare them in this review, either). The beauty of this film is that, along with the excellent script, it's made exceptionally well in that: although certain points of the plot do get somewhat complicated, the director never allows the details to overpower the essence of the story, or to convolute the beauty of what is on screen. Indeed, though there is science involved and it's somewhat of a mystery film, it remains very ethereal and exists on a higher plane than the typical thriller/mystery fare. The film stars Eduardo Noriega as a very dashing, wealthy man who, after finding the love of his love (in the form of Penelope Cruz, who played the same role in the remake), is involved in a car crash and has his face, which for him is his livelihood, largely destroyed. The film raises a ton of questions in its running, but has the good sense to answer them to some degree, but also to leave the film very much up to interpretation. Such ambiguousness really permeates the entire film and gives it an existential twinge. As I said, the film is often exquisitely beautiful, and the soundtrack matches its aesthetic very well. The acting from both leads (and several of the supporting actors) is top-notch, though I had the same problem I've had with every film starring Penelope Cruz: she's just so damned beautiful I'm often in danger of being distracted from the rest of the film completely! My own fault, though. So this is a great film, and since I can barely remember anything about Vanilla Sky, I think it's pretty safe to say the original is very much superior.

Born on the Fourth of July
½

It certainly seems like this is a film that got lost in the shuffle - overshadowed by more popular films about Vietnam, such as Platoon (also done by Oliver Stone) or Full Metal Jacket or even The Deer Hunter. It's interesting because like The Deer Hunter (which is also excellent), Born On The Fourth Of July focuses not on the events of the war itself but on the after-effects. I had wanted to see it for the longest time mainly because it's one of Tom Cruise's early roles, and I love Tom. It's also in my opinion his first truly great, or major role. Though he had good roles in The Color Of Money and Rain Man before this, it's Born where he really gets to show his chops as an actor for the first time. The film, based on the true biography of the main character, Ron Kovic (who was involved in the making of the film based on his book), is definitely an ambitious one, spanning much of the very involved life of Mr. Kovic and featuring a large ensemble cast. Stone, as he is able to do most of the time, handles the ambitious project very well. However, the film largely rests of the shoulders of Cruise, and he was obviously very up to the challenge, even this early in his career. This is one of the films that is just so vast it's almost hard to critique - but I know that I enjoyed it very much, and it featured some awesome surprises such as Willem Dafoe's role. Basically you have to see this if you enjoy Vietnam films or Oliver Stone or Tom Cruise or any combination thereof.

There Will Be Blood

Wow. So I just got back from seeing this film, which I have been drooling about ever since it was first announced. It's one of those films where you have to sit silent for a minute or two at the end, trying to fathom the awesomeness of what you had just seen. I hesitate to call it a masterpiece yet (that can only be determined by repeat viewings), but, most definitely, Anderson's There Will Be Blood is kin to his masterpiece, Magnolia, in that it is an absolutely perfect film in every way. From the beautiful opening shot to the striking closing shot, it is a film that utterly sweeps you away from beginning to end, and does all the great things you'd want a film to do in between (emotionally and otherwise). Of course, I can't go further without mentioning Daniel Day-Lewis's seminal performance, which has to be his best thus far. He definitely deserved the SAG award he just received (and any others before that), and though people are already bitching that he is the obvious pick to take the Oscar - the man simply deserves it, and anyone who has seen this film can not sanely argue otherwise. And though it is definitely a one-man show, with Lewis dominating pretty much every frame, his supporting cast is definitely allowed to shine. Paul Dano is awesome, and I loved the work of Dillon Freasier as the young H.M. Plainview, he was quietly brilliant. Indeed, one of the best aspects of this film was the father-son relationship, it grounded this epic film in an absolutely necessary way - as though we realize Daniel Plainview is a completely self-centered and vile man, his love for his son is absolutely real, even though he barely knows how to express it. Jonny Greenwood's score to this film was incredible, incredible! It complemented the film beautifully and was excellently composed in its own right - there was always something interesting going on in the score no matter what is happening on screen, and when a big moment occurs on screen it is picked up, intensified, and carried away by the score. I barely need mention Anderson's directing. He is definitely one of my favourite all-time filmmakers by now (right up there with the likes of David Lynch, Scorsese, Kubrick, etc) and like I said, he has made a perfect film here. There are no excuses not to see this film, and I think I can safely say it has ousted No Country For Old Men as my favourite film of 2007.

Leolo
Leolo(1992)
½

A fantastic Canadian film, in both quality and content. Strange though, but in that lovely sort of way that draws you in. Basically it's the story of a highly intelligent boy growing up in a tenement in Montreal with his oddball, mostly insane, family, and the imaginary living dream world he creates for himself which is often hard to distinguish from reality. This is one of those poetic sort of films that are magical in a way, and hard to define, breathtaking at times, confusing at times, also - but ultimately rewarding. In any case, it`s a truly unique film that should be seen by an anyone with an appreciation for "off the beaten path" type films.

The Notebook
The Notebook(2004)
½

Sometimes I, like most anyone, in the mood for a purely romantic movie that will steal me away for a couple hours. The Notebook pretty much, though not as much as hoped, hit the spot. It's the story of the summer romance of two young lovers (in the form of Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams) that carries on, and it's told in the context of a story an older man reads to a woman with Alzheimer's in a nursing home. Of course, this is the two lovers grown older, the man trying to reach out and make his lost lover remember. I assume that this framing device for the main story of the lovers when they were younger was carried over from the novel on which the film is based - but either way, I could of almost done without it. It was from this that my only issues with the film arise. The film is considerably unbalanced, because the main story of the lovers when they are young is very strong, and features great performances by the two leads (this film somewhat launched both their careers), and is also really well done. On the other hand, the "present" of the film with the story being read (that we keep coming back to) , is significantly weaker from a filmmaking perspective. For one thing, the people playing the aged lovers (James Garner and Gene Rowlands) really didn't seem to fit the roles very well, and their performances are underwhelming, especially compared to Gosling and McAdams. Rowlands doesn't do a very convincing portrayal of a woman stricken by Alzheimer's (see Julie Christie in Away From Here for how it should be done). I didn't like as much how the film looked in the "present section" either. I really would rather have had whoever adapted the novel take some liberties (as much as I usually frown on such a thing) and just based the film around the main love story (honestly, that's what everyone likes the film for anyway, isn't it?) - because it is often beautiful and touching and really well told. I expected a little more based on all the buzz that surrounded this film, but I was pleased for the most part, and glad to have watched it.

Chopper
Chopper(2001)
½

Chopper is the story of Mark "Chopper" Read, a notorious Australian criminal who spent part of his life torturing other criminals or in-and-out of prisons, and the other part as a best-selling writer. This is somewhat of a strange film, which I guess is what I've come to expect from the Australians. It's grounded, though, by the brilliant portrayal of Chopper by Eric Bana - who is most definitely one of the best younger-generation actors working today, and a personal favourite of mine. The real Chopper is famous for being mentally off-kilt and sadistic at times but also charming and witty - all of which comes across fantastically in Bana's portrayal of him. It's because of this, and the well-written script, that the film is quite funny at times, and the character of Chopper cannot help but to make one grin. Although the film itself was a little inconsistent at times, it's still pretty solid and anyway is completely worth watching just to see Eric Bana in this role; it's extremely enjoyable.

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles

Just to start off, let's call this the little Asian film that thinks it can. Certainly it does, and it almost succeeds (and does succeed on some levels), and it's awful pretty looking along the way, but it lacks a certain something. In this it reminds me of another recent Asian film: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring - both had a lot of potential and some good acting, and some potent (if almost overbearing, at times) imagery, but lacked the execution to get the film where it needed to be, it just sort of flounders somewhere in the middle. Granted, to be fair, I liked Riding Alone For Thousands of Miles a lot better - it had far more redeeming factors; for example, the wonderful performance of Ken Takakura really anchors the film and gives you a reason to keep on. As well, the film picks up significantly once the plot of Yang Yang and his father comes into play. If more time had spent on that it would have strengthened the main plot of Takata and his dying son. Anyway, this is a good film, it's definitely worth watching, but it definitely wasn't all that it could have been due to some sloppy storytelling.

Eastern Promises

Three words: Viggo, Viggo, and Viggo! Director David Cronenberg has obviously found his golden boy in Viggo Mortenson - they also worked together on 2005's A History Of Violence (which was awesome). Here Mortenson stars as Nikolai, the mysterious, ruthless member of a Russian crime family in London. He crosses paths with Anna (Naomi Watts), a mid-wife who stumbles across evidence that could lead to trouble for the notorious Russian family. The film itself is very solid under the confident direction of Mr. Cronenberg, but if there was ever a film to carried mostly on the strength of its acting, this is definitely it. Viggo Mortenson, who has chosen his path pretty wisely since his break-out role in the Lord Of The Rings films, is pretty much a revelation as Nikolai. From the moment he first appears on screen, Mortenson's portrayal of Nikolai had a smile on my face; it is deadly and precise and magnificent and the character itself has to one of the coolest in recent memory. Of course, he isn't the only carrying the acting weight. Vincent Cassel (an actor I've heard much about but have been unfamiliar with before this) plays Kirill, another member of the Russian family, and also gives an outstanding performance. Naomi Watts doesn't stand out here as much as she usually would, but I think that has much to do with Mortenson as Nikolai simply stealing all of my focus (yes, he's that awesome). But she, too, is very good. Not to mentio Armin Mueller-Stahl as the father/leader of the Russian family, he is at able to appear a completely charming, harmless old man and the next moment be a completely fearsome and dominant criminal leader. The film, like A History Of Violence, is also unflinchingly brutal and often quite gory - definitely not for the faint of heart. Here's to David Cronenberg for, as of late, delivering to us two awesome, uncompromising pieces of cinema.

Elephant
Elephant(2003)

This seems to be the type of film that Gus Van Sant does best. Elephant is essentially a reaction to the issues brought to the fore by the Columbine shootings in 1999. The film features an anonymous group of teens in an anonymous American high school - obviously the point is this could be any group of kids anywhere, and this is aided by the fact we don't get to know them that well (though well enough). The film tells its story as if it isn't telling a story at all; it takes a very detached, almost poetic point of view to the characters and settings, following the main characters (we're introduced to by name) mostly in tracking shots. We follow them down long, often lively but somehow bitterly lonely hallways, and we see the interactions they have with each other. This is all strikingly real; Van Sant completely captures the essence of a high school culture, and tension in this very real world builds to the shooting. I didn't really agree with or appreciate the obvious connections that were made between the shooting and videogames, as this a theory (or myth?) that has never been more than very shaky at best. I'd rather this was left out, even if it is part of the overall issue. Other than that, this is an awesome film. It reminds me of Larry Clark's Bully in that the characters (played mostly by non-actors) and events are so real it's almost unsettling. And in all of this, there are some shots that portray moments of utter beauty in all the loneliness of this somewhat mad world. Check it out.

What Happened to Kerouac?

I've been all hot for documentaries lately so I really wanted to check this one out, being as it focused on Jack Kerouac, a favourite writer of mine and a leader of the storied Beat generation in America during the 40s and 50s. The film alternates between interviews with the people (mostly other writers of the same generation) who knew him best including Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and William S. Burroughs, it also operates with still photographs and some film footage, and (thankfully) represents well Jack's actual writing by including several recordings of him reading passages of prose and poetry, set to various images indicative of his middle-class American background. What Happened to Kerouac isn't an exceptionally well-made documentary, but it is effective in what it tries to do and respectful to its subject. The interviews are all insightful and the accounts they give of living with Jack are often very entertaining. It's great to hear the recordings included - Kerouac's writing an undeniably rhythmic, free-flowing nature that comes across in his jazzy, energetic reading of it. This is a documentary anyone should see who is a fan or has read any of Kerouac's work, or is interested the Beat generation (and how can one not be, really?), but there's not much here for anyone else.

The Corporation
½

This is one of those rare, truly excellent documentaries that come around every once in a while that is utterly enrapturing and worthy of multiple viewings. The Corporation is exactly what it sounds like it would be: an examination of what we know as the "corporation". The film tackles the issue effectively from every angle; from establishing a clear understanding of what the corporation is, what it does, what powers it has or can have, and the impact is has had and is having on our world. Told through the intermingling of interviews with professionals on the subject (including some CEOs of corporations) and stock footage, along with some really clever editing and expert craftsmanship. Especially powerful is the segments with the CEO of the world's largest carpet manufacturer (his name escapes me) who has been part of the corporate world for a long time, and had an epiphany where he realized how his company, and others like his, are impacting the world around them by following the rules of the corporation strictly (as the film clearly defines, corporations are essentially required by law to maximize profit for their shareholders and ignore the implications of their reckless profiting), and he actively works to make a difference while continuing to head his company but with a new consideration for the world around him. This is simply a fantastic documentary, right up there with the best of them I've seen. A must-watch for everyone.

The Punisher
The Punisher(2004)

A film seemingly left in the dust during the recent scourge of comic book adaptations making it to the big screen recently is this film, starring the unassailably awesome and cool Thomas Jane as The Punisher - one of Marvel Comics more popular characters. I didn't expect anything great from this film and I didn't get anything great, but I did get something quite good for what it is, and damned enjoyable regardless of its faults as a film. The film succeeded for me almost solely because of Thomas Jane - I've liked this dude ever since seeing him first in 2003's Dreamcatcher. Since then, with his role in another Stephen King adaptation, The Mist, my like and respect for him has only grown, and from articles I've read he seems like an all-around grounded, cool cat off-screen, as well. Anyway, he owns the role of Frank Castle - a retired cop who turns vigilante when his family is murdered by a vengeful crime boss (John Travolta). Jane`s charisma practically bleeds out of the screen and he is completely the fulcrum of this film (as he should be). At times, the film's problems were a little too apparent - the writing, for example (mostly dialogue), was adequate but shoddy at the best of times, and absolutely atrocious at the worst of times. The cast was also victim of the same best and worst issue: Thomas Jane is perfect. I really, really loved Ben Foster and John Pinette (and Rebecca Romijn is okay, too) as the neighbours; in fact, I really dug that whole aspect of the story, it was one of the best things about the film. John Travolta is mis-cast, I thought, and sleepwalked through his role, but watchable while being completely stale and one-dimensional (more the script's fault than Travolta's). Whoever played the Cuban drug lord guy (can't remember the character name, it wasn't worth the effort) was annoying as all hell - his dialogue was hokey as can be and the dude's amateurish, wooden acting didn't help one bit. Most of the criminal element in the film left something to be desired in terms of casting, really (with the exception of Will Patton as Quentin Glass, he was harsh, despite the stupid character name). Once it got past the whole introduction and got past the contrived introduction and to all the ass-kicking on Jane's part, the film really picked up and became quite a fun ride. I surely recommend it to fans of the comics and to Thomas Jane appreciators. If you can forget the obvious faults for a while you'll find something definitely worth watching.

Straw Dogs
Straw Dogs(1971)

Straw Dogs has been very high up on my "movies to see" list ever since I've had one, and I'm sure glad I finally got around to it tonight - as it's very likely the best thriller I've ever seen. Dustin Hoffman plays David Summer, a young, sheepish American mathematician who moves to rural England to live with his British wife, Amy (Susan George), and faces escalating harassment from a particular group of boorish locals. In addition to another amazing early performance from Hoffman (this film was made a few years after The Graduate), and the tight script, Straw Dogs displays some truly excellent filmmaking from Sam Peckinpah, an American legend I'm only just becoming familiar with. Indeed, this is a perfect film. The tension in the film is palpable and rises naturally towards the violent, epic climax that should have any viewer with a pulse on the edge of their seat the entire time. This film should be required viewing for any aspiring film director if just for its brilliant pacing. It's a lesson in affective editing, also. This film automatically earns "classic" status from me, I was absolutely taken aback and pleased by this film. It can be disturbing at times (the famous rape scene, for example), but should be seen by everyone mature enough to handle it.

Tideland
Tideland(2006)
½

This a tough film to rate and review. I know that I liked it overall, that is was a damned interesting experience, it's just tough to say whether it's a really good film or not - certainly not up to the level of Gilliam at his best as with The Fisher King or Brazil. The film stars a wonderful young actor, Jodelle Ferland, as Jeliza-Rose - a young girl who escapes with her soon deceased father (Jeff Bridges) to her grandmothers; farm after the mother's drug overdose. One thing Gilliam never fails to do is push the boundaries of filmmaking, often testing the morals of the audience. Although, before I saw Tideland, the buzz around made me expect much worse than what is actually in the film. The supposed sexuality involving the young girl is nothing more than a socially challenging relationship between her and an older, mentally challenged boy (which doesn't involve get to the point of any real sexuality, and is almost innocent). Perhaps the most disturbing thing is the preparation of drugs for her parents in the film. That's the thing, Gilliam may have challenged audiences a little too much with Tideland, hence its not being greatly received. But although this surely isn't one of Gilliam greatest achievements, I don't think it deserves the almost universal panning it got. If nothing else, it's a highly imaginative, well made film that takes the "down the rabbit hole" concept to new, very weird, heights. The cast of characters is as off-the-wall as you would expect, and the small cast assembled here is excellent. The visuals in the film are also strikingly beautiful at times, and the set design meticulous, highly detailed. Tideland is a challenging film that looks great and is worth watching if just to see what kind of weird antics Gilliam is up to. At least it's no Brothers Grimm, and perhaps it will grow on me more with repeat viewings.

