spielberg00's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net

By The Sea
By The Sea(2015)

Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net


Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net

A Walk to Remember

Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net

The Program
The Program(2016)

Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net

Me Before You

Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net


Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net

Finding Dory
Finding Dory(2016)

Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net

The Shallows
The Shallows(2016)

Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net

Independence Day

Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net

Independence Day: Resurgence

Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net


Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net

The BFG(2016)

Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net

Hail, Caesar!

Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net

Star Trek Beyond

Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net

Fifty Shades of Black

Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net

Cafť Society

Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net

Jason Bourne
Jason Bourne(2016)

Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net


Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net

Sausage Party

Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net

Captain America: Civil War

Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net


Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net

Now You See Me 2

Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net

Deepwater Horizon

Review coming to www.cinemaniacreviews.net

X-Men: Apocalypse

Review coming to www.cinemaniacreviews.net

The Nice Guys

Review at www.cinemaniacreviews.net

The Birdcage
The Birdcage(1996)

Review coming soon to themoviefreakblog.com

The Fly
The Fly(1986)

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com

The Black Godfather

Review coming soon to themoviefreakblog.com


Review coming soon to themoviefreakblog.com

The Hangover Part III

Review coming soon to themoviefreakblog.com


Review coming soon to themoviefreakblog.com


Review coming soon to themoviefreakblog.com

H2: Halloween II

Review coming soon to themoviefreakblog.com

Sex, Lies, and Videotape

Review coming soon to themoviefreakblog.com


Review coming soon to themoviefreakblog.com


Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com

The Square (Al Midan)

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com

La Dolce Vita

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com


Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com

Out of Sight
Out of Sight(1998)

"Out of Sight" is a somewhat goofy and overall entertaining offer of comedy, thriller, and romance. George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez are a predictable couple, but nonetheless believable. We're talking a very fun movie no matter how you look at it, even with its flaws. Because of movies like this, I'll never forgive director Steven Soderbergh for retiring from the movie industry. His claim was that filmmaking just wasn't fun anymore, and obviously he doesn't realize how fun his films are to watch. It's true of most everything I've seen of him: "Traffic", "Erin Brockovich", "Ocean's Eleven", "Contagion", "Haywire", "Side Effects", and "Out of Sight", his breakthrough independent film.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com

American Gangster

Review of the unrated extended version coming to themoviefreakblog.com


Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com

The Big Chill

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com

Being John Malkovich

Review at themoviefreakblog.com


Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com

Gimme Shelter

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com

Waking Life
Waking Life(2001)

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com

Sophie's Choice

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com

The Hours
The Hours(2002)

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com


Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com

The Armstrong Lie

Review at themoviefreakblog.com


Review at themoviefreakblog.com

All Is Lost
All Is Lost(2013)

Review at themoviefreakblog.com

Inside Llewyn Davis

Review at themoviefreakblog.com


Review at themoviefreakblog.com

Gimme Shelter

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com

Labor Day
Labor Day(2014)

Review at themoviefreakblog.com

The Monuments Men

Review at themoviefreakblog.com

Endless Love
Endless Love(2014)

Review at themoviefreakblog.com

Son Of God
Son Of God(2014)

Review at themoviefreakblog.com

The Raid 2
The Raid 2(2014)

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com


Review at themoviefreakblog.com


Review at themoviefreakblog.com


Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com

The Wizard of Oz

Review at themoviefreakblog.com

Black Swan
Black Swan(2010)

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com


Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com

Pain & Gain
Pain & Gain(2013)

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com

Our Idiot Brother

Review coming to my blog

The Twelve Chairs

"Mel Brooks's sophomore film is...sophomoric. But funny."

What is there not to love about Mel Brooks? He knows what he‚(TM)s talking about in comedy and historical context. Every one of his movies is controversial for the same reason it‚(TM)s funny. He‚(TM)s always saying to someone or something, ‚You know, I love you deeply, but you‚(TM)re ridiculous. So here‚(TM)s a movie I made about you.‚? The first time around, he said this to Adolf Hitler. One who has seen The Producers probably remembers it as well as the ‚play within a movie‚?‚"Springtime for Hitler. While the movie was funny as hell, the ‚Hitler‚? idea is so enticing that we never really realized what else went on in the movie. It‚(TM)s a movie about greed, maybe more so than Hitler.



