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I've seen a lot of movies. I've never seen anything like this. Even Irreversible did little to prepare me for the experience of watching this film on the big screen. Gaspar Noe could easily be accused of being nothing more than an artsy exploitation filmmaker, but I don't think anyone could deny the fact that he is an incredibly talented man and that his films are at the very least unique. Enter the Void is nowhere near as unpleasant as Irreversible, but it is still a pretty grueling experience, and I mean that in the best possible way. As with Irreversible, the ugly subject matter is beautifully photographed, and the film is certainly a feast for the eyes. It is not a perfect film, and I could not begrudge anyone who hated everything about it, but the experience of seeing it was one that I found very rewarding. Besides, the opening credits are fucking awesome.
The Social Network is excellent. As with all of David Fincher's films, it is engrossing, brilliantly shot, and the performances are strong across the board. Jesse Eisenberg proves that he is not the poor man's Michael Cera, although he kind of already had. A big standout for me was Armie Hammer who plays both of the Winklevoss twins. I was unaware of this fact until after the movie ended. Aaron Sorkin's script is fast paced and witty. The opening scene is almost reminiscent of a dark screwball comedy. The film isn't particularly fast paced, but I was shocked when it ended. I couldn't believe two hours had already gone by. Its a shame that many people will only know it as "the Facebook Movie" because it is so much more than what that title implies. Facebook is really the MacGuffin of the film. The characters and events are fascinating regardless of what drives them.
This is absolutely breathtaking. The film had me immediately when it opened with white text on a black screen which stated that no film can tell the true story of a man's life with 100% accuracy throughout. All films are to some extent fictional, to each his own. What followed that text was a visceral experience that had me totally gripped from beginning to end. I've seen it referred to as "the French Scarface." That is actually doing the movie a severe disservice, especially since Jacques Mesrine makes Tony Montana look like a little pansy boy throwing a temper-tantrum. Vincent Cassel gives a towering performance in the lead role, subtle and quiet, but absolutely believable as a total badass. This character engages is some of the most insanely crazy behavior I've ever seen in a serious gangster movie. Some of the scenes are so ludicrous, I have to believe they are based in reality. The character is so massive, it is awe inspiring that the director is able to keep up. I didn't see Jean-Francois Richet's remake of Assault on Precinct 13, and apparently I'm not missing much. His work here is absolutely stellar. The camera floats through the scenes with the same grace as in the best Scorsese films, and Richet knows how to work the frame to its fullest effect. I could go ahead and list some of the great set pieces and moments, but there would really be no reason to do so. Just over a week earlier, I thoroughly enjoyed The Town, which was a solid movie that featured one standout scene of brilliant tension. Mesrine features at least six such scenes. Lets just say that it features the best prison break I've had the pleasure of witnessing in a theater all year, and I think you know what other movie featured a prison break this year.
The gangster genre is certainly not lacking in entries, and this one isn't particularly original, but it is so brilliantly crafted that it was never an issue. If Public Enemies had been good, it may have resembled this film. I was tempted to sit in the theater and watch the second film right then and there, but decided to bask in the glory of this one for a while. Besides, if the second one is anywhere near as good as this one, I may as well spread that joy over a couple of days. It's being confined to a limited release in small art house theaters, but it deserves to be seen by everyone everywhere.
I have always been, and will always be an avid supporter of Grindhouse. Seeing that film in the theater was one of my favorite cinematic experiences, and the fake trailers were a big part of that. I remember hearing Robert Rodriguez talk about filming the fake trailer for Machete. He said it was great because he was able to come up with the most awesome scenes imaginable and film them without having to worry about the boring connective scenes in between. Now he has saddled himself with the responsibility of worrying about those boring scenes, and the result is a pretty messy film.
The cast is insane, but none of them really shine. Danny Trejo is always an enjoyable presence on screen, but he isn't given enough to do, and the movie keeps getting hijacked from him to focus on less interesting side characters. The action is pretty mediocre, and even the few standout acts of violence can't compare to those of other, similar movies, including Planet Terror. There are times when Rodriguez clearly wants to up the stakes, and add to or top what he did in the trailer, but these new bits just feel kind of lame, and lack the spark of what he did before. The religious elements fell particularly flat.
The worst part is that it so clearly feels like some sad, leftover residue of Grindhouse. Had it gone straight to DVD, as was originally intended, it would have been fine, but on the big screen, it just can't live up. The best parts are all things we've seen before, and they were better in the trailer. I don't hate it, but I was pretty bored, and there is no real reason to see it, at least not in a theater. Machete is the same kind of movie as Piranha 3D, but whereas Piranha excelled, and was the best it could possibly be, Machete just settles for the bare minimum, resulting in bland, forgettable, mediocre crap.
It seems that any movie which is heavily inspired by Le Samurai, will probably appeal to me in a very strong way. It gets bonus points if at one point, characters are watching a scene from Once Upon a Time in the West. The word that most describes The American, is "refreshing." I love modern movies, but I am constantly frustrated by modern filmmaking techniques. The American feels like a film that was made in the 60s or 70s, which of course was the best time for movies ever. I would say that the pacing is slow, but that would seem to have a negative connotation to it. The pacing is incredibly deliberate, and the director is in complete control of the story. It is being sold as an action movie, which it certainly is not.
Critics have called the film boring. This is usually a pretty lazy and easily dismissible argument, but I can see how some would be bored by it. I never was. They say that it has no story. This is pretty accurate, but I don't see that as a problem. It doesn't usually bother people when comedies have the most bare-bones of stories. There are even plenty of dramas with no major plot. It is simply because this is a thriller that people expect something big to happen every few minutes. That said, when things do happen, it is very tense.
Corbijn's history as a photographer is evident. Every shot is beautifully constructed, and fortunately, they hold long enough for us to admire and process them. There are extreme close-ups of faces, and huge landscapes. I certainly don't think its a coincidence that Sergio Leone gets name-dropped in the movie. There isn't much dialogue. Clooney has enough presence to hold our attention, and Corbijn understands that film is a visual medium. Other directors should take note. It is definitely worth seeing on the big screen.
The American isn't a particularly original movie, but it feels original in this day and age. So few films are allowed to breath, that when one does, it is like a drink of cold water after a year of wandering in the desert. After seeing the film I went on Rotten Tomatoes to see what the negative reviews had to say. I was particularly amused by the blurb from Donald Munroe of Eye for Film(whatever that is) who wrote "If watching Clooney rub his brow a lot -- and sit around in gorgeously silhouetted moments while glaring at the harsh, rugged, friendless Italian rustic scenery -- sounds appealing, then you're probably on the same wavelength as director Anton Corbijn." Yes Donald, that sounds fantastic to me.