Juno
Juno(2007)

Talk about having a good time at the movies. Juno is a wonderful film that I could describe as intelligent, cute, funny, romantic, charming...any number of adjectives all at once. The film stars young Ellen Page as Juno MacGuff, a 16-year old girl who gets pregnant after a one-night affair with adorable schoolmate Paulie Bleeker, played by Arrested Development's Michael Cera. What is almost most remarkable about this film is how well it showcases these two young rising stars, who I think have both definitely arrived by now. Ellen Page made a splash in Hard Candy, but with her wonderful performance in Juno it is clear she has truly arrived as one of the best younger actors working today. Michael Cera, too, seemed to arrive with Superbad, and he continues his great streak with this film, also giving a wonderful performance. Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner play the couple Juno chooses to adopt her baby - Bateman is all kinds of awesome, as usual, and Garner somehow succeeds in not annoying me and actually does a pretty good job. Kudos also to J.K. Simmons, he was immensely enjoyable playing Juno's father. This is a really smart, very well written, creative little film that should provide a lot of enjoyment if you want to see a film over the holidays. The quirky indie soundtrack kicks a lot of ass, too. Do yourself a favour and check this film out, it's a strong film that's highly enjoyable.

Infamous
Infamous(2006)

This is a film that is going to be consistently overlooked because it deals with basically the exact same subject matter as the highly acclaimed Capote - they were being made around the same time but the makers of Capote were just lucky enough to get their film out first. Although both films share essentially the same story (although with significant variations): writer Truman Capote's writing of the novel In Cold Blood based on the brutal murders of a Kansas family - the films do diverge a good deal because they are based on different books about Capote's journey. While Capote was marked by somberness and dramatic weight, Infamous gives us a much more lighthearted, brightly coloured take on the story; though Infamous does get down to serious business when it needs to, and does it very well. Toby Jones plays Capote (an actor who I've gotten very interested in after seeing him in The Mist and now this) and does a marvelous job. Comparing his performance to Philip Seymour Hoffman's powerful turn in Capote would be foolish - because Jones takes a different route in portraying Capote and I think it`s just as brilliant a performance, just different; Jones has extremely moving dramatic moments here, too, and it really doesn't hurt that Jones naturally looks a lot more like Capote than Hoffman (the resemblance is actually very striking if you look at pictures of a younger Truman Capote). Just as in comparing the performances of the lead actors, comparing the two films would be folly because they are adaptations of different books and because they differ so much in style and tone - it's much better to appreciate both interpretations for what they are, as both are very good films. I think what surprised me most, though, is that Infamous joins the very short list of films in which Sandra Bullock does not annoy the hell out of me; she is actually very good here, playing Nelle Harper Lee with a straight-edged sincerity that is highly appropriate. Daniel Craig seems to channel Robert Blake's amazing portrayal of Perry Smith in the 1967 adaptation of In Cold Blood and does a great job. The rest of the cast is good also but doesn't stand out as much as these three. In the end, Infamous is a very worthy take on this story that shouldn't be overlooked as much as it has.

The Mist
The Mist(2007)

I finally got out to see this film - it's an adaptation I'd been very much looking forward to; the Stephen King story on which it is based being one of my all-time favourite works of short fiction. Having seen it, it really saddens me that this film pretty much bombed in theaters and was so criminally overlooked. I sincerely hope it gets its due business on DVD because The Mist is an awesome film, and one of the best adaptations of King's work ever to hit the screen. There were a couple issues with it but I'll get to those later. Why both the story and the film work so well is that, as well being a truly frightening horror story, the core of the story is examining what happens when a group of ordinary people are cooped up together and you strip them of authority and political and social structure, and introduce the concept of true chaos into their lives. Thankfully, the film also really captured the essence of this concept extremely well - locked up in the grocery store with these people we see and identify with what they're going through, and can so easily start to think about how we would react if in their shoes. In terms of acting, it's tough to pick out individuals because this film is so much about a mass of humanity, but Thomas Jane and Toby Jones definitely stood out. I dug all the creature effects and kudos to the set designers - everything in the film pretty much looked like I thought it should when reading the story. I dug the directing and editing; the chapter-like fading in and out of scenes was cool. As adaptations go, The Mist is pretty faithful to the source, except on two critical points, which is the issues arose. For one thing, in the story, although the main chunk of it still takes place in the grocery store, the relationship between David and his wife and their child is developed really well, and their goal of trying to get back to her is a powerful and tragic one. In the film, we're barely introduced to David's wife, and given no context by which to identify with her other than the mere fact of who she is to the other characters. Of course, there isn't as much time to do this in a film, but they could have easily spent a few more minutes developing the relationship so that it has more impact on the rest of the story. And then there is the ending. In the story we are given an "Alfred Hitchcock", completely ambiguous. I liked it that way. But this is not so in the film, where a definitive ending is presented, I assume to appease the mass audiences. Having said that, I liked the ending in the film, it fit and it was well done, but I still would have preferred an open ending in the spirit of the story. Anyway, this is a very good film and beats the pants off most of the horror flicks that come out these days. So stop stalling and give it some support!

Kagemusha
Kagemusha(1980)
½

As somewhat of an expert on Japanese history, I can safely say that Akira Kurosawa is definitely the director most adept at portraying the Samurai-era of that history; as he does so very successfully in Kagemusha. Although reportedly considered by Kurosawa to be a "dress-rehearsal" for his later Shakespearean epic, Ran - Kagemusha is quite a brilliant film on its own, and a very fine samurai epic from the master of them. The film takes place in the 1600s, a period marked by constant civil war among Japanese clans. The story focuses on Lord Takeda, who, like most prominent Japanese leaders, had several people who would impersonate him in public when needed to minimize the threat of assassination. A thief named Kagemusha is chosen as the next impersonator because he looks unnervingly alike to the Lord, and is forced to take over the role more permanently when he dies. The film is a whirlwind of themes and beautiful imagery, and wonderful, broad artistic strokes, and yet still an intimately human film about the relationships we have. As usual, Kurosawa's attention to detail is staggering and he gets awesome performance out of his leads; especially Tatsuya Nakadai, who pulls double duty as Lord Shingen and Kagemusha. There are so many great scenes in this film; such as an amazing, painterly dream sequence and a roaring, epic battle finale which should be the envy of all samurai films. Kagemusha rocks, and is, like all of the master Kurosawa's films, a must see.

Mr. Brooks
Mr. Brooks(2007)
½

I think I'm still a little on the fence about this one. I remember wanting to see it very much, because I love Kevin Costner, and the idea of him as a villain is enough to put me in the chair. And I wasn't disappointed by this film at all, really, but it had its problems. First off, Costner's performance is really great, its definitely one of his best. He plays the straight-laced murder addict with in a subtle, often frightening manner. I really loved William Hurt as his imaginary sidekick, this was a really interesting idea that the director really exploited well. One thing that didn't so much work for me is the side plot involving Demi Moore's character. She played the police officer pursuing Mr. Brooks, and while that's fine and she did an alright job of it, there's a whole side plot involving her divorce settlement that really didn't fit in with the rest of the film at all. I'm guessing it's supposed to make her the main sympathetic character beside Brooks, but nothing about this really made me like or care for her character any more (or at all). The film was really well shot, and the action scenes (generally involving Moore's character) were really cool, but once again, were kind out of place and clashed with the style of the rest of the film. There's absolutely nothing wrong with contrast in a film, but there has to be a purpose behind it and I didn't see one here. Dane Cook didn't annoy me too much once again, in fact he was pretty good. Largely, Cook seems acceptable as an actor, it's just as a stand-up comic where he's still an annoying ham. So, overall, Mr. Brooks is a good film that is definitely worth seeing if just for Costner's awesome turn as a straight-laced serial killer.

Once
Once(2007)
½

Wow. What a pleasant, pleasant surprise this film turned out to be. I sought it out at the urging of one of my English professors, and boy am I ever glad I took that suggestion! Once is a modern musical set in Dublin, Ireland, and is about the relationship that forms between an Irish busker/songwriter and a Czech pianist/songwriter when they meet one night and start playing songs together. This is in no way your typical musical; in fact, I almost hesitate to classify it as "musical" just because the songs all occur naturally and from within the context of the story - there's no set-ups or random, unrealistic bursts of song. It's all completely natural, plausible, as down-to-earth as it gets, and that's part of why it works so well. It's also a distinctly Irish film that showcases Dublin beautifully . I was surprised at how well shot the film considering it's shot on DV and doesn't look like your typical film - but this also really worked and I think is part of the film's charm. The lead actors are great and have excellent chemistry; they really pull you along for the ride. I was completely emotionally invested in this film and these characters almost from the get-go, and this is a true testament to what a great film it is. And what is a great musical without great music? Luckily, the music is this film was fantastic, I plan on going out and buying the soundtrack as soon as possible. Once is one of the best films of 2007, I highly, highly recommend it to anyone.

Away From Her

With Away From Her we have a very fine example of Canadian filmmaking from prolific young actress Sarah Polley. She directs Julie Christie and Gorden Pinsent in an adaptation based on an Alice Munroe story. It's about the marriage of Grant & Fiona that lasts 50 years, and how things begin to shift with Fiona being affected by Alzheimer's disease. This film is a bittersweet study of marriage and illness, old age, fidelity, among other themes. It's tender and humorous, very well written and directed. Although I thought I'd heard some people praising this film as something like the second coming, but it;s not quite that, but it is very good, and it is an immense success for Polley, who proves she has the talent to do just about anything in the film industry. This film establishes her as an great young auteur and I really look forward to what she does next be it acting or in the director's chair again. And lest I forget the wonderful performances; the leads are awesome in their roles, but Olympia Dukakis came close to stealing the show in a couple scenes as Grant's would-be mistress, Marian. She was fantastic and showed what a great actor does in a supporting role. This film reminded me why I should support the film industry of my own country more. A good achievement on all fronts.

Inherit the Wind

Here we have one of the all-time great court dramas adapted into a powerful, stirring film starring Spencer Tracy and Fredric March. As play adaptations go you can't do much better. Inherit The Wind details an actual case from 1925 which put a Southern school teacher on trial for teaching his students the theory of evolution (there being a law against it). The whole town is drawn into a rabid frenzy as two great, legendary lawyers come to town: Matthew Harrison Brady, a boisterous, bloated religious fanatic, to prosecute, and Henry Drummond, an almost enigmatic Northern lawyer, to defend the young teacher. The film that ensues, an adaptation of a well-established American play, is a magnificent and rousing legal drama that belongs in the books right next to 12 Angry Men, which was also based on a classic American play. What's interesting about Inherit The Wind, and what separates it from most other court dramas, is that the trial is not over a typical "dramatic" crime like murder but a crime based on the ability of a man to express his own thoughts, which becomes a larger case about the basic question of how far can one take the words of the Christian bible (or any religious text for that matter) without reconciling it with the real world. It's an intriguing question resulting in an intriguing film which features two absolute heavyweight acting performances from Tracy and March. And their battle is just as powerful and thought provoking as that of Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb in 12 Angry Men. This is an immense American classic not to be missed.

Incident at Loch Ness
½

If there's one thing I didn't think I would see Werner Herzog involved in, I guess it might very well be a mocumentary or fake documentary. I actually watched this film under the impression it was directed by Werner, but discovered at the credits it was directed by Zak Penn (who also starred as the producer in the fake doc that is the subject of the film) and co-produced by Werner (who also starred in the film as himself). If you can't already tell it's a rather hard film to explain, which I guess, when I think about it, makes it more sensible that Werner would be involved. Basically it's about Werner Herzog setting off on with producer Zak Penn and other professionals to Scotland to film a documentary about the Loch Ness myths, when they begin to encounter problems and eventually something much more extraordinary. The best description I've read about this film so far is that "it's the film the Blair Witch Project wanted to be", and that's pretty accurate. The reason this film works and is so entertaining is because it looks and feels like a real documentary, and thus it's that much more involving. I think if someone were to watch this not knowing it was a set-up, they may definitely think it was a real documentary to a point. It's because of that level of professionalism (no doubt inspired and caused by Herzog's involvement as actor and producer) that this film is able to do what other films like it have tried to do successfully, and in highly entertaining fashion.

No Country for Old Men

It's stuff like this that reminds me exactly why I love the Coen brothers so much. In No Country For Old Men they've produced their greatest masterpiece since Fargo, and I couldn't be happier about it. But this film was made to be brilliant: you take a novel by Pulitzer-prize winning writer Cormack McCarthy, an astounding the cast, the technical genius and vision of the Coen brothers, inject a hefty dose of bad-ass - and you've got a perfect film. And it really is. From the first frame to the last, this film is absolutely perfect. From the deadly Southern landscapes to the minimal soundtrack to the roaring intensity to the fright-inducing villainy of Javier Bardem's character; the film is a blast. The sheer awesomeness of the filmmaking had me grinning like a fanboy the whole way through. There just really isn't any reason why anyone should not see this film. It has to be the film of the year. So what are you waiting for?

Angst Essen Seele auf (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul)
½

This is one of the films I'm studying for my post-war German film class. Though I had heard this was a brilliant film I didn't know quite what to expect - suffice to say I was very pleased. This is a beautiful film which, at the surface, is a wonderful love story between two unlikely people. Deeper down, its a film about taboos and racism and how social milieu can break down the morals of the most well intentioned people and corrupt even the most wonderful relationship - it is one of the best love stories I have ever seen on film, but there are many deeper themes at work that enhance the film. This is the first Fassbinder film I have seen and I am definitely impressed - he seems to have a style that is instantly recognizable. For example, the majority of the shots in the film were framed in some way, either by a doorway, window, table, or any number of other objects - this was truly unique and it fascinates me. Like his New German Cinema colleague, Werner Herzog, it appears that Fassbinder always likes to turn his films into almost moving paintings at times - the opening scene, in particular, exhibited this to a great extent. The performances by the actors playing the lead characters, Ali and Emmi, were very great and very honest. If you ever get the chance to see this film, do it - it's a work of art.

JFK
JFK(1991)
½

I've often heard people give Oliver Stone shit and it constantly puzzles me. I'm definitely not big on all his work, but he has made at least a couple great films: Natural Born Killers and this one, JFK, which I finally watched, This is the quintessential film about the Kennedy assassination, detailing a case brought by the District Attorney of New Orleans, Jim Garrison, beginning three years after the actual assassination. I don't think conspiracy films get much better than this. First of all, the cast is exceptional. Kevin Costner reminds me why I love him so much (and also hate when people shit on him) and puts in what is probably his career performance as Jim Garrison; we're right with him as he delves deeper and deeper into the conspiracy and he's just excellent. The rest of this huge cast also shines; notably Joe Pesci, Gary Oldman, Sissy Spacek, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, John Candy, et al. I also love how the film is made. Much like in Natural Born Killers, Oliver Stone magically blends a variety of different mediums, from stock footage to photographs to the actual filmed scenes to scenes recreating real footage to surveillance videos - this is a technique that probably turns a lot of people off of Stone's films but I really like it and it's used amazingly here. The plot is woven beautifully, and despite the verbose amount of facts, evidence, and speculations presented in the film it never really gets muddled (though I'm sure it would if you weren't paying close attention). The whole trial scene is awesome, and Costner pulls out one of the all-time great closing argument speeches in film. This is a must-see if you have any interest at all in the Kennedy assassination and the conspiracies surrounding it.

This Is England
½

I wasn't expecting the type of film this turned out to be at all! For some reason, when I decided to check it out, I was under the impression this was a comedy in the vein of Guy Ritchie. What I got instead, and was quite glad to get, was a film that was quite funny and cute at times, but ultimately a very moving and exceptional film, that is probably the best film I've seen centering on a single child since The 400 Blows (and that is definitely saying something). The film centers on Shaun, a somewhat troubled British youth who has just lost his father in the Falklands War. He encounters a well-mannered gang of skinheads who take him under their wing, and then things change when Combo, a much more serious skinhead, comes back to town from prison and tries to initiate a racist nationalist movement among them. I wasn't surprised by the excellence of the film and its direction, because after seeing the great Dead Man's Shoes I have no doubts whatsoever about Shane Meadows as a filmmaker. What really surprised is a couple of the performances. Thomas Turgoose delivers very nearly as great a performance as a young Jean-Pierre Léaud did in The 400 Blows; his centering performance really holds the film together and I can't wait to see what he has to offer in the future. What also really surprised me and pleased me performance-wise was Stephen Graham as Combo. When I saw him in Guy Ritchie's Snatch he was great, but nothing in that film really indicated he had the kind of range he puts on display here. He really is nothing sort of amazing and I was very pleased he was able to pull off such an intensely dramatic role so well, I will always take him seriously from now on. This film looks, sounds, and is great, it really is. Shane Meadows delivers another gem to the British filmscape, and I highly recommend catching it.