"The first movie about homophobia and AIDS, and still one of the most poignant."

Any movie set in Pennsylvania is special to me in one way or another. There aren‚(TM)t many (not compared to the countless movies that do exist), so I find state pride in movies like Groundhog Day, The Sixth Sense, and last year‚(TM)s Silver Linings Playbook. Either that or I‚(TM)m just glad to know that the state I live in actually exists, now and then. Regardless, Philadelphia automatically has a piece of my heart, just because its title is accurate. But it‚(TM)s also special to me in a way it might be special to anyone outside of PA: the emotional level of this courtroom drama isn‚(TM)t just set to match the emotional level found on the victim‚(TM)s side of the crime.



"While inventive, its 'Rubber' plot lasts less than an hour but runs a bit longer."

Rubber is so curiously dumb, even Ed Wood wouldn‚(TM)t dare bother with it. Maybe that‚(TM)s exaggeration, but only because the movie is redeemed by some philosophical value. It asserts less than five minutes in, that ‚Life itself is filled with no reason.‚? And of course movies are filled with the prominent style that is ‚no reason.‚? Was there a reason E.T. was brown? Was there a reason for the characters in Love Story to fall so madly in love? And is there a reason for Rubber to open with a car bulldozing several pieces of wooden furniture in the middle of the desert? No, because it‚(TM)s an homage to E.T., Love Story, and everything that tells its story by taking advantage of the audience‚(TM)s lack of observation.


Now You See Me

"Now you see 'Now You See Me'."

Now You See Me is a movie that forces one to follow it carefully, almost scrutinize it. Which is good, because it‚(TM)s essential that we pay attention to what‚(TM)s going on. All its intrigue lies in a few questions that kickstart the plot: ‚What if your average magician wasn‚(TM)t just that? Or, what if he was, just in a different sense of the word? What if the illusion wasn‚(TM)t a gimmick you paid for? What if the illusion was your very life, and you‚(TM)ve been taken advantage of?‚?



"'Somewhere' brings us over the rainbow. If only we were in Munchkinland."

Somewhere is something of a long-awaited followup to Lost in Translation: it‚(TM)s a quiet, fish-out-of-water dramedy, from Sofia Coppola. It‚(TM)s not a bad movie, but it‚(TM)s not that great. In fact, what sets the two apart is quality writing. It‚(TM)s so much easier to stay with Bill Murray in the 2003 movie. And note that I love Lost in Translation, so I‚(TM)d take watching that in a heartbeat anytime, but there‚(TM)s something about that movie that tells me Sofia Coppola can explore celebrity ennui in a more sympathetic light. Somewhere proceeds to tell a story about a man who will unwillingly set off and leave his first-world problems behind him. Notice I put that in the future tense. We notice a sudden transformation in this character, not a gradual one.


Blade Runner (The Final Cut)

"The definitive cut, because 'Blade Runner' is sharpened to perfection."

Blade Runner is even better today than it was three decades ago. It‚(TM)s because a) the visual effects have been restored to something too astonishing to possibly have come out of the ‚(TM)80s; and b) because there‚(TM)s people who appreciate it. Who would‚(TM)ve thought that the 25th was Mr. Producer‚(TM)s lucky day? May 25th, Star Wars and Alien. Blade Runner on June 25th. It didn‚(TM)t make much money at the box office, and let‚(TM)s consider who it was up against (E.T., Poltergeist, Star Trek II‚¶even Clint Eastwood could make money off a fabled career low, Firefox). But let‚(TM)s also consider how a cult classic is created. In the post-Rocky Horror era, it‚(TM)s because of home video.


Erin Brockovich

"Able to stop pollution in a single rant."

Erin Brockovich, as a character, feels like a classic irony. The director himself works so hard and achieves the stuff of legend (the second filmmaker in Oscar history to earn two directing nominations in one year); and years later, all we remember in the 73rd Oscars is Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott winning for their quasi-masterpiece. Now back to Erin, a divorced (twice, in fact) mother who never gets a break, and that might be how she likes it. She‚(TM)ll do absolutely anything to support her family, get a job, keep that job, go above and beyond on humanitarian efforts. On the surface, she‚(TM)s a feisty woman who wants to get what she wants. And she is that, but it‚(TM)s not what she wants, so much as what she cares about. Her kids. Her job. Stopping pollution. The lives of others.