Transformers
Transformers(2007)

I really regret not seeing this when it was in theaters, because it must have been a significantly more awesome experience that way, but I finally did see Transformers. I am glad that I go into it with an open mind; never having been a Transformers fan, really, and having seen the awesome trailer, I was ready to embrace this movie for what it was, and is: a action blockbuster film adaptation of a cartoon property that does it means to do pretty darned well. This is not supposed to be high art, this is supposed to be a popcorn film, and it definitely succeeds because I found myself quite entertained the whole way through. Let's face it, Michael Bay knows what he is doing when it comes to action films, and the stuff in this film comes off pretty awesome. The design and implementation of the Transformers themselves was exceptional, all the effects in the film were impeccable, and it simply delivers on the alien robot stompin' action. And surprisingly, there were some pretty funny moments, as well. Shia LaBeouf brings all his charm and "it" factor to the table and he proves himself on the blockbuster film stage, for sure. Some other cool surprises were John Turtorro as the smarmy "Sector 7" commander and Jon Voight, as the Defense Secretary, pumping out as much lead as Dick Cheney in one scene. Anyway, the bottom line is: Transformers doesn't try to be anything more than it should (for the most part), and what it's supposed to do it does very well. And I definitely enjoyed it.

The Lives of Others
½

The much-praised The Lives of Others is a brilliantly directed, written, and acted, exceptionally understated and subtle film from untested German filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. This is one of those great films that just sweeps you up completely into its story - which is set in 1984 in the GDR (East Germany), while the wall is still up and the country is still divided both physically and ideologically. It involves a member of the Stasi (secret police) who is given the task of monitoring a prominent playwright and his partner, a famous actress, after they come under suspicion for all the wrong reasons. The conspiratorial/political thriller is a genre that really has to be done exactly right, or it makes everyone look bad. Luckily, in the tradition of films like Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation, this film is definitely doing all the right things. And very much like Coppola's film, it involves a surveillance expert who begins to question what he is doing; an intriguing concept that is again portrayed perfectly (helped in no small part by the great performance of Ulrich Mühe). It's solid, and awesome, and should go down in the wonderful tradition of great German films.

Wuthering Heights
½

This is an enjoyable, though not great, adaptation of Emily Brontë's classic novel of the same name. It is a beautiful looking, well made, well cast and acted film - but I could definitely find some faults in the script, which largely oversimplifies Brontë's incredibly complex narrative, which isn't helped by its being crammed into 105mn. While the novel isn't overly long, and it is possible to tell the story in this amount of time (all the other film adaptations of Wuthering Heights seem to run about the same length) - this script definitely does hack away at the novel a little bit. The film also is guilty of oversimplifying the love story between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw; although it is undoubtedly one of the the greatest romances ever told in British literature, it is also supposed to be one of the most tumultuous, and marked by a very rocky relationship between the two characters, who are both considerably flawed. However, the film does succeed because even though I recognized these shortcomings immediately, I was able to overlook them and allow myself to get wrapped up in the wonderful story once again. This is also helped by the great work of Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche, who are perfectly cast and both deliver memorable performances (although, given the material, I think it would be hard not to shine in either role). I haven't seen any of the other adaptations of this novel yet, but this one I enjoyed, and would definitely recommend to fans of the novel.

Dead Man
Dead Man(1995)

As I see more and more of Jim Jarmusch's films I begin to appreciate more and more that he is truly one of the best American filmmakers. In Dead Man he throws another curve ball; casting Johnny Depp as an accountant named William Blake in the Old West, who, after finding his job taken, ends up wanted for murder and on the run, meeting up with an Indian called Nobody who is convinced he is the English poet of the same name and must take a "spiritual journey". The plot, the characters, everything in this film is off the wall and unconventional and it's just awesome. The cast is great and a perfect compliment to the material. I'm also convinced by Dead Man that Jarmusch is simply a master at the form of using black and white in film - he's used it so effectively in some other awesome films (Stranger Than Paradise, Coffee & Cigarettes) and it's used so well here, too. This is a film to see if you want something totally originally and fresh; and it's a solid film, to boot.

No Direction Home: Bob Dylan
½

A compelling and essential documentary about arguably the greatest American singer/songwriter of all time. Directed by the comparably great Martin Scorsese, No Direction Home is essential viewing for both die hard and passive Dylan fans (and really, who isn't in some way a Bob Dylan fan?), as it details his career from its start until the late 60s; the most important part of his development as an artist, and the most interesting. I can most easily compare this film with Bukowski: Born Into This, which is an essential, brilliant doc about Charles Bukowski told largely from the perspective of the man himself. Here one particular Dylan interview is cut throughout the film and adds to and comments on the other perspectives at work. And also, like Born Into This used Buk's poetry to no small effect, No Direction Home is riddled with awesome footage of live performances and song recordings, many of which are studio takes which probably can't be heard anywhere else. I really can't recommend this enough. Its a brilliant, sprawling documentary about the most important American musician of all time, made by one of the most important American filmmakers of our time - now that should be plenty of incentive!

Knocked Up
Knocked Up(2007)

It took me way too long to see this! I really wanted to see it in theaters, but the weeks came and passed and I never got around to it. Fortunately, I finally have, and it pretty lived up to expectations and all the hype. Judd Apatow is doing some of the best work in m ovie comedies these days, and he does it again here - pitting some familiar faces into another hilarious, and true to life, situation akin to the 40 Year-Old Virgin - and like that film catapulted Steve Carrel into a new level of excellence and renown, so does this film for the very funny and talented Seth Rogen. Rogen stars as an average joe who hangs around and parties with his (very hilarious) friends most of the time, as they put their weed-doused brains behind a doomed website project. He crosses paths with a beautiful young woman (Katherine Heigl) with aspirations of becoming a Television reporter, and they hook up after a chance meeting at a club, after which she finds out she's pregnant and they become hopefully tangled in each other's lives. What follows is a heartfelt, completely honest, very funny real-life comedy that seems to perfectly capture the sentiment of a certain generation of people, and cannot help but entertain and charm everyone else. The leads are quite good in their respective roles, even if their chemistry could be suspect at times, and the rest of the cast (including a lot of Apatow regulars) is awesome, notably Leslie Mann, Paul Rudd, and Jonah Hill. It's films like this that make me continue to have faith in the comedy genre not becoming an overdone, stagnant heap of garbage. This film hit all the right chords and everyone should see it.

Reign Over Me

Despite the semi-lame title I really did want to see this film since hearing about it. Don Cheadle is always good, and I definitely wanted to see Adam Sandler in another dramatic role a-la Punch-Drunk Love, especially when he bears a striking resemblance to Bob Dylan as the character. Sandler plays Charlie Fineman, a reclusive man who had lost his family in the 9/11 attacks. He runs into his old college roommate, played by Cheadle, and they become reacquainted and become dependent on each other to get through their respective situations. A big appeal of the film is how it doesn't try and directly tackle 9/11 issues, but deals with it in a very subtle, microcosmic way, and a focus on the characters instead of larger picture. Sandler didn't quite overthrow his brilliant performance in Punch-Drunk Love with his, but his work here is still very good, and really makes me wonder why he wastes/has wasted his time with so many dumb movies (granted, a couple are definitely guilty pleasure quality). The rest of the cast, especially Cheadle and the beautiful Saffron Burrows, do a great job as well. I found the writing could be a little heavy handed at times, but the directing was pretty solid, and I mean, it really is a very character based picture, and as such, its success is based almost solely on Sandler and Cheadle - and luckily, they are both well up to the task. A very good, somewhat overlooked film. When it's released on DVD (if it hasn't already) I highly recommend at least a rental.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
½

I wasn't quite sure what to think of Tom Tykwer after having only seen Run Lola Run. I knew he definitely had a stylistic and visual flair from that, but seeing Perfume definitely proves he does have the chops to someday be a great director. This is the strange, horrifying, and sometimes beautiful story of Jean-Babtiste Grenouille, who growing up in 18th century France realizes he has an amazing talent for having a very advanced olfactory sense, so much so that he sees more with his nose than with his eyes. This translates into the desire to make the ultimate perfume, which becomes a murderous obsession when he stumbles onto the scent a beautiful, just dead young woman. If anything, I am certain that Ben Whishaw performance in the lead is fabulous; he doesn't speak much but tells a great story with his face and emotions. Tykwer also rounds up the talents of the great Dustin Hoffman and the almost as great Alan Rickman. For some reason, Rickman's presence didn't add as much as it should have - I didn't like the way his character was written and it definitely turned me off a little. Hoffman, on the other hand, is awesome and quite funny in the part of a famous Italian perfumer maker who teaches Jean-Baptiste his trade. Tykwer's direction is very good, he shows again he has a great eye for how a film is put together, and exhibits a wonderful use of different angles and transitions. One thing that bothered me though was how quick and easy the main character's transition into becoming a murderer is. I understand it and it was pretty well explained, but the way the mood just changed so abruptly was a little awkward. Other than that, this is a very beautiful looking and very well made film, which doesn't completely make the grade but comes pretty damn close. I look forward to seeing more of Tykwer's work and more of Ben Whishaw, as well.

Do the Right Thing

This is a great flick about one day in a certain neighborhood in Brooklyn which is populated by people of many different ethnic backgrounds, and when the temperature reaches scorching heights, the tension between all these different peoples and their prejudices comes to a boil. It really is a brilliant set up, and is executed quite well. Spike Lee creates a self-contained bubble in this film, a microcosm for what the rest of the world can really be like. And while Spike definitely didn't benefit too much from putting himself in the lead role - the rest of the cast is stupendous. Danny Aiello as an Italian Pizzeria owner whose business becomes the subject of scorn puts in probably his best performance, I've always liked the man and he's great here. Ossie Davis, as usual, just lights up the screen as an street-walking alcoholic who shows more sense, compassion, and good judgment than anyone else on the block. Everyone else in the cast is great, too. The best thing about Do The Right Thing is that the conflict arrives in a very natural way and never are the message or themes shoved down your throat. See this instead of that piece of junk, Crash - it does a much better job making the same type of film. And I almost forgot to mention it also has a fantastic soundtrack.

Blade Runner
Blade Runner(1982)
½

It took much too long to see this sci-fi classic. I remember watching some of it a couple years ago, and turning it off, but I have no idea why I would have done that. Blade Runner is set in 2019 in LA and stars Harrison Ford as a sort of hit man for things called Replicants - robots who look and act, and for all intensive purposes are, almost exactly like humans, but who only have a lifespan of 4 years. It's about one vicious group of them who strive to try and extend their lifespan, and Ford's journey to stop them before they kill any more. I'm not a big sci-fi nut or anything, but this film is really cool. The setting, the characters, and the story is extremely inventive and pulled off really well. Unlike alot of films around the time this was made who made a really half-assed attempt at showing the future - in Blade Runner it's fully realized under the direction of Ridley Scott, and there are a lot of great details. The cast is also exceptional and has a lot of great characters - Rutger Hauer plays the lead replicant and is utterly chilling and brilliant. Harrison Ford plays the flawed anti-hero excellently, it's no wonder he became a cult God after this. I dug the way it was shot, too - the cityscape is a dark, steaming wasteland shot wonderfully, and backed by a very fitting Jazzy - Synth musical score which adds a lot to the movie. The last shot of Hauer's character in the rain is actually one of the most beautiful shots I've ever seen. Apparently everyone else has already seen it way before me, but I'm glad I finally did!

Art School Confidential
½

I'm amazed how long it took me to see this film, because I am a huge fan of Terry Zwigoff and Daniel Clowe's last collaboration: the wonderful adaptation of Ghost World. In Art School Confidential they create the similarly quirky world of an art school student, Jerome, as he follows his dream of being a great artist. I'm wondering if this was a comic (or "graphic novel", groan) before it was a movie like Ghost World, because it definitely has that feel. I don't think so, because I haven't been able to find it, but I think it may have worked better in book form. This film tries to be a lot of things at once, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't as well. The whole element of there being a murderer on the campus, and of the ensuing investigation, that really fit in awkwardly with the rest of the film. But, it is a funny movie, and a sweet one at times. The cast is great - I loved seeing Ethan Suplee and Nick Swardson as Jerome's roommates, they are both always hilarious and I love them, but there definitely wasn't enough of either in the film. John Malkovich was cool as always, but although having decent screen time his actual role was kind of minimal - the trailers made it look like Malkovich's character was a much more important part of the film. I am going to need to see this again to give a full opinion I think. I did enjoy it, I recommend to those who loved Ghost World. It has a lot of bright points, and some not so bright, but ultimately a worthwhile experience.

Hearts and Minds

It's the sign of a truly great documentary when it can be powerful, moving, startling, and even eye opening almost 40 years after the fact, when all the facts have already been laid to bear. Hearts and Minds is an incredible documentary made in 1974 about the conflicting attitudes of the Vietnam war. It pulls no punches whatsoever and provides remarkable, revealing interviews with both Americans and Vietnamese; from soldiers to politicians to civilians on both sides, and extremely disturbing footage showing the aftermath of the rash of American bombings within Vietnam, where innumerable innocent civilians were killed, including many children. Obviously, the film leans in the direction of peace, but it's as subjective as a documentary could possibly be on this subject, and it definitely makes one think of the true consequences of war, the nature of American imperialism, and how it all relates to our current situation in Iraq and the rest of the world. I can only imagine how shocking this must have been when it was released not long after the end of the Vietnam war - no wonder it won a very deserving Oscar. This is a seminal documentary, and should be on everyone's "must-see" list.

Rescue Dawn
Rescue Dawn(2007)
½

Werner Herzog brings us from the Peruvian jungle in Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo to the jungles of Vietnam in Rescue Dawn - starring Christian Bale as Dieter Dengler, a German-born American fighter pilot who, during the Vietnam war, crashes his plane on a top secret mission bombing Vietnamese targets. Most of the movie covers how he deals with this, and the tiny POW camp he ends up in. Immediately when I heard that Werner Herzog had released a new film I was excited, then when I heard Christian Bale was involved I doubly excited. And I can tell you Rescue Dawn definitely doesn't disappoint. Herzog throws a curve ball here, as it's definitely a Herzog film, as I didn't expect a war drama from him, even though the film is fundamentally a human film, which is constant with all of Herzog films, the struggle of man with himself and with nature. Another thing not expected was the ending - not giving anything away, it's definitely not as wistful or tragic ending as most Herzog films are known for. The Vietnam jungle is shot here almost as beautifully as the jungle in Peru many years ago, this film is simply a pleasure to look at, containing many trademark Herzog shots that made me smile. Christian Bale, not surprisingly, is great in the lead role. He gets some great support from Steve Zahn, generally a comedic actor - Zahn puts in a great performance that almost threatens to steal the limelight from Bale at times. Jeremy Davies is cool and very good, as usual. I was very lucky to see this film, it doesn't have a wide release so I was amazed they had it here, but I'm glad I didn't have to wait for DVD. Don't ever give it up, Werner, you're doing great work still.

Reno 911!: Miami
½

Unfortunately, I was very let down by this movie. I am a big fan of the television show (Reno 911) - it's one of the funniest, smartest comedies I've ever seen, done in documentary style in the vein of something like This Is Spinal Tap, with a great cast of very funny people, and some exceptionally hilarious main and side characters. Some of this does translate to the big screen, but in the end the formula just didn't work as a feature length film. The problem is removing the characters from the confines of Reno, Nevada and putting them on a bigger stage, dealing with much bigger problems - it just didn't really work nor did it feel right. In my opinion, a film that just expanded on the show would have been a much better idea. Don't get me wrong, it isn't all bad. All of the main characters still have their moments, and there were some funny side characters (the character Terry from the show - played by the very funny Nick Swardson - returning was cool, even if his shtick wasn't as funny as it usually is), the appearance of Paul Rudd and David Koechner was cool, too. Also, Patton Oswalt played a sizable part as the assistant mayor of Miami, and that was very awesome, because I adore him. In the final analysis, Reno 911: Miami had all the ingredients for a funny feature film, but it just didn't come together like it should have, and was definitely disappointing for a fan of the show.

Hustle & Flow

I wasn't sure what I'd think of tis film, but I wanted to see it because of how highly it's been praised. I don't consider myself into the rap culture much, although I do listen to some, but Hustle & Flow creates its own fully vibrant world that really wraps you up in it. It takes place in the south, and involves a pimp, Djay (Terence Howard), who finds himself in a position to fulfill his dream of being a rapper, and decides to do something about it. I can see how this would be an unsavory film for some people. The main character is a pimp, after all. But, in the end, this is a very honest film about a very true part of society that has fallen to the bottom rung of the socioeconomic ladder, and it tracks its characters with honesty and compassion and though they aren't, from a social standpoint, good people - Hustle & Flow makes you understand that sometimes you let yourself fall into a life you're not happy with because you have to in order to get by, and you have the power to change it, which is what they attempt to do. So if you can't tell already, I really liked this movie. Terence Howard turns in a powerful performance that makes me respect him a lot as an actor (he was one of the few things I liked about Crash). The director even gets good performances out of D.J. Qualls and Anthony Anderson, who are usually "Oh, that guy!" comedic fare actors. The directing is pretty good, and the music is fantastic. You will probably be as in to the songs as the characters are when creating them - "Whoop that trick - get 'em." JUstle & Flow is a very good film, I recommend it.

Cashback
Cashback(2007)
½

Cashback started out as a brilliant, highly acclaimed short film from an insightful young filmmaker, Sean Ellis, who then decided to expand it into this feature length film. A lot of the time when a short film is expanded like this the transition can be awkward, but it isn't so in this case (although the way the short film, exactly as it was, is just sort of cut into the rest of the film is a little awkward). Cashback features art student, Ben Willis, who after being dumped by long-time girlfriend Suzy, develops insomnia and begins working the graveyard shift at a supermarket to deal with this. He imagines that he's able to stop time in order to witness the stilled beauty around him - part of what makes this film so unique and painterly. All of the characters from the short film return here, they were great, funny characters then and they still are, weathering the transition to feature length very well. Ellis's writing is brilliant and his directing adventurous; the seamless transitioning and editing in the film is awesome, and creates a truly unique experience. In the end, this is a niche film for a certain type of audience (seemed to fit most in with my generation, which is probably why I enjoyed it to so much), that is a great herald for the future work of a promising young director.

For Your Consideration

I absolutely adore the work of Christopher Guest, from Best In Show to Waiting For Guffman, his films are always brilliant and always a riot. In For Your Consideration (the first of his I've seen that is not a mockumentary), he assembles his usual stable of all completely brilliant comedic actors (including Eugene Levy, Guest himself, Catherine O'Hara, Fred Willard, Harry Shearer - and even some new faces) in a film about the making of a film called "Home For Purim", and how the actors are affected when some early Oscar buzz begins to swarm around their production. Like Guest's other films, this chronicles the rise and fall of a group of lovingly idiotic people. The style is similar to the mockumentary, but it was more a film film this time, and although I love the mockumentary style, it still worked very well. For Your Consideration had me laughing out loud dozens of times, and this is a great feat for a film containing such lovely dry comedy. Hilarious, hilarious, hilarious!!! See it!

Black Snake Moan
½

And now I bring your attention to another criminally overlooked recent film. Black Snake Moan is set in the deep South and stars (an unfortunately wraith-like, yet still beautiful) Christina Ricci as a nymphomaniac who Samuel L. Jackson, a deeply religious blues man, finds beaten and unconscious by the side of the road - he takes her in and cares for her and then decides to chain her to his home so he can cure her of her "wickedness". It is an utterly terrific concept, that comes out of an exceptional screenplay, and results in a very good, very entertaining, refreshingly original film. I just loved pretty much everything about this film; the directing and acting was solid (even Justin Timberlake wasn't bad!), the story was so many things: it was emotional and violent and romantic and funny and sweet and..well it pretty much has everything you might want. On top of all that, it has probably one of the best original soundtracks I have ever heard, including the songs performed in the film by Samuel L. Jackson - Black Snake Moan bursts and sizzles with soul, and the heart of the blues. It's just excellent, and if you missed it on its limited release, check it out on DVD right now.

Zodiac
Zodiac(2007)

Can someone explain to me how this film was seemingly completely snubbed by everyone, especially in theaters? I mean, as it turns out, this is a very good new film from David Fincher, who directed the ultra-popular Se7en...so why no love for Zodiac? Well I have a feeling it will come into its own, anyway. What we have here is a telling of the Zodiac killer, who stalked the streets of the San Francisco area, and taunted police and reporters with constant communication along the way. Fincher brings together a fantastic cast, and gets a stand out performance from Mark Ruffalo, and some really good work all along the board. It's a slow mounting thriller, without a terrible amount of thrill - I think it's meant to be more of a detective story or mystery actually, and it worked that way. A lot of people seemed to think the movie was too long, but I didn't really find it to be. The only thing about it I wasn't too keen on was the non-ending; the film doesn't so much climax as just get to a certain point and then fade away. I would have liked a more definite ending ( though the case itself didn't really have one, so perhaps it's appropriate), but it was still a good flick, and another winner from Mr. Fincher, I'd recommend it.

Ratatouille
Ratatouille(2007)
½

What a great new animated flick, from Brad Bird, the veritable genius behind The Incredibles. It's a pretty simple premise, that works so well because it's not too complicated: a rat called Remy is separated from his peers because of his love for gourmet food and his idolization of a chef in Paris called Gousteau. One day he gets separated from his family and ends up in Paris, and eventually finds himself in a position to live his dream of being a chef. The execution, the animation, the writing, almost everything about the movie is perfect, and it's all one could possibly ask for from a new Pixar movie, as it lives up to and even exceeds some of their previous classics. Patton Oswalt, one of the best working comedians today, does a fantastic job voicing Remy. There are a lot of good actors doing voices, actually (including the great Peter O'Toole). But like it should be in a great animated film, the voices are completely melded and lost into the magic of the film, so that you aren't hung up on thinking of the characters in terms of who is voicing them. In the end, Pixar has another classic on their hands, which I would think might even be more enjoyable for adults than children, honestly.

The Bridge
The Bridge(2006)

The concept of this documentary definitely interested me, focusing on some of the many suicides that occur at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. It's a fascinating subject, and it's covered effectively in the film - however, in the execution/directing of the film, one gets a sense more of morbid curiosity from the filmmakers rather than genuine compassion or respect, and this results in a certain lack of substance, overall. There are definitely some truly unique moments here, since, through placing stationary cameras at multiple places around the bridge over the period of months, they captured footage of a number of people actually jumping from the bridge to their death, which we're shown. It's a little harrowing, definitely disturbing, but somehow surreal. One person interviewed in the film said a lot of people romanticize the bridge, which is probably why so many people choose at their place to die, but this romanticizing and removal from the reality of these events seems to come from the filmmakers, as well, and I don't think that's very appropriate. And although there are some very beautiful, mesmerizing shots of the bridge in the film - the constant shots of the bridge, no matter how varied they are, get a little repetitive and tired. So, it's an interesting subject and worth a look if you're intrigued by it. But for me, the presentation was lackluster and underwhelming, to say the least.

Deliver Us from Evil
½

This is a very, very powerful and unsettling documentary about the molestation of children by Catholic clergy, focusing mainly on Oliver O'Grady, who throughout his tenure as a priest molested and raped dozens of children by gaining the trust of their families and then betraying it in the worst possible way, and how the Catholic church refused to take any disciplinary action against him or attempt to tackle his problem, instead moving him from parish to parish, thus allowing him to continue ruining the lives of several families. The documentary is extremely well made, and it was most effective because it focuses primarily on O'Grady and his victims for most of the running time, instead of being too ambitious and trying to tackle the larger issue the entire time. It does take on the larger issue by association, though, and directly in the last quarter of the film. It show the immense courage of the victims, and of certain members of the church like Thomas Doyle to attempt to tackle the issue, which has been covered up and ignored for so long, by people as high as the Pope. This an eye-opening, powerful, must-see documentary for everyone, including catholics.

Casino Royale
½

So I've never really been much of a Bond fan. I have little to no interest in most of the other Bond films, but I wanted to see this one because of all the good things I heard and that it takes the Bond film in a decidedly new and fresh direction, while still sticking to the Bond tradition (especially in the casting of Daniel Craig). So I was not disappointed. Although the plot is a little muddled and it gets confusing, it doesn't matter too much - Daniel Craig is a totally different Bond than we've ever seen before, and he brings a metric tonne of badass (and a surprising amount of class) to the role. This is largely what held my attention where previous Bond films failed. Other than that, it is a pretty well made, entertaining film. The action scenes were spectacular overall, especially the rollicking opening chase on foot. That was cool about this, too, the action was more up close and personal and more often non-vehicle or gadget based and a little more brutal than in other Bond films (although correct me if I'm wrong there, I haven't seen many Bond films). Probably the only issues I had with Casino Royale is that it overstays its welcome a little bit (it could have easily been 15 or 20 minutes shorter), and the dialogue was a little iffy at times. But with Daniel Craig in the lead role, from now on I'm going to have to show a little more interest when new Bond films are released, because Casino Royale does not disappoint.

Waking Ned Devine
½

So, I sought to see this film recently because my director said it was one of the possibilities for our acting groups' next production, and because I had a passing interest in seeing it anyway. It's the story of two old friends in a tiny Irish village called Tully More, who discover someone in their town has won the national lottery, and attempt to find who it is so they can squirrel their way into sharing the winnings. It's an idea that becomes comically sinister when they find the winner, Ned Devine, has died of shock from his win - from which point a wonderfully written black comedy sets forth as they try and claim the dead man's winning for themselves. Like a lot of comedies like this, it's very well written and acted, and it has a heart, but falls a little bit short direction wise, and we end up with a somewhat flawed, but very entertaining and watchable film. The two old friends (played by Ian Bannen and David Kelly) have wonderful chemistry and produce some truly hilarious moments, and some very poignant ones, especially the one that occurs at Ned's funeral. It doesn't look like my group will be performing this one, after all, at least not this time around - but it would have been a pleasure to try it. I'd most definitely recommend the film, it would make great family viewing.

The Triplets of Belleville
½

This is by far one of the most amazing, original animated films I've ever seen. I've never seen a style like this ever, and it's magical. It takes place in France, and involves a young man with a passion for cycling driven by his grandmother. When he enters the Tour de France he is abducted by mysterious suited men and then it becomes about the grandmother's search for her grandson when she teams up with three aging, eccentric singing ladies. What's especially extraordinary about this film is that its told entirely without the use of dialogue, in this manner almost like a silent film except the singing, music, and other sound in the film is absolutely wonderful, integral, and part of its charm. The animation technique and style is great, in some instances other mediums were used (the ocean in the film actually appeared to be real water with animation overlayed). There is an abundance of originality in the characters and how this world is portrayed. It's also very sweet and has a great, amazingly charming story. This is a landmark in animated film, everyone should see it.

Babel
Babel(2006)
½

The last of the "three amigos" Oscar-nominated films from last year I've seen, Alejandro González Iñárritu's Babel is definitely (like the other Amigos fillms: Pan's Labyrinth and Children of Men) one of the better films from 2006. It tells four inter-connected stories spanning three countries (that thankfully, don't converge): that of two Moroccan boys who accidentally shoot an American tourist, the injured tourist and her husbands' struggles in the country, the American couples' children and their caretaker's trip to Mexico gone wrong, and that of a frustrated young Japanese deaf-mute girl and her father. These four parallel storylines are all handed wonderfully and with grace, and are extremely well done (unlike many other films of this type, where one or more storyline will dominate the other in quality). Every character was very well defined and the acting...by everyone, including the children, is absolutely phenomenal. The directing is slick and the cinematography at times very beautiful - and I should have expected no less from Iñárritu, who proved his directing chops already with Amores Perros and 21 Grams. Another thing I appreciated was how the different cultures in the film were represented accurately and compassionately. This is a great film, and definitely deserved the recognition and praise it has received, and I highly recommend everyone who hasn't seen it to do so immediately!

Ordet (The Word)
½

Ordet is a film, based on a 1925 play, about the power of faith when all else fails. It's about a Danish family on a farm, their clashes in faith with another sect in their own, and what happens when a family member falls ill during childbirth. Being a person completely lacking in faith myself, I took in this film with a sort of outsider's perspective. Be that as it may, I found it to be deeply moving and genuine, and though it's steeped in theological discussion and crises, it doesn't get too heavy handed, nor does it talk down to the viewer. It's an allegorical story about each person coming to terms with their own faith, which is filmed (beautifully) just like a stage-play for the most part, and well acted and adapted. Definite must-see.

Koroshiya 1 (Ichi the Killer)

I'm used to Asian films with a great balance between substance and style, and this was pretty much no different (though there is a bit more of the latter). This is a hyper-stylish, violent-as-hell tale of a killer with serious emotional problems called Ichi who is chased down by the ultra sadomasochistic Kakihara - after Kakihara's gang boss disappears with 300 million yen. It's completely over the top and colourful and very gory and pretty much a rip roaring good time, backed by a decent story, a very good cast, and some very well developed, complex main characters. Tadanobu Asano (Kakihara) and Nao Omori (Ichi), especially, put in fabulous performances - Asano's portrayal of Kakihara was somewhat reminiscent of Gary Oldman's seminal bad-guy performance in Luc Besson's "Leon". Appreciators of Asian cinema, the culture in general, of Anime, and who want to bear witness to one of the most monstrously bloody and cool films ever - should see it. Anyone with an especially weak stomach or who labels themself as a feminist should not - this is definitely not an empowering film for women.

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
½

So ends Chan Wook Park's absolutely stunning and brilliant "Vengeance Trilogy" - this time focusing on a female protagonist, Lee Geum-ja, who seeks revenge on the real culprit, Mr. Baek (played by the star of Oldboy, Min-sik Choi), after being imprisoned for 13 years for the death of a 6-year old boy. This film didn't have quite the same immediate impact of the other two films in the trilogy (Oldboy and Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance), but it was still excellent. Chan Wook Park utilizes a larger cast of characters and crafts a complicated plot (that could be a little confusing for some at first) that unwinds slowly but becomes much simpler (and more powerful) by the second half. Yeong-ae Lee did a brilliant job starring in this film, and she is supported by a really good cast. And although this isn't my favourite of the trilogy, it's definitely the most visually impressive; containing some really striking imagery. Like Oldboy, it ends with one of the most beautiful winter requiem scenes ever - a very satisfying ending note for what is now probably my favourite trilogy after The Godfather.

Persona
Persona(1966)

A very, very interesting and powerful film about an peculiar and intense relationship formed between a recovering actress and her nurse, who both find their personalities melding in some way. This is probably the most psychologically immense film I've ever seen, and it's filmed beautifully, with striking imagery throughout. Bergman is a master and this is clearly one of best films. It's an arthouse classic, and rightfully so.

Little Children

A great film and dissection of modern suburban life, something director Todd Field handled brilliantly on a more rural level with In The Bedroom, which he also does brilliantly here. It's about how things get turned upside down when Ronnie, a sex offender, moves into a typical American town where the parents fill their empty lives by over protecting and, in some way, living through, their children. It's also a film about family, fidelity, and the remarkably large scale of sexual deviance. It's based on a book (which I now very much would like to read) and maintains a very literary feel throughout - the narration used throughout appeared to come straight from the text (including things like the "he saids" and "she thought"), and this took a little getting used to because I've never seen it used like this before - but it was a really cool and unique storytelling technique. So it's a great adaptation. The cast was great, Jackie Earle Haley's performance definitely deserves all the praise it's gotten, and I once again really dug Todd Field's directing. Very good film, I'd definitely recommend it.

Cannibal Holocaust
½

It's impossible to give an accurate rating of this type of film, really. It is what it is. Definitely the most overtly (and at times, unnecessarily) violent film I've ever seen, and one could draw some comment of modern life and man's inhumanity to man from this - but it was done in a very obvious, shove down your throat type of way. Honestly, the human violence wasn't even the worst part. It was sick and extreme, but didn't bother me too much. I saw the uncut version, which includes several acts of animal cruelty which are shown vividly, and were actually performed during filming (real animals really being killed unnecessarily). These scenes added nothing to the rest of the film and just knowing it was actually happening was the most disturbing part of watching this. But hey, at least, now when someone asks "Hey, have you ever seen this crazy movie, Cannibal Holocaust?", I can say, Yep! That was really the only reason I watched it, just to have gone through the experience, not for the merit of the film, because there really isn't much merit to it.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape

So, this was a well written film with a good cast and some solid performances, but plagued with a great deal of technical problems which could not help but affect it. I definitely liked it, although Andie MacDowell starring is a sort of on-and-off experience - James Spader, who I've always really liked, puts in a phenomenal performance as an impotent recluse struggling in a world of upper middle class falseness; he is always fun to watch and this is the best performance I've seen from him. Peter Gallagher plays the sort of role that is tailor made for him (very similar to his role in Donnie Darko) and does it well. If it wasn't for the technical problems, mostly the editing, this could have been a much better film. I had a real problem with both the editing and sound mixing - voiceovers were often used, especially during telephone conversations, and the voice levels during these sequences were really unbalanced and off kilter. The video editing was also very awkward, transitions and scene overlays were handled poorly. This was Soderbergh's feature debut, I believe, and his lack of expertise at that point is self evident. Maybe it was more a question of style, but it just didn't mesh well for me, and it affected how much I could enjoy the film. A decent film, but underwhelming.

Fallen Angels
½

Wow. This film is just a bundle of energy. Very different from later films such as In The Mood For Love, this is the story of the relationship between a hitman ready to leave the business and his partner, entangled with the story of an eccentric mute who sneaks into businesses when they close and forms unique bonds with people. And although this is definitely a very different type of film than one like In The Mood For Love or 2046 - like those films, Fallen Angels is jampacked with sexual energy and has a very strong sense of style. From the immense variety of different, interesting camera angles to the frenetic pace of most of the shots - this is stylistically one of the coolest films I've ever seen. But beneath all that, it's a very, very human film. It focuses on the person to person bond and actually reveals itself to be a completely earthbound tale, reinforcing the title, and creating in the process a very beautiful, aware film wrapped up in a pretty, glossy sheen of style. If you're a fan of Kar Wai Wong, or Asian film in general, this is a must-see.

The Host
The Host(2007)
½

I've come to expect a certain amount of genius and freshness when it comes to Korean films, and The Host doesn't disappoint in that respect. It's a modern monster flick, and the beauty of it is that it doesn't play into the trap that most monster films recently do of taking itself to seriously, nor does it try to do anything completely out of the box (and risk alienating viewers), it's beautiful simplicity. The meat of the story (we're introduced to the monster almost immediately, it isn't hidden at all) involves a father and his family who try and reclaim their daughter, snatched away by the monster. Not only is this film beautifully shot and have some pretty cool effects, it also runs the gamut in terms of emotion. There are times when it's funny, charming, sad, suspenseful, horrific, violent, cute - and it all works and it makes sense and comes together to form a genius re imagining of the classic monster feature. I loved it.