Read more at themoviefreakblog.com

Final Destination

"If the movie theater is your final destination, pray to Thy Deity that this has not been reissued."

Final Destination is based on an unproduced X-Files episode, called ‚Flight 180‚≥. If you already knew this, who‚(TM)s to say whether you‚(TM)ve even seen the movie. That one factoid is, as far as I‚(TM)m concerned, the only interesting point in Final Destination, and you can find it anywhere free of spoilers. Let‚(TM)s consider that The X-Files didn‚(TM)t want to produce ‚Flight 180‚≥. Now I must wonder, why would anyone waste over $20 million making a movie out of something that had the dramatic depth of an X-Files episode, refuse to enhance it from that, and cast the druggie side of Hollywood teens (those from Varsity Blues and American Pie).

Read more at themoviefreakblog.com


‚~...‚~...‚~...¬ 1/2

The Conjuring

‚~...‚~...‚~...¬ 1/2



Before Sunset


Before Midnight

‚~...‚~...‚~...¬ 1/2

The Terror (The Haunting) (The Castle of Terror)

Corman's PLAN 9.

Stay tuned at themoviefreakblog.com for the full review.

On the Waterfront

It has class! It's a contender! And my, is it something!

Stay tuned at themoviefreakblog.com for the full review.

The Godfather, Part III


As far as great trilogies go, it's a close second to Sergio Leone's "Dollars" trilogy.

Stay tuned at themoviefreakblog.com for the full review.

The Godfather, Part II


As far as great trilogies go, it's a close second to Sergio Leone's "Dollars" trilogy.

Stay tuned at themoviefreakblog.com for the full review.

The Godfather


As far as great trilogies go, it's a close second to Sergio Leone's "Dollars" trilogy.

Stay tuned at themoviefreakblog.com for the full review.


It's a beautiful movie. Yeah, it's called "Mud". Go figure.

Stay tuned at themoviefreakblog.com for the full review.

Scary Movie 5

It's dumber/funnier than the last. Bring on another MoVIe!

Stay tuned at themoviefreakblog.com for the full review.

Scary Movie
Scary Movie(2000)

Are "Scream" and "I Know What You Did Last Summer" really this funny?

Stay tuned at themoviefreakblog.com for the full review.

Lawrence of Arabia

It's so...beautiful.

Stay tuned at themoviefreakblog.com for the full review.

Seven Samurai (Shichinin no Samurai)

A solemn adventure movie, maybe one of the solemnest.

Stay tuned at themoviefreakblog.com for the full review.

The Bling Ring

Sofia Coppola's "Trainspotting" with robbery instead of heroin.

Stay tuned at themoviefreakblog.com for the full review.

United 93
United 93(2006)

Required viewing every 9/11.

Stay tuned at themoviefreakblog.com for the full review.

The Accused
The Accused(1988)

"The Accused" picture is guilty of my approval by highlighting my disapproval.

Stay tuned at themoviefreakblog.com for the full review.


This is how a horror movie should be looked at.

Stay tuned at themoviefreakblog.com for the full review.

The Matrix Revolutions

(And now, a re-recording of "Revolution", while two Beatles toss in their graves, and the other two wish they could at the sight of this film...)

"Say I hated 'Revolutions',
two film after
the Wachowskis changed the world..."

Stay tuned at themoviefreakblog.com for the full review.

Brokeback Mountain

It's worth bending over backward to watch.

Stay tuned at themoviefreakblog.com for the full review.

Friday the 13th, Part V - A New Beginning

"A New Beginning" as good as new.

Stay tuned at themoviefreakblog.com for the full review.


Review coming soon.


Review coming soon.


Review coming soon.

8 Mile
8 Mile(2002)

I enjoyed this disappointment. Is that an oxymoron?

Review comin' soon.

A Busy Day
A Busy Day(1914)

Review comin' soon.