Withnail and I

Brilliantly written, devilishly funny British film about two lower-class struggling actors who go the English countryside for the weekend to escape with the help of Withnail's lecherous, eccentric Uncle Monty. What was most intriguing about this film, I thought, was how it took a look at a rarely examined slice of lower-class London life in the late 1960's, with a generation of young men slightly removed from but feigning a part in the American peace and love movement. The secondary characters were really funny, such as Uncle Monty and the stoner (who I recognized from having later appeared in Wayne's World 2) and hopeful inventor who takes up residence in the boys' apartment when they're gone. I wouldn't say this film is everyone, it had a totally unique sense of humor, and actually takes a very keen eye to certain social issues, although this certainly isn't the main aim. Along with a beautiful ending sequence and two really cool cats in the lead roles - I really dug it.

Harsh Times
Harsh Times(2006)
½

I meant to see this long ago, because I love Christian Bale, but I finally got around to it. I'm not sure why this film was so overlooked at the time of its release, it really is a pretty good film. Christian Bale, proving once again he has the versatility to play any kind of role, plays Jim Davis, an ex-soldier trying to make it on the streets of L.A. with his best friend Mike, played by Freddy Rodriguez. It definitely wasn't a perfect film, Eva Longoria (playing Mike's ball-busting girlfriend) was kind of annoying and looked like a rank amateur next to Bale and Rodriquez (which she is), but fortunately she wasn't overused. The film had a few dry spots and probably could have been 10 or 15 minutes shorter. Overall though, I liked it. Bale slips into the role of a man mentally shaken up by the military system he was spit out of with ease, and Rodriguez does well and plays off the aggressive, disturbed Jim excellently - their chemistry was really, really good. David Ayer (who wrote and produced Training Day) handles his first directing gig pretty well, although it felt like he was channeling Antoine Fuqua's directing a little too closely. If you're a fan of Bale like I am, then you should check this out, as its another really good performance from one of the very best younger actors working today.

Venus
Venus(2006)
½

Wow, what a great film. It stars the legendary Peter O'Toole in the very appropriate role of an aging actor who develops a kinship with a young woman under the care of his friend. It's the best film about old age I've seen since The Straight Story, and the best film about a relationship between an older man and younger man since Lost In Translation. Not to compare it to those, because it's very different, but equally great. I unfortunately admit to not being too familiar with O'Toole's work, from his prime and otherwise - but his performance in here was stellar, honestly one of the best performances I've ever seen; he is utterly honest and funny and at the same time, tragic. Of course that the character is so close to himself in nature had to help, but it's still a monster of a performance. This is definitely an actor's film - the rest of the cast excels, as well, Leslie Phillips is amazing, and the relationship between he and O'Toole's character was so well done and beautiful, the scene when they dance in the church was absolutely magical. Jodie Whittaker plays the object of O'Toole's affection, he calls her "Venus" and it's a great performance for someone so young, I look forward to seeing what she does in the future. All in all, Venus is a great story with some absolutely fabulous acting, and I really dug the writing and directing, too. This should be a widely appealing film, and everyone should see if just to see the legendary O'Toole still entirely on top of his game.

Perfect Blue
Perfect Blue(1999)
½

Enthralling, creepy anime about a woman who makes a move from glitzy, adored pop singer to the world of acting, modeling, and becomes haunted and stalked by what she believes is the pop idol image she sullied by turning to acting. It had a cool concept that was executed well, the animation was unique and top-notch - definitely worth a look.

Akira
Akira(1988)
½

This was a totally amazing film. I knew before seeing it that this one of the most popular Japanese animated films around, but knew little about it. I'm completely taken aback by this beautifully animated and written tale about a boy who becomes the subject of government experimentation and becomes the holder of an immense and terrible power. Far from a light Anime, this is a very powerful and mature film, it's not just some cartoon. I mean, this is just wonderful, and if you have any interest at all in this type of thing, you should see it. The soundtrack was really, really awesome, too, I'm getting it as we speak.

Paris, Texas
Paris, Texas(1984)

All I can say right now, its always been one of my favourites, but after watching it tonight I realized it really sits near the top of the list, and is a perfect film. Wenders' greatest triumph, Harry Dean Stanton's greatest role, an amazingly written and shot film, that is almost beyond words. It really has to be seen by everyone.

Ronin
Ronin(1998)
½

For an action flick, this was fairly solid, I thought. You can never go wrong with either Robert De Niro or Jean Reno, and when they team up it gets better. I enjoyed the rest of the cast, too, with the exception of Natascha McElhone..who I've never really enjoyed. It was a little drawn out, but overall, I kinda dug the directing. The director used some interesting shots that aren't common in mainstream action flicks. Also, this film had some of the coolest car chases I've ever seen in some cool European environments - which actually brings me to another thing I liked; the locations used were really, really cool. I dug having some eyecandy in addition to the action. Overall, its an entertaining film to just sit back and enjoy and not think too much about - Bob De Niro is the fucking man! Don't ever forget it.

Down by Law
Down by Law(1986)

The thing I really like about Jim Jarmusch's films is that are almost always like contained worlds, completely down to earth and true to life, and he also excels at shooting in distinctly American settings. This film is no exception. In it is the story of three inmates; Tom Waits as Zack, John Lurie as Jack, and Robert Benigni as, well, Roberto! It's the very cool, and often hilarious, story of three different people stuck in one place, who then have to work together when Roberto finds a way to escape the New Orleans prison they've been put in. Having Tom Waits starring in your film can never be a downside, and Roberto Benigni is absolutely hilarious - "I scream-ah, you scream-ah, we all scream-ah for ice cream-ah" - I really like John Lurie too, who also starred in the excellent Stranger Than Paradise; and like that film, Jarmusch's writing and directing excels when working with three main characters, it really is a perfect number to work with. If you like Jarmusch at all, check this sucker out.

An Evening with Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder
½

Second part of this dvd series consisting of director Kevin Smith doing Q&As, this time in Toronto and London. This one is much more straightforward in its setup, and Smith goes on a little longer, we don't see him answering as many questions, and it wasn't quite as entertaining as the first one. Still a necessary watch for any fans, though.

An Evening with Kevin Smith

As is clear from his films, Kevin Smith is sharp, witty, funny, and insightful, so if you're a fan of him at all, you should definitely check this out - it's a sort of "best of" of Q&A sessions Smith did at various universities. It's very entertaining, but you'd definitely have to be a fan of the dude to enjoy it - so if you're one of those people, check it out.

Benny & Joon
Benny & Joon(1993)
½

Adorable film about a brother living with and dealing with his mentally ill sister, and then the eccentric Sam, played wonderfully by Johnny Depp, comes along and things change. Although this is definitely one of those intentionally "feelgood" movies with conveniently played music, etc - I still highly enjoyed it. Aidan Quinn played the straight man dealing with two eccentrics quite well, and I found Mary Stuart Masterson's performance to be actually outstanding, her portrayal of a pent up young woman with mild mental illness was extremely well done and believable. Of course, Johnny Depp serves largely as the heart of the movie, as he and Joon fall in love. This would be a really good family or date movie I'd imagine, it is very "feelgood", but in a largely genuine way, and I appreciated that.

Annie Hall
Annie Hall(1977)
½

Probably the best romantic comedy I've ever seen, and a definite precursor to some of my other favourites of that type like High Fidelity or Chasing Amy. Woody Allen is in top form here as both director and actor, and his co-star Diane Keaton, as the titular Annie Hall, is phenomenal. It's a really wonderful film that is so well written and constructed. The story is wonderful and the chemistry between Allen and Keaton (as it was also in Manhattan) is undeniable and allows the film to triumph as one of the best films purely about a relationship I've ever seen.

My Neighbor Totoro
½

A decidedly lighthearted adventure tale by the great Hayao Miyazaki. I've loved all of this guy's animated work up to this point, and this is no different. It's the story of two young girls who move into the country with their father, and in typical Miyazaki fashion, end up encountering a bevy of spirits during their stay, including the sloth-like but kindhearted (and obviously powerful) Totoro. Unlike Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, this is a much more light film that doesn't approach the same types of powerful themes as those films - however it still contains all the heart and majestic beauty one expects to find in a Miyazaki film. Indeed, one of the best features of this film is its wonderful animation, all the settings and characters and creatures look amazing. I wish I'd seen this as a child, as it definitely would have turned me on to a different type of animation that packs a ton of soul.

The Devil and Daniel Johnston
½

Incredibly interesting, well done documentary about an incredibly interesting individual called Daniel Johnston - an underground songwriter who has become an icon in certain circles, and experienced a bevy of mental problems in his life (having been institutionalized several times). This is a very personal documentary about a very solitary individual who creates very quirky (brilliant in its own way) art and music, and its so damn interesting. You don't have to know anything about Daniel Johnston to like this - I didn't know anything about him (except for having seen him interviewed on MTV Canada a couple days ago and being intrigued by that) when I started watching the film, and by the end I was well up to date, and very enriched by the experience. Extremely good documentary about an extremely interesting dude - what's not to like?

Manhattan
Manhattan(1979)
½

Provocative, beautiful, charming, funny - are but a few adjectives I would use to describe this film. It's only the second Woody Allen film I've seen (other was Match Point) so far, and this makes me want to see what all the talk is about and see his other flicks, as well. In many ways, it's a love letter to New York, almost every shot of the film (even some of the interior ones) simply breathe that New Yorkian feeling, one of strong American city built on the working class and home to all classes of all kinds of people. Allen shoots the film in black and white and it works beautifully. One thing he is obviously known for is his speaking scenes, his dialogue, and this movie had some extremely great dialogue. Totally witty and crisp, and with beautiful flow - which works so well in large part due to the cast, who are spectacular. Woody Allen plays Isaac (essentially Woody Allen) and is totally cool and funny, Diane Keaton and Mariel Hemingway were wonderful. This is definitely a classic.

Factotum
Factotum(2006)

Finally, a faithful portrayal of Bukowski's work to the big screen! This is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by the legendary Charles Bukowski, which tells an account of his protagonist Henry Chinaski (who is a synonym for Bukowski himself, pretty much) going from job to job and woman to woman, drinking and writing and hoping for that one acceptance letter, like so many writers. Unlike the awful Barfly in 1987, where Mickey Rourke played Chinaski like a caricature and completely overdid it, Matt Dillon puts in a very inspired performance in Factotum, and actually very successfully captures what one might think of in a young Bukowski; he is subtle and balanced and really captures the essence of the character and the novel. The rest of the cast are good, as well. The only major thing that was changed for the film was that it is set current day, but this isn't a problem, it doesn't affect the adaptation. Clearly everything else was taken straight from the novel - even Dillon's narration was taken either directly from the pages of Factotum or from Bukowki's poetry, which was a very nice touch indeed. I think if Hank had still been alive to see this film, he would probably have been pleased with it, and that's the best compliment I can possibly give it.

The Devil's Backbone (El Espinazo del diablo)
½

Guillermo del Toro is a great director. I absolutely adore his work, from this to Hellboy to the wonderful Pan's Labyrinth. This film is set during the Spanish civil war (a subject del Toro obviously has great interest in) and covers the events after a boy is left in a shelter for orphans, and begins to encounter a ghost called "the one who sighs", and unravel the mystery of the shelter, such as the giant bomb which fell into the middle of the shelter's yard and didn't explode. Guillermo del Toro excels in creating a perfect juxtaposition between fantasy and reality, and he does it here as well. The film has a brilliant, entrancing story and is just done so well - it really makes you question the idea of ghosts and what or who they are. What makes a great film is when it totally transports you to another world for a short time, and this film does that. There's something that is instantly attractive about a film involving the world of children, especially when it involves conflict with older people (as exemplified in Guillermo's Oscar winner Pan's Labyrinth and by many other films such as The 400 Blows). This is another gold star on del Toro's impressive filmography and I highly recommend it.

Spider-Man 3
Spider-Man 3(2007)

So, as everyone was, I was really very hyped to see this film. I mean, it's a new Spidey film, it covers some of the famous symbiote storyline, it includes two great villains (well three, sort of) in Sandman and Venom. And well, it's because of that hype I was let down. Now, it wasn't a bad movie by any means, anyone who is already a fan of the series has to see it, but it is not nearly what it could have been. The fault in the film lies in what was done wrong or mishandled. When Spider-man is taken over by the symbiote, it transforms Peter Parker today, he becomes a completely different person because the symbiote feeds on a person's weakness and brings out their worst qualities. This should have been a very interesting plot point, instead, it was a joke. Apparently all you need to do to transform Peter Parker into a bad guy is muss up his hair, apply some light eyeliner, and throw him into a dance number. The transformation was over the top, and probably meant to be tongue-in-cheek - but much like the "rain drops keep falling on my head" scene in Spider-man 2, it just comes off as ridiculous instead. I think this is in large part due to the fact that Tobey Maguire can only play one character - the wide eyed, puppy-dog like good boy, and I'm starting to see how he really doesn't fit the part that well anymore. As Spider-man gets involved in more mature storylines such as the symbiote, Tobey can't quite cut it.

There were lots of other problems but that was the main one. Now for the good news! Well, it was a pleasant surprise that Topher Grace ended up being the best part of the film as Eddie Brock/Venom. He was excellent, and Venom was done really well, but underused. Sandman was done well, too, and Thomas Hayden Church was of course, also excellent. Some of the connections made with him in the film were a little too convenient, though. The greatest man alive, Bruce Campbell once again came back for a small cameo role, this time as a maitre'd - and was absolutely hilarious. James Franco was excellent, as was Bryce Dallas Howard (also extremely sexy as Gwen). I think that's what is funny about this film - the supporting cast are excellent and always have been, it's the stars of the film (Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst) who are starting to show that they no longer cut it, and this might be a sad truth Sam Raimi has to face.

See it if you've seen the other two or you're a fan of Spider-man, don't bother otherwise.

Gods and Monsters
½

I really wanted to like this film, but in the end, I just had too many problems with it. There were times I just wanted to turn it off, but I plugged through all the same. It speculates on the last days of Frankenstein director James Whale (Ian McKellen), who secludes himself from the rest of the world and becomes increasingly disturbed by his past, striking up an unlikely bond with his young, boarish gardener, Clay Boone (Brendan Fraser). I didn't hate the film - Ian McKellen's performance (as always) was great, Lynn Redgrave as Hanna, Whales' maid and caretaker, was one of the best things about the film, and the writing was good. But I had a lot of problems with it. I'm somewhat biased, but I never have liked Brendan Fraser. There's just something about him I can't stand, but I don't think he's a very good actor either. Here I thought maybe he would finally show his chops - but his starring did nothing to help this film. The way Whales' flashbacks were presented felt very clunky and awkward, I don't know whether that's the fault of the director or editor, but these scenes weren't handled very well (for the most part, there were a couple exceptions). And because of this issue with the flashbacks, the flow of the film felt very off, as well. Maybe this is just one of those either love it or hate it movies, but, for me: even the great work of Ian McKellen couldn't save this film from mediocrity.

Hot Fuzz
Hot Fuzz(2007)
½

With Hot Fuzz, Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost do to the buddy-cop/action thriller what they did to the zombie movie in Shaun Of The Dead - except here they do it ever better. It really is a great flick, with a great cast, with that classic sense of British comedy that cannot be beaten. It's a blast to see in theaters, it was a great theater experience, just like Grindhouse, and will definitely be one of the year's best.

A Simple Plan

I checked out this film after hearing filmmaker Kevin Smith raving about it on the podcast show "Smodcast" he does with Scott Mosier. I'm glad I respect Smith enough to listen. This film, directed by the cool cat behind the Evil Dead and Spider-Man movies, Sam Raimi, was a great thriller in the vein of Fargo (but only in the sense that its set in winter in the Midwest, and involves the trouble a large amount of money causes a group of middle class characters). Raimi takes a basic premise of three characters stumbling upon a lot of money, and the effect their decisions have on them and the people around them. From this simple idea comes a very carefully woven thriller (which is based on a novel) that is extremely engrossing. Partly from the smart directing decisions and Danny Elfman's subtle score, and obviously the writing, but in a large part due to the performances of the lead characters, two brothers played by Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton. Paxton is the more successful brother with a family, while Thornton is an unemployed loner who isn't terribly bright (though not completely dim). In the "Smodcast", Kevin Smith raved about Thornton's performance, saying he became the character rather than acting it, and this is quite true. I gained a completely new respect for Thornton is this film, he lived and breathed his character to the point where the line between the actor and the character was completely blurred. Bill Paxton, too, was excellent. Paxton has always been under appreciated as an actor (his performance in the under looked Frailty was great, as well), and here he shows his chops. This is a film about the greed, betrayal, deception and ultimately, murder, that comes into play when $4.4 million dollars are introduced into the lives of three normal people. It's the classic premise of three ordinary people flung into an extraordinary situation, and it is done very well. I highly recommend it.

Amarcord
Amarcord(1974)
½

Everything I have seen by Federico Fellini thus far I have found immensely enjoyable - and this is no different. Amarcord is apparently a mosaic of Fellini's childhood in the Italian town of Rimini during the 1930's (during Italian Fascism, which plays a role in the film) - it doesn't really have a plot, it's just a series of events in a very vibrant and rich Italian town, as we take a look at the various families and characters that inhabit it, and it really is wonderful. Fellini's mastery in direction and storytelling is in full force here, the film appears utterly authentic and contains a lot of great light hearted humour I've come to expect in his films. I really loved the technique he used of ending each scene in an incomplete rather than complete fade (the screen doesn't fully fade to black before the next scene), which also gives it a cool, episodic feel. Beautifully nostalgic, and full of many truly amazing shots that are nearly unforgettable. While it's true that perhaps this film in scope is rather limited, and doesn't propose to raise itself towards some ultimate theme, as it is obviously a very personal work on Fellini's part - I still found it to be totally endearing, and pretty much on par with the rest of what I've seen from this legendary filmmaker. I think this film would be a good introduction to Fellini somehow, as it's definitely an accessible film, so if you don't know his work and want to, check this out. Do it either way, it's a great piece of work.

Swingers
Swingers(1996)
½

To use the term constantly used by Vince Vaughn's character, Trent, this movie is totally "money". A movie about a group of aspiring actors in their 20s in LA, dealing with women and life and perusing the club and party scene constantly, moving on when one place becomes "dead". The movie was written by Jon Favreau, the very funny man who plays the main character, and his writing skill is quite evident as what makes this movie so awesome is the dialogue and the characters; their chemistry and how they interact with one another. It's just a really cool little movie, with a great soundtrack and cast.

A Very Long Engagement

A very good, almost classical, tale of romance set after World War I - which follows a young woman who goes to great lengths to discover the fate of her fiance, who fought in the war and whose outcome is uncertain. There are a lot of similarities between this film and Amelie - but both are directed by the very talented Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and both star the lovely and charming (and also very talented) Audrey Tautou. Also, the visual and cinematographic style isn't very far removed from Amelie - and initially I thought this to be a detractor from the movie, but around halfway through the movie I didn't think that way anymore, and began to get totally absorbed in the film. There are some very unique things about this film. For one thing it tells a very epic and wonderful tale of romance, and also of war - but it still contains the trademark offbeat humor of Jeunet, it isn't a completely sombre, serious piece by any means, and that really works in its favor. Also the fact that it involves World War I - it isn't often these days that you see a movie involved the first World War, as the much more romanticized WW2 is a more common subject for filmmakers. Another cool thing about the film, though it's a quirky tale of romance, the war scenes were actually very well done and realistic, which shows the director's attention to detail. In the end, it's a very good film packed with style and, like Amelie, a lot of very unique and fun characters, and a very strong and beautiful romance - definitely worth your time.

Hotel Rwanda
Hotel Rwanda(2004)
½

A good film, that is somewhat overshadowed by its subject matter. It details the true story of a hotel manager in Rwanda who is forced to take in hundreds of refugees in his hotel when the Hutu clan starts killing off the Tutsi "cockroaches" in Rwanda, and he eventually becomes their willing savior. It's a pretty good, though not great, film which showcases a very strong performance from Don Cheadle, who I completely respect after this film. I think everyone should see it, but not as much because of the film itself, but more because the thematic content and subject matter are extremely, extremely important, and this film does a great job of bringing those events to life, which has a lasting impact.

Grindhouse
Grindhouse(2007)
½

Rude, crude, full of depravity and sexuality, packed with excessive gore and violence - and a total blast! As expected, Grindhouse was one of the best times I've ever had at the movies. Not being anything close to an expert on the genre (era?) I can't say whether or not it recreates faithfully the grindhouse cinema experience, but with everything from the kick-ass features to the uproarious fake movie trailers to all the other wonderful, imaginative filler, the film is totally funny and energetic and its just really fun to watch, especially when you know the other people in the theater are enjoying it just as much. It's the kind of film that really brings an audience together, which is why it bewilders me that it failed at the box office. Sure, I know much of the general movie-going audience are twits and don't want to sit through anything over the 2 hour mark, but there should have definitely been enough "real movie fans" (read: geeks like me) going out to have made it a hit. But I'm guessing on DVD, it will be massive. I don't really want to get into detail critiquing the features, I enjoyed them both immensely and thought they were very well done. Rodriguez with Planet Terror, was definitely more successful at creating a modern grindhouse film, Tarantino's was moreso a Tarantino film that payed homage to grindhouse. I don't hold that against it though, they were both a blast. If you still have access to this in theaters, SEE IT. I can only imagine it having full effect in a theater setting. If not, check it out when it comes on DVD. Grindhouse is great, over the top, unapologetically twisted, and a smashing good time.

Gangster No. 1
½

I blind bought this film on DVD the other day, after a recommendation from a friend and after looking at the case and realizing Malcolm Fucking McDowell was in it!! Anyway, this is a supremely cool, ultra stylistic (and at times, brutal) look at the life of a British gangster (as an older man, played by McDowell, and for the majority of the film by Paul Bettany, as a younger man), who lives in the shadow of and eventually usurps power from the ultra smooth Freddy Mays (David Thewlis). Just to take care of the bad first, the one thing I didn't like about the film is the inconsistency - the directing technique was packed with jazz and style (a little much at times) and all sorts of different techniques, but then the filmmaker just sort of turned this off for the second half of the film, and it became a much more stylistically grounded and brutal film. The whole flashback (which comprises 90% of the film) was sporadically narrated by McDowell from the present, although it was more of a commentary than a narrative, this also worked sometimes and not sometimes. Other than that though, this was a really cool film for people who love gangster films. I dug the story of the man living in the shadow of his master, who becomes totally consumed with trying to become him, until he gets to the point where he has forgot himself. The performances of both McDowell and Bettany were absolutely phenomenal. I was never very familiar with Paul Bettany's work before now but I want to see more of him, because he awesome here, totally and utterly deadly. I am so glad to see McDowell in another really good role like this, too. Overall, this is a somewhat flawed, but still very good film, and it would be highly enjoyed by anyone into the gangster genre, if you are, check it the fuck out.

Children of Men

An exceptionally made futuristic thriller by one of the "three amigos" from this year's Oscars, Alfonso Cuarón. This beautifully shot film stars Clive Owen as a man tasked with protecting the only pregnant person on a dark, futuristic world where everyone has become infertile. There was a lot to like about this film. The story was damn well done, first of all, it wasn't really sci-fi based at all, despite being in the future, and I liked how the movie didn't really try to explain (and thus become over scientific and redundant) the infertility and other social problems, it just set them in place and placed these characters within the world Alfonso Cuarón created (most of the plot advancements were very subtle as well) - and it is a fully realized world. The almost post-apocalyptic Britain portrayed here was so incredibly detailed, Cuarón obviously went to great care to painstakingly create this world from the ground up, and it really shows. His close-in, claustrophobic direction was very effective at times, and the cinematography was so well done, there were many very striking shots. I've never seen smoke better used than in this film, as well. Clive Owen is starting to remind me almost of James Stewart; in the way (especially in this film) he often seems like the sophisticated, but gritty lonesome wolf stuck in yet another sticky situation. He really is a very talented guy. You have to love Micheal Caine, showing his exceptional range again, this time playing an aging, wise-cracking stoner. This is a very good movie in a year filled with very good movies. Check it out.

Twin Peaks - Fire Walk with Me
½

It definitely seems like this must be one of Lynch's most under appreciated works, because I loved it from the first frame to the very last. Stylistically (also chronologically) falling somewhere in between Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive - this film tracks (as Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire do) a fiery blond protagonist being swallowed into some other world. This is definitely one of Lynch's most twisted and challenging films - he has become one of my very favourite directors and truly, he is in top form here. What is great about this film, and is true of most of his work, is that there are just so many interpretations and inferences one can draw from the film, any number of themes you might apply to it, any number of different ways to examine, or you can choose to just sit back and take in the expect directing work, the totally weird and mystifying images, and one of Angelo Badalamenti's best scores. The cast is a bevy of interesting characters, all (well) acted in that distinct intense, over the top style that is typical of Lynch's films. This is a prequel to a television series Lynch did, and this definitely makes me want to check that out. On its own, though, this totally ranks in quality up there with Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive and Eraserhead and all of Mr. Lynch's other fucked up, wonderful films. This one culminates especially well in an almost operatically twisted ending which had me in tears. This certainly didn't make me love the dude any less, and if you're a David Lynch fan at all, you really need to see this film.

Short Cuts
Short Cuts(1993)

A slick ensemble film by director Robert Altman based in L.A. I heard about this film in connection with it being based on the work of Raymond Carver, who is one of my favourite writers. I definitely see this after having watched it; the film paints a picture of dark suburban American life that Carver often focused on, and I think it's this inspiration that makes the film so special. There are a lot of similarities to later ensemble films like Magnolia or even Crash. Considering Magnolia's director P.T. Anderson was a co-director on Altman's last film, A Prairie House Companion, one can assume this film was definitely an influence on Anderson's ensemble masterpiece from 1999. It's similar to Crash in that it's an ensemble film that deals with racial issues and the death of a child based in L.A. - but unlike Crash, this is actually a very good film. Also unlike Crash, it deals with the racial issues present in a very subtle way which I really appreciated (the fact that the issues were so obviously presented and shoved down your throat is what I most hated about Crash). The other themes are not as subtle, but still handled very smoothly and with class - Altman's direction (I admit to not being extremely familiar with his work) is very graceful, his use of the songs of one of the characters, a night-club jazz singer, throughout the film and the awesome jazz soundtrack that was present almost throughout worked very well. The cast, and their acting, was overall very good. There were a couple sour apples (Andie MacDowell gets a little overbearing near the end), but they don't ruin the bunch - as the film exhibits solid performances from Chris Penn (great to see him in a more meaty role than usual), Bruce Davison, Tim Robbins, Madeleine Stowe, Peter Gallagher, and the great Jack Lemmon. It's always a pleasure as well to see Tom Waits acting (especially in something beyond a small cameo-type role), and he does very well. Overall, this is a very good episodic movie with a literary feel, I'd definitely recommend checking it out.

Downfall (Der Untergang)
½

This is definitely the best World War 2 film focusing on Hitler I've ever seen - it is completely and utterly riveting. The movie itself is very good, but the performance by Bruno Ganz (Wings of Desire) elevates it to an entirely other level - similar to how Forest Whittaker's performance elevates The Last King Of Scotland. Ganz is a brilliant actor, and his portrayal of Adolf Hitler is by far the greatest ever, and the most accurate. Ganz completely nails everything about Hitler - from his voice to his mannerisms and gestures. It's simply of one of the best performances, of any sort, of all time. What I found especially wonderful about the film, and thing that is the source of all the controversy around it, is that it has the guts to show Hitler for who he really was: a human being. Up until now, Hitler is always portrayed as either as a complete monster or a caricature. In Downfall, we see him eat, we see him as a dog lover, as an affectionate husband, as a father figure, as a kindly old gentleman. Of course, we also see him as the raving megalomaniac who drove an entire nation towards world annihilation; but that was just one side of the man, finally, we have a film that shows us, like any other person, there were many sides to Adolf Hitler. Besides this, the film is well directed and written, overall quite well made. The outdoor scenes are very visceral, and the indoor scenes (in the bunker where Hitler spent his last days) are appropriately claustrophobic. Overall, this is definitely the most completely brave and honest film involving World War 2 ever made, and it is a shining example of how great and daring German cinema continues to be into the new millennium.

Shortbus
Shortbus(2006)
½

I'm kind of on the fence about this one. There were parts of it I didn't like - parts that reminded me of bad encroaching on soft-core porn movies that come on Showcase, and there were parts of it that were excellent. Pretty much everything about the movie was hit or miss for me, including the acting, the writing, the directing. Don't get me wrong, there were some beautiful moments. The ending sequence is wonderful, and how New York was a little paper cut out city instead of actual shows of the city was really cool. I don't know. I liked it, but I didn't love it. Very hard to describe, maybe after seeing it again I can give a better review.

Head-On
Head-On(2005)
½

Part of my post-war German film course. This is a tragic and totally raw film about Sibel, a young Turkish woman living in Germany and the man, Cahit, she chooses to "pretend marry" in order to appease her devoutly Turkish family so she can freely live her desired life of abundant sexuality (with many men) and partying. It becomes a love story when the two, inevitably, fall in love. I loved pretty much everything about this film. I appreciated the richness of the characters. The soundtrack was awesome and enhanced the film a lot. The cinematography and editing were totally neat and brilliantly done; the technique was used, for example, of hearing the first couple seconds of each scene before it actually appears, and this gave the film a continuous, unrippled flow despite the vivacity of the shots. The writing was swell, and the acting was great - major kudos to Sibel Kekilli (Sibel) and Birol Ünel (Cahit), their performances were both stellar. Birol Ünel has to be one of the coolest motherfuckers on the planet, as well.

The film comes off as totally authentic, and deals with a lot of serious issues, such as suicide, alcholism/drug addiction, the role of family, fidelity. And all of this was dealt with more than adequately by Fatih Akin's intelligent filmmaking, making great use of parallelism and symbolism and other thematic techniques that really presents us with something to think about. Its just totally realistic, and sensual, and funny, and at times, beautiful. This is a wonderful film, and if you get the chance - see it!

The Last King of Scotland

A solid political thriller that (quite deservedly) garnered Forest Whitaker the Best Actor Oscar this year. Whitaker's performance was remarkable, not surprisingly because he is a great actor. I don't know much about Amin so I don't know how accurate he was portrayed in the film - but considered how well done the rest of the film is, I can only assume its accurate. From the first time we see Whitaker as Amin, speaking to a crowd of Ugandans just after he has come to power, his presence is simply electric. At times he is magnetically charming, and at others viciously intense and scary. For an actor to capture such a personality is quite a feat.

However, the story follows Amin's tale through the eyes of his physician, Nicholas (James McAvoy), a Scottish doctor who had come to Uganda looking for an adventure, and finds himself locked into the sumptuous but deadly lifestyle involved with being so close to Amin. I wasn't familiar with his work so much, but McAvoy does a fine job in this film. I didn't find much to dislike about this film. It was shot in a very close-in style that pretty much worked. There were some awkward transitions, though, and the pacing seemed almost a little too quick. A more character-based way of looking at it might have worked better. Other than that, though, the film is pretty solid. It was very respectful of Ugandan/African culture, as well. It's a good film, but Whitaker's powerhouse performance rockets it to excellence. A must see.

Rosenstrasse
Rosenstrasse(2004)
½

Part of my post-war German film course. This is a very good WW-II era film, which focuses on an event I wasn't aware of and I don't think has been covered before, so right out of the gate, the concept is at least totally unique. Its a very definably German film about the protest of German women whose Jewish husbands have been imprisoned around 1943 (I think this was the year, might have been '42). It has a decidedly feminist agenda, but I don't see how this can be avoided considering the nature of the story. In the end, its a pretty powerful, emotional tale that contains a great performance by Katja Riemann and the work of clearly talented director. It comes off as somewhat by the numbers, but I think it would be very, very hard not to like this film. It just has a universal resonance, and it is quite well done, and respectful to the subject matter.

Million Dollar Baby
½

Good, but not as good as I had expected. Considering all the great things I've heard about it, the hype around its release, and the fact that it won four Oscars - I expected something truly great, but it truly fell short, for me. Don't get me wrong, its a very good film with a great performance by both Clint Eastwood and Hilary Swank, and some swell directing by Eastwood, but there were certain things that held it back from "great" status, for me. One thing was the narration by Morgan Freeman's character. I liked the character himself, but the narration was flimsy and ultimately unnecessary. In my opinion, narration should only ever be used when it's doing one of two things: either relaying pertinent information that isn't told within the film itself, or adding something to the film - in Million Dollar Baby, it did neither. However, it was sparsely used, so it didn't detract a whole lot. The inclusion of the element of Maggie's family also seemed ultimately unnecessary. They were totally bland Southern stereotypes, and while it was meant to be this way, I felt myself wondering why Eastwood had ever bothered mentioning them at all, let alone featuring them in a couple scenes. I think the story of Maggie and Frankie would have been just as effective, if not more so, without the family element coming in. There were some other small issues, but those were my major concerns.

That being said, I don't know if this really deserved four Oscars, but it is a noble effort that created a very good, but somewhat disappointing film. I'd recommend it because it obviously has a very wide appeal, and is a powerful story, but don't be surprised if you are underwhelmed, as I was.

300
300(2007)

In seeing this film, prepare yourself for a sensory feast. Much like was done with Sin City (also based on the work of Frank Miller) - Zack Snyder creates an incredible world that faithfully and successfully translates a beautiful comic book story into a beautiful film. One thing that surprised me, and I guess others, was there was much less "action" (ie: actual battle scenes) than the trailers would have you believe. However, this is forgivable, because the battle scenes that are present are some of the best, if not the best, sword to sword combat scenes ever put on film. These scenes are just breathtaking, and Snyder uses some really cool and unique directing techniques to emphasize every fluid movement, and glorify every single death to some degree. This is, at its core, simply a very very cool movie. One can't help but grin at the little touches that make certain moments standout.