The Kid
The Kid(1921)

Review comin' soon.

The Little Shop of Horrors

‚Horrors‚?! I laughed myself to death!

Review comin' soon.

Olympus Has Fallen

‚Olympus Has Fallen‚? and America has gone FUBAR. Mindless fun.

Review comin' soon.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

[By the Italian titles] ‚Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo‚? is really ‚Il classico, il bello, il cazzuto‚?.

Review comin' soon.

The Fatal Mallet

Review of several Chaplin films coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 9/15

Twenty Minutes of Love

Review of several Chaplin films coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 9/15

The New Janitor

Review of several Chaplin films coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 9/15

The Rounders
The Rounders(1914)

Review of several Chaplin films coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 9/15

A Film Johnnie

Review of several Chaplin films coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 9/15

Kid Auto Races at Venice

Review of several Chaplin films coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 9/15

Making a Living

Review of several Chaplin films coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 9/15

Tillie's Punctured Romance

Review of several Chaplin films coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 9/15

Leaving Las Vegas

Muere en Las Vegas!

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on September 14th.

Ruthless People

How should I describe the humor? It‚(TM)s ‚Ruthless‚? on the lungs.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on September 12th.

The Princess Diaries

Dear Diary: I watched a movie. It sucked.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on September 12th.

Panic Room
Panic Room(2002)

There‚(TM)s no getting out of ‚Panic Room‚?‚"not when you think, at least.

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on Wednesday, September 11, 2013

American Pie
American Pie(1999)

Excess cheese, yes, but it tastes good overall.

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 9/8/2013

The Matrix
The Matrix(1999)

What if I told you "The Matrix" must be seen to be believed?

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 9/7


"Remember us..." Will do.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 8/31


Tell me, what made you think I was not entertained, let alone moved?

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 9/1

Lethal Weapon 2

Pesci is "Lethal Weapon 2" to the lungs, maybe WMD.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 9/3

Twelve Monkeys (12 Monkeys)

Gilliam hasn't done this well since the Python era.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 8/28

The Birth of a Nation

The greatest American movie ever made.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 8/30


"Crash" is trash.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 8/29

Natural Born Killers

Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino is real good news.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on August 23, 2013.


Who watches "Watchmen"? You do.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on August 25, 2013.

Dazed and Confused

One of 1976's--I mean, 1993's best movies.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on August 27, 2013.

The Wild Bunch

Damn straight, it‚(TM)s ‚Wild‚?!

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on August 22, 2013.

True Romance
True Romance(1993)

Increasingly fun, and fearlessly "'90s".

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on August 22, 2013.

Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures

A movie by Kubrick's devotees...for Kubrick's devotees.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on August 21, 2013.

Four Rooms
Four Rooms(1996)

"Four Rooms", none worth enterting. Avoid!

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on August 20, 2013.


Like the value, it isn't rational and it doesn't [seem to] end.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on August 18, 2013.

Wedding Crashers

Abbott and Costello--I mean, Wilson and Vaughn are the "Wedding Crashers".

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on August 3, 2013.

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

He's just a character. Let's all give thanks.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on August 4, 2013.

Eyes Wide Shut

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 8/17

Eddie Murphy Raw

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 8/16

Bonnie and Clyde

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 8/15

Some Like It Hot

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 8/15

Friday the 13th - The Final Chapter

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 8/14

Bringing Out the Dead

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 8/13

The Last Temptation of Christ

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 8/9

From Dusk Till Dawn

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 8/8

The Gold Rush

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 8/8

Sin City
Sin City(2005)

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 8/7

Friday the 13th Part 3

Review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 8/6

Kill Bill: Volume 2

Find my review of both volumes at themoviefreakblog.com

Kill Bill: Volume 1

Find my review of both volumes at themoviefreakblog.com

Reservoir Dogs

Tarantino‚(TM)s weakest, if that at all says something.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 7/23

Dark Skies
Dark Skies(2013)

"The owls are not what they seem."

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 7/24

Evil Dead
Evil Dead(2013)

A good contender for any media-concerned Darwin Awards‚¶

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 7/25

Identity Thief

Money thief, time thief, ‚