It plays out like an epic of mythology (indeed, it comes from a significant piece of comic book mythology so this is appropriate). This is by no means a historical film. Though it is somewhat based on an actual historical event, it wasn't made to be accurate or realistic in any way, there are many elements of the mystical and sublime at work here, which is definitely the right approach to have taken. I can nothing but good things about Snyder's directing. The acting is good, not great. It gets the job done. And let's face it, when you're going to see 300 you should know what you're in for, you should know you won't find a completely serious work. You expect a action-packed film drenched in style - and 300 meets this expectation and then some. In the end, while this film didn't quite reach the heights of Sin City, it's a great adaptation I'd recommend to anyone who can deal with all the bloodshed (which can get graphic sometimes, but is mostly stylized, not realistic).

Mou gaan dou (Infernal Affairs)
½

This is a great film, very indicative of the quality I've come to expect from Asian cinema. It is the basis for Martin Scorsese's Oscar-winning crime saga, The Departed - which I saw first. In watching Infernal Affairs I really respected what Scorsese did with The Departed more, because it isn't just a remake, but a very active re-imagining. They're very different films, and both brilliant in their own way. The soundtrack kicked my ass. Even from the credits, I was loving the music, and it stayed consistently amazing throughout the film. Just as Leonardo DiCaprio was my favourite thing about The Departed - Tony Leung, who plays the equivalent of DiCaprio's character, was my favourite part of this film. He's simply an amazing actor, and I am constantly amazed by the quality of his work. Though he's no Jack Nicholson, Eric Tsang was fucking great, though I felt his character wasn't featured as prominently as Nicholson's in The Departed, and that was a little disappointing. The cast was all good, though. The direction was overall pretty solid. One thing that surprised me is that, I expected (based on what I have seen from Asian cinema so far) Infernal Affairs to be a much more violent and bloody affair than The Departed (which had plenty of that), but it was considerably less. Instead this discrepancy was filled with the the slickness and style that oozed out of the pores of this film, rather than the more gritty approach Scorsese took. They both work, this is a more refined, just as well done, envisioning of this material, and I loved it.

Barfly
Barfly(1987)
½

Disappointing, to say the least. I had never even heard of this movie, until it was covered in the documentary Bukowski: Born Into This - you see this script was apparently written by American literary legend, Charles Bukowski, in the later stages of his life (he has a brief cameo in the film). What it mentioned in the documentary was that Bukowski and his wife were quite disappointed in how the film turned out, and I can see why now. The script was written about his alter-ego, Henry Chinaski, who was the protagonist of much of his work in poetry & prose. Chinaski is basically a different version of himself, and as such, Rourke is essentially playing Charles Bukowski, and he fails in this respect. Rourke's performance is a somewhat over-the-top caricature. The script is great but Rourke's delivery saps a lot of meaning out of most of the material, leaving us with a vacuous dark comedy. I think a lot of that is also due to the director, Barbet Schroeder, though - he really doesn't show much respect for the material, and the fact that most of this would have come from Bukowski's actual life. He puts his own spin on it, but it really spins out of control and becomes something that, while watchable, you get the sense was meant to be an entirely different monster. Even Faye Dunaway, who I usually love, doesn't add much to the proceedings. It's an okay film, but I can't really recommend it. In the end it just made me want a drink.

Werckmeister Harmonies

I am in total awe with this movie. Total awe. A decadent, surreal, introspective masterpiece. Words can not even begin to describe how fully affected I was by this movie. The directing was fucking incredible - every single second of every single frame was filled with purpose, the director had a tendency of staying with a scene for minutes, even, after a main character leaves the frame, no matter how minimal the action, that I found ingenious. The director was not afraid to get as close as possible to show the beauty in every human face, no matter how imperfect, and to stay with his characters' movement. No matter how repetitive, these shots always worked, especially when the actors filled the pregnant silence with their expressions or just mere presence. There were so many incredible shots, all of them more than notable. I also loved how the camera was almost constantly in movement, there were few completely still shots. The actors were brilliant, especially the lead - he had a quiet, intense dignity reminiscent of someone like Klaus Kinski that fascinated me. The story was surreal and so bloody potent, the final shot had me in tears not from any particular emotional drag but from the mere beauty of it and the power of what I had just witnessed. By all means, this is not for everyone, it requires a lot of patience. This is not just entertainment, this is a film that absolutely requires you to think about what you are viewing and ask questions, even if they aren't answered right away. But it is the most amazing film I have seen in quite some time, and has instantly become a favourite.

Lat sau san taam (Hard-Boiled)
½

It doesn't get much cooler than this. Generally considered one of the classic Hong Kong action thrillers, it stars Yun-Fat Chow and Tony Leung Chiu Wai as two supercops (one is undercover). Its basically a series of shootout and confrontation scenes in diverse (and explosive) locations, set atop a very loose narrative about gun running. As far as action goes, though, this is brilliant. I don't think I've ever seen this many people die in a film that isn't a war movie. Everything is done in the typical Hong Kong style, which you can tell was a big influence on a lot of American action directors, and played out against a smooth jazz soundtrack (which does get old sometimes, by the way). The action was way cool, and the work of the two main actors was good (I always love the work of Chiu Wai, he is by far my favourite Asian actor), there are some elements of the film that don't reach the same level. But the bottom line is, when you watch this movie you are expecting to see some great, balls to the wall action, and the film delivers that in spades.

Alphaville
Alphaville(1965)

There's certainly a lot going on in this film. It's a futuristic French post-modern sci-fi noir, among other things. It tells the story of an Americanized detective called Lemmy Caution (played brilliantly by Eddie Constantine) who is sent to a (very weird) space city called Alphaville, where love and self expression are outlawed. Very early on, this film reminded me of a few works of literature, such as William S. Burroughs' "Nova Express" and Huxley's "Brave New World" - because it explores some similar ideas and themes. In how this film is made though, I can see no relative (except the other work of the director, Jean-Luc Godard) - it is distinctly fresh and original in the way it is filmed, and decidedly art house. At times during this film can be a drawback, but overall it worked. There's an element of absurdity and black comedy present, and I the parallel between Alphaville and the France of the 50s and 60s is very interesting. Godard must have been in his prime when making this, because the direction is definitely exceptional. His use of lighting is phenomenal. Overall, this will probably be one of the weirdest movies you will probably ever see, but I'd recommend you do.

Stranger Than Paradise

A slick, gritty little film that had me truly appreciating for the work of Jim Jarmusch for probably the first time. This is a fervently realistic look at the day-to-day lives and adventures of three aimless souls: Willie and his best friend Eddie, two New York hipsters (and wannabe hustlers) , and Willie's Hungarian cousin, Eva. It is told in an episodic manner, with several main sections and each scene like a mini sub-chapter, with fades to black between each. I think that was one of the things I liked most, is the structure - it's really neat. Another thing I appreciated was the fact that Jarmusch chose not to take the obvious sexual/romantic path many other directors would with this story. Instead, he maintains the (somewhat minimal but still present) sexual tension throughout the entire film. The acting is quite flat, but this only added to the down-to-the-grit realism. Its a slow movie with no real payoff or consequences, minimal conflict. It doesn't really go anywhere (though, I think this is the natural path for these particular characters to take), and while that didn't bother me it probably would a lot of people. A great movie if you're in the mood for a laid back indie road movie.

Fanny & Alexander
½

This mature fairy tale is based around one particularly strong willed boy (Alexander) and his sister (Fanny), their upper class Swedish family, and the time they spend living under a tyrant when their well meaning mother carries them along into a new marriage like baggage, not knowing what awaits them. This is the third film I've seen by Ingmar Bergman (first in colour) - and it is filled with vibrant characters, images, spirits, and a riveting plot. Bergman expertly intertwines the metaphysical, fantastic aspects of the story along with his shrewd take on the trivialities of daily life, all backed by a study of the relationship of a very close knit family. I think what I really appreciated most about this movie was how alive the characters were. Bergman has an amazing ability, as is evident in the other films of his I've seen, to bring alive all of the characters in his films so that we almost instantly understand who they are. and what place they have in the film. Fanny & Alexander is a wonderful, rapturous film by a true master filmmaker.

Smokin' Aces
Smokin' Aces(2007)
½

A more solid movie than I expected. Typically, when an ensemble crime film like this is concocted it ends up aiming too high and falling flat in many ways - this, however, was a kick-ass ride pretty much throughout. As is bound to happen, the plot gets a little complicated at times, but never to an unbearable amount. I dug the characters, from the gaggle of hitmen to the really full-bodied characters played by Ryan Reynolds and Jeremy Pivens - who both contributed great performances. All of the supporting cast was good, too, there wasn't really a dud in the bunch. The film is put together pretty well, the directing as o.k., and the monstrous climax really has to be seen to be believed. This is an extremely violent, gory action flick though, definitely don't take the kids to it - but if you want to be entertained it'll do the job and then some. Nice to see a verbose popcorn action film with some body to it.

Hour of the Wolf (Vargtimmen)

This totally strange, and very disturbing, "horror" film by Ingmar Bergman plays out much like an Edgar Allan Poe tale (that's a good thing, by the way). There's just something about a story set on an isolated island that is inherently scary, so that helps - but besides that this movie really is very scary (beautiful at the same time), just not in any obvious way. The utterly dark world Bergman creates places us right in there with the characters played Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann as they face a series of strange encounters with a group of people (ostensibly human) who live in a sprawling, shadowy mansion on the other side of the island. The work of both actors is phenomenal, and the actors playing the antagonists are all very good at being subtly very frightening. Definitely worth checking out.

Das Boot
Das Boot(1981)
½

Part of my post-war German film course. This is an interesting film to watch when you think about how it shows the emergence of some American ideas of filmmaking within German cinema. Its an entertaining thrill ride and has its low points and high points. High points: unsurmountable tension, some striking images, very successful at recreating the type of claustrophobic conditions German submarine operators would be in. Low points: Few standout actors, almost too linear plot, no clearly definable style. An early, entertaining war thriller that despite its flaws, definitely has its place in film history.

Keane
Keane(2005)
½

Personally, I really loved this film. It wasted no time with niceties - taking us right into the fray with the main character William Keane (Damian Lewis) frantically asking at a ticket counter about his missing daughter and it takes us right out of the action when the film is over. This isn't a typical Hollywood-style film at all and that's one of the things I enjoyed about it - 95% of the time the camera is trained on Lewis, usually from a close-up of following side angle. While most people might not like this sort of thing I loved it because it allowed me to focus carefully on Lewis, because his work here in phenomenal. The only other thing I saw him in yet was Dreamcatcher - and though that was a very mediocre film I could tell Lewis has talent in that, and he was definitely the most enjoyable thing about it. This success or failure of this film depended entirely on his performance and he did very, very well. He very much did not give the type of performance you would expect from most actors, it was very contained and (true to his very unstable, schizophrenic character) I felt that he could explode at any second, much like someone like Klaus Kinski. He never did explode though, which was a wise acting choice (or directing choice, probably both). It was nice to see some of Abigail Breslin's earlier work here, if this film is why she was chosen for Little Miss Sunshine I can see why, she's one of the best child actors in quite some time. This is a very no-frills, well constructed, unconventional film that I'd recommend for anyone looking for something a little different from an American director.

Winter Passing
½

I liked this film. I expected to love it, but I just liked it. It's kind of a hard film to connect to, at first and throughout - but all the same Zooey Deschanel's character Reese is pretty much our main link throughout the film and though I haven't seen any of her other work, she was really good here, and it is quite a beautiful woman. The cast is very good but none of the others characters get to do a lot. However, they were all entertaining and interesting in their own ways. Ed Harris put in a very respectable performance as the Reese's father, the recluse writer. Will Ferrel's character was very downplayed but effective, and here he simultaneously reinforces his ability to be a completely down key source of humor and proves to be effective at drama. The story is ultimately unimportant as it serves mostly as a backdrop for the four main characters - ultimately this is a depressing film full of depressing characters (heck, even the title is depressing), but I liked it and I'd probably recommend it.

North by Northwest
½

Classic Hitchcock. It was interesting when watching this the first time to note all of the scenes from this movie that have become so ingrained into pop culture they are repeated over and over (and many cases have becomes cliches) - the crop duster scene and the climax, for example. I really dig Cary Grant and he was great here with all his charm, suaveness, and sarcasm intact. Eva Marie Saint was the classic leading lady, and it all worked. It's movies like this that have made Hitchcock a legend and it's easy to see why - the film is masterfully crafted and builds up to one of the most awesome, classic endings in film history. Must see for movie fans, check it out.

Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny

I can't see anyone but die-hard fans of The D enjoying this film - but luckily I am one of those! It is enjoyable and has a lot of great in-jokes for fans, and definitely keeps in the spirit of the band. That being said, this had the potential to be ALOT funnier. I expected more, but I had a good time. I dug the cameos and how it was basically a self-narrating musical, as well, very appropriate. A decent movie that could have been much better, but still a must-see for fans of JB & KG.

My Best Fiend (Mein liebster Feind - Klaus Kinski)

A revealing documentary that is highly entertaining, especially if you are a fan of the work of Herzog and or/ Klaus Kinski. They made some fantastic films together and this well designed documentary answers a lot of questions and is at times, very amusing and also very touching sometimes - especially the last image of the enigmatic Kinski handling a butterfly in the jungle. This is the second documentary I've seen by Herzog and its a style he obviously excels at.

La Dolce Vita

An absolutely wonderful film about a socialite journalist caught up in the decadent Roman society of the 60s. The character of Marcello I found interesting, at first its not clear what his occupation is, but we know he is trapped in a moral, photogenic abyss that he seems to love - it is as the film progresses that we learn a lot more about his true unhappiness and his search to find himself. This is the second Fellini film I have seen and I'm starting to appreciate why he is considered one of the true legends - La Dolce Vita is chock-full of stark, beautiful shots that stick with you after the film is over - such as the shot of the beautiful Sylvia bathing in the Trevi fountain (I've been there so I know what beauty it inherently holds) and the striking scene around the miracle tree. This is a busy film, as well, it is almost overwhelming at times trying to keep up with all the action and the ideas running around, but it the end it culminates and I found the ending scene itself to be absolutely wonderful, and also sad in what it ultimately says about the lead character. Beautiful. Classic. See it.

The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys
½

This is a cute movie that, while it never reaches the realm of excellence, is a very enjoyable ride - for the most part. Its a story about a group of Catholic boys and their struggle with the oppressive authority figure(s) hanging over their heads. One of the main things I drew from it though was how extreme their actions were, when it wasn't called for - what happens to Kieran Culkin's character is a prime example of this. As such this serves as a theater for the folly of youth, and it definitely works in that way. There are some very interesting ideas at work here - for example the parallel narrative of the comic-book heroes drawn by the main character (in cartoon form alongside and reflecting the main narrative). That part of it really separated this from any other movie, though I'm not sure how much it added in the long run. There were some neat camera tricks used, as well. The one thing that was abundantly clear after watching this movie was that it is made for a specific age group or generation - even at age 20 I found it hard to relate to the teenage characters. However, its still a good movie with some good acting (Vincent D'Onofrio represent! even though he's underused), and I recommend watching it.

Stroszek
Stroszek(1977)

A great oddity of a film based around an alcoholic and his two companions being displaced to rural Wisconsin. Herzog keeps to his standard of not delivering a Hollywood-style payoff and that is one of the things I liked about this film, and all of his movies I've seen. I wonder if this film had any influence on Win Wenders' Paris, Texas - because a lot of the later stages of Stroszek seemed almost a prelude to some of the images Wenders used in that film. A good film with an ending that is a theatre of brilliant absurdity that just has to be seen.

Princess Mononoke (Mononoke-hime)
½

A glorious work of art. The thing I appreciate most about this film and what I also loved about Spirited Away is the ease in which Miyazaki transports us into these beautiful, lush fantasy worlds. Here the story is set in a magical version of feudal Japan which is populated by great animal spirits and tribes as well as humans. What I found especially impressive about this film is the number of powerful (and relevant to today) themes that the director tackles - such as nature vs man/industry, war, love, family, etc. Besides being an infectiously entertaining fantasy/adventure romp this is a potent film with potent themes than enhance and enrich the film very much. Like Spirited Away, an important animated film that has to be seen.

Pan's Labyrinth
½

This film was everything its cracked up to be. I had complete faith in Guillermo del Toro making a fantastic film and he didn't let me down. His directing was, as usual, unconventional and ballsy - not to mention his fantastic writing. He weaves one of the most spellbinding fantasies in quite a while. The effects are makeup were totally amazing and are totally convincing - there was so many brilliant little touches (such as the living mandrake root). The acting was phenomenal all around the board. This film totally traps you in its wondrous labyrinth and does not let go - here's to hoping it gets all the love it deserves at the Oscars.

The 400 Blows (Les Quatre cents coups)
½

I had a full review written for this but it wouldn't let me post it for like three days properly so I'm not going to bother now. But to summarize, this is a really great film and I highly recommend it!

Dawn of the Dead

I had been avoiding seeing this film up to now, because I have so much respect and really love Romero's 1978 classic and I didn't want to see it tarnished in any way. My main reason for finally caving as that I realized the director Zack Snyder is the same man who has directed the upcoming 300 (which I'm more exciting about than I think I've been for any other movie), so I wanted to take a look at some of his work. What I saw was pretty good as far as remakes go, and didn't disrespect the original, which is what I feared most. I liked the acting, I liked Snyder's directing, there were some standard horror foupats but other than that it was a pretty enjoyable ride. It was a lot less gory or violent than I expected, maybe even less than the original. While I still think this remake was completely unnecessary (if this is the only version of Dawn you've seen, please please check out the original) but I don't regret having seen it, it wasn't bad.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley
½

A strong film about the strife in 20th century Ireland. Ultimately it was about two brothers who take completely seperate paths in the name of defending their country and the tragic consequences of that - but if there was one problem I had with the film it's that the connection between the brothers is underdeveloped for a lot of the movie. I was not even aware that the two characters were related until well into the film. But this aside, this is a really accurate and stirring film about Ireland and the people who fought to defend their country from the Brits. Cillian Murphy, Padraic Delaney, and Liam Cunningham were standouts in this movie, and I liked the way it was directed. A good film about some strong people based in a very important part of history that isn't without some minor flaws.

Angel Heart
Angel Heart(1987)
½

A strange film that really tried but is ultimately very flawed. It strived for some great reveal at the end and a spellbinding plot but the plot was extremely predictable, as were the characters. Any mystery created is very shortly dispelled (it doesn't take a genius to figure out the nature of De Niro's character as soon as the very scene he is introduced). There were some redeeming things. Mickey Rourke was the least shallow part about the movie and he did well, De Niro, of course, was great in the few times he was on screen, but you can tell the part was not exactly a stretch for him. A lot of it was fairly entertaining but it just wasn't a very good movie, watchable at best.

Volver
Volver(2006)

An awesome little film. I'm lucky I was able to focus because most of the time I was utterly awestruck by Penelope Cruz's immeasurable beauty. She plays a strong single mother who takes everything that is thrown at her (quite a lot) in this film in stride. She was fantastic, as was all of the cast. The film seemed to borrow equal parts from absurdism and classic realism and it rode a fine line between these at all times, most of the time it comes off as a very charming film with some very unique and extreme circumstances, all grounded in a very beautiful story about a Spanish family. The film was shot beautifully and the locations were classic. I don't think I've realized all there is to this film from one viewing, but I very much enjoyed the first watch. Highly recommended.

The Descent
The Descent(2006)

This was a fucking great horror film. I wanted to see it since it was released and I'm glad I finally did. I liked Neil Marshall's film Dog Soldiers, even if it was fundamentally weak - it was still enjoyable. This time around he really brought out the directing chops, though. He must have learned quite a lot between now and then. This removes itself so much from the usual jive of modern horror films, right up there with the likes of The Devil's Rejects. Paranoia, fear, darkness, fury, madness, blood, and some good ol' violence - all of this and more. The story is simple and that's all it needs to be, the premise is more than enough to craft a great horror flick from and Marshall did that in spades. The characters were all believable and well rounded, and Marshall really excels (this was evident even in Dog Soldiers) in putting his characters in compromising situations in inventive ways - which I think is essential for a good horror flick. This is a bloody, claustrophobic marvel that is extremely well made.

The Devil Wears Prada

This was a bit of a disappointment for me - I meant to see it in theaters but finally rented it. I expected something a little more refreshing, but it follows a pretty basic formula, with a few detours. However, it isn't a bad movie by any means. Meryl Streep was fantastic and so was Anne Hathaway; Hathaway is an absolute beauty and lit up every frame she appeared in. The relationship between her character Andrea and her boyfriend Nate was really flimsy and the chemistry was nonexistent, the actor who played Nate annoyed me, as well. The soundtrack got a little overbearing, at times, and a little too much montage use. But other than that it looked great, and it was entertaining, and despite being a little too formulaic it was worthwhile light entertainment.

Touch of Evil

This is one of the best murder-mystery film noirs I have ever seen! The only other directing work I have seen by Orson Welles is Citizen Kane, but this made me fully appreciate what a brilliant director (and actor) he was. The film is brilliantly mapped out, though I did find it a little hard to follow at times. It looks and tastes great, though. Charlton Heston was fantastic, as was Janet Leigh, and Orson played the perfect corrupt cop. This is a brilliant movie from a great era, I loved it.

Jackass: Number Two

You get exactly what you ask for in watching this movie, and that isn't a bad thing. I enjoyed the majority of the stunts and jokes that were filmed here. A couple of them went too far, but this is also to be expected and is easily taken in stride with everything else. It's funny, and gross, and everything you could possibly expect, and done effectively in that. No new fans will be made of this but it will keep the current ones. I'm a closet fan, and I liked it.

Fitzcarraldo
Fitzcarraldo(1982)

One of the most ambitious film projects I've ever seen. Herzog brings us back to the jungle in a film of equal or even greater scope than Aguirre - and like that film, Klaus Kinski delivers an inspired performance as the eccentric entrepreneur who seeks to bring the magic of opera to parts unknown. I love Herzog's direction, much of the film is shot in a very documentary-like way and a lot of what is done here is nothing short of amazing. The score I found hit and miss with me, and a few parts dragged, but there were no major issues - this is a unique piece of cinematic history.

The Road (La Strada)

This is a beautiful, tragic piece of filmmaking. This is the first Fellini film I have seen, but I can see just from this why he is considered one of the masters. His direction is just so brilliant in this. Anthony Quinn and Giulietta Masina were incredible - I loved Masina's energy and expressions. It's a great, great story with great acting and direction, it's just perfect, more or less.

Brick
Brick(2006)
½

I had heard so much about this film and wanted to see it for a long time, glad I finally did. This is quite simply an excellent film. It's a modern film noir that creates an utterly unique and intriguing high school world swamped with drugs and murder and it's just so unique. The dialogue is very different, and once you get used to it you love it. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was phenomenal as the would-be detective of this tale, and the rest of the cast did not slouch. The direction was fantastic, it looked great. The story rocked. This is just a great film.

Blood Simple
Blood Simple(1984)

This was a really cool film. It's the darkest and most serious film I've seen from the Coens (whose work I adore), but there was some sprinkles of their trademark black humour. I loved the acting, Frances McDormand rocked, Dan Hedaya rocked, John Getz I liked but I felt he played it a little inhumanly calm at times considering his characters' situation. Hats off to the directing and writing of the Coens and the cinematrographer, cause holy hell was this film shot in an interesting way. So many really cool, different angles and several money shots, and lighting was used expertly. Great thriller.

The Hills Have Eyes

As far as modern horror films go, this was a pretty good effort. The characters were pretty well rounded, and I thought the direction was good; I appreciated that the director avoided overusing POV shots - as would usually be the tendency in a film like this. It was unflinchingly violent and bloody, that's for sure.

Chocolat
Chocolat(2000)

An entertaining but somewhat overdone morality play in the guise of a fairytale. There are good performances all around, especially Alfred Molina as the self righteous town leader. Judi Dench was wonderful, as well. It felt kind of like the film was trying too hard to be both grounded and fantastical at the same time, and it didn't quite work. However, it's still an enjoyable light watch. Didn't quite live up to all the hype surrounding it when it was released, though.

Cinderella Man

I liked this movie. It is genuinely inspirational and had a very satisfying, without being cheap, conclusion. Paul Giamatti and Russel Crowe were great, as I've come to expect. I loved seeing Paddy Considine in the role of Mike but his character was severely underdeveloped, and Craig Bierko played a really good villain. And as always...I just can't stand Renee Zellwegger, although she didn't significantly detract from the proceedings. The boxing scenes I thought were very, very well done. Overall, a pretty good movie that just stays only pretty good, but that's okay.

The Legend of 1900 (La leggenda del pianista sull'oceano)
½

A fairytale-like story that requires a lot of imagination and patience and the ability to immerse yourself and suspend your disbelief. I enjoyed because I allowed myself to do that. This is the best role I've seen Tim Roth in and he did wonderfully. I also really appreciated seeing Pruitt Taylor Vince in a major role because I've only seen him in bit parts before and he was excellent in this movie, I'd like to see him more in bigger parts like this. The movie isn't without its flaws, but they are forgivable if you allow yourself to fall into the story without prejudice.

The Aviator
The Aviator(2004)
½

This is a great film. Leonardo DiCaprio delivers a masterful performance, and proves to me that he is one of the best working actors today. Martin Scorsese's direction is, as always, spectacular. I really dug the special effects, and appreciated the scope of the film while still paying close attention to the characters. Very well written, as well, and a strong supporting cast. One of the best of 2004, see it.

Happiness
Happiness(1998)
½

This is a very difficult movie that varies quite a lot in quality. At times I found it to be brilliant, but at other times I found it repugnant. It chooses to take on too many postmodern ideas and in doing so sacrifices a lot of integrity. The performances are pretty excellent all around - it's worth seeing because of that, but this is still an unjustifiably difficult movie at times and the director made several bad choices. Worth watching, once.

Troy
Troy(2004)

I love and have studied the myths behind this movie, and something so much better could and should have been done with them. The material is all there for a great historical epic but the writing and direction fails it completely. I had never liked Orlando Bloom before, and this movie pretty much reconfirmed why that is - every moment he was on screen (he has a lot of screen time) I was distracted by his terrible acting. The only things that kept me engaged in this film were Eric Bana and Sean Bean, and to a lesser extent Brian Cox and Brad Pitt. But even they were not enough to save this film from mediocrity.

The Fountain
The Fountain(2006)
½

Wow. Fucking wow. Aronofsky's newest film absolutely raped me on every level; visually, mentally - it was just amazing. It is adventurous and daring and dangerous and just fucking incredible. Aronofsky does all the things most American filmmakers are afraid to do and that is why he is the most important young director around now. Hugh Jackman finally takes his place, in my opinion, among the top-tier as he delivers an astounding performance. I don't care how, just see it now.

The Last Temptation of Christ
½

This is one of the few stories about Jesus that has truly interested me. Much of it has to do with the direction of Martin Scorsese and the casting of Willem Dafoe and Harvey Keitel - but the story was something totally unique and untraditional that intrigued me to no end. A fabulous film.

Down in the Valley

If anything can be said about this movie, it's that Edward Norton delivers one of his best performances as a delusional cowboy hopelessly stuck in modern times. If anything was especially weak I would say the plot can stretch itself a little too far at times, to the point where it is not very believable at all. It still has some good ideas though, some beautiful images, and I dug the directing for the most part.

Coffee and Cigarettes
½

Because of its lack of its simplicity and the fact that most of the characters were playing themselves it is hard to judge this movie based on directing or acting, or even writing because most of the dialogue was obviously improvised. However, it is a great concept that had a lot of wonderful, funny segments and some truly unique moments, and the film was just cool. Not surprisingly, at the end I really had a hankering for some coffee and cigarettes!

Red Beard
Red Beard(1965)

A tremendous film by the legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. He binds together a highly engaging and wonderful set of characters and their stories based in Feudal Japan. This is simply an impeccable film, it is beautifully made and heart wrenching at times, and the acting is fabulous. An essential film.

Network
Network(1976)

An important movie with a great story and fantastic performances all around.

The Fisher King
½

I really loved this film. Terry Gilliam delivers a film which comes close to Fear & Loathing in its amount of craziness and its zany characters, but it also has a really, really strong story with a lot of emotion. Robin Williams delivers a masterful performance while Jeff Bridges plays off of him wonderfully. Probably Gilliam's best.

The Proposition
½

This is an extraordinary film - it's very much like a songbook of Nick Cave's very darkest songs put onto film (he wrote the screenplay and music). It's a true modern western, except grittier and bloodier than most you would have seen. Set on the Australian outback - the locations and direction and even music work so well to bring out the frigid, deadly beauty of both the film and the settings.

Hard Candy
Hard Candy(2006)

I really liked this film; young Ellen Page was a revelation and Patrick Wilson was also awesome. The film looks and sounds great. The film's entire visual base worked around several basic, solid colours and it looked fantastic and functioned so well within the film. Those looking for a standard thriller will be disappointed as the film's plot progresses mainly via dialogue but I thought it worked well. An extremely smart and savvy thriller.

Cosi
Cosi(1997)

A really heartfelt film with a lot of really strong performances and some really good writing. It has its weaker acting, too, and contains its fair share of cliches, but it's still a really enjoyable movie that hits a lot of themes and spectrums.

Woyzeck
Woyzeck(1979)

A classic play is made into a very good movie by the great Werner Herzog. A basic but fundamentally solid adaptation of the stage play, in which Klaus Kinski delivers a monster of a performance as the title character.

Amores Perros
½

A great story about three different sets of characters loosely based around their involvement in a car crash. It all comes together pretty well; though the middle section is significantly weaker than the other two. I dug the close knit camera work, the style, and the writing very much. Emilio Echevarría and Gael García Bernal really shine here while the rest of the cast adequately supports. Word of warning: definitely do NOT see this movie if you are a dog lover.

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring
½

A film with good intentions that courageously attempts to regale with some fantastically profound tale of enlightenment. It does poise some striking ideas and images but ultimately raises more questions than it answers and fails to register on some vital level.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
½

I can not remember ever laughing so much at the movies. Cohen very successfully translates his great clueless character to the big screen; at one point I was in pain from laughing so much. I would of liked a clearer line between what is part of the plot or staged and what is genuine, but other than that, if you're not easily offended this is a must-see.

Amélie
Amélie(2001)

This is a dazzling little film - a host of interesting characters, a unique and vibrant style, strong writing, and a sassy lead make this film quite worthwhile. A true gem of modern French cinema.

Pleasantville

An interesting concept and translates into a pretty good movie. Some of it's themes come off a little awkwardly, and the direction is questionable at times; but the great concept and the strong acting pretty much carries it through.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes)

A beautiful and brilliant film in every possible way. Herzog's direction is, as usual, masterful and he gets out of Klaus Kinski a wonderfully tormented and astounding performance; in the process creating one of the greatest characters ever put on film. Herzog's guerrilla style of filmmaking is on display here and a true testament to how dedicated a director can be to his art.

The Prestige
The Prestige(2006)

A wonderful film. Expert director Nolan crafts a fantastic, thankfully unpretentious steam punk world that simply dazzles. Like in Memento, he successfully toys with chronology and his plot twists are utterly convincing. Hugh Jackman is good while Christian Bale (unsurprisingly) delivers another masterful performance and once again proves he is the most talented actor of his generation.

My Own Private Idaho
½

A gritty and realistic (and apparently very accurate) look at the life of the street hustler; backed by an interesting Shakespearean take on the subject, and several wonderful performances.

13 Tzameti
13 Tzameti(2005)

Remarkable modern film noir. While it comes off as one of those confusing, muddled films at first; the true plot quickly arrives and the movie begins to really shine. The tension and suspense created in this film is spellbinding, and it's lead actors were quite strong. Definitely worth a look.

Patton
Patton(1970)

A solid movie that gives us the great George C. Scott's best performance ever. Also some of the best battle scenes ever filmed, really liked it.

M
M(1931)

A tour de force of German cinema. It is plain to see why this is considered one of all time landmarks of cinema. A great story, fantastic direction, and Peter Lorre as always is amazing.

X-Men: The Last Stand

As I expected, Ratner takes what was a reputable series and turns it into not much more than a CGI & SFX light show - he takes every good thing about X2 and obliterates it back into mediocrity.

A Clockwork Orange

Kubrick defies conventional filmmaking (as usual) and delivers one of the most, controversial and astounding films ever. Despite not living up to this role at any point later in his career, Malcolm McDowell delivers one of the greatest performances of all time as the sadistic Alex De Large.

2001: A Space Odyssey

An epic by which all others epics must be judged. Stanley Kubrick handles this otherwordly epic with all the grace and skill he has brought to all his pictures. I had the pleasure of seeing it in a theater and it was one of the best experiences of my life.

Mulholland Drive

David Lynch has produced his masterwork, and it is Mulholland Drive. The enigmatic director delivers on all fronts, and you may kick yourself trying to figure out certain parts of the movie, but there is do denying it's lingering impact and it's brilliance.

Magnolia
Magnolia(1999)

By far one of the most magical and unforgettable movies I have ever seen. A brilliant script compounded by PT Anderson's expert direction and several more than notable performances by the standout cast make this a truly great film.

Raging Bull
Raging Bull(1980)

A landmark for both Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro - this being both Scorsese's best film and De Niro's strongest performance. A classic that has to be seen.

2046
2046(2005)
½

Strong acting, indefatigable style, ceaselessly moving directing, an amazing score, rife with moments of visual ectsasy - an incredible experience.

Le samouraï
Le samouraï(1967)

Very slick film, with a decidedly Hitchockian flare. Alain Delon was cooly brilliant. Solid film noir.

Dog Day Afternoon

Well directed film with undoubtedly one of Al Pacino's finest performances.

Ikiru
Ikiru(1956)

Not only Kurosawa's best, but one of the single greatest filmmaking achievements of all time. A classic story and an immense performance by Takashi Shimura make this unmissable.

Trailer Park Boys: The Movie

It was basically an extended episode, but there was a lot of funny stuff here. The plot was meaingless and uneccesary, but it didn't matter too much. I think you need to be a fan already to enjoy this, though.

Cinema Paradiso (Nuovo Cinema Paradiso)

A magical, beautiful movie about the majesty of cinema and how we drift from our environments. Truly powerful moviemaking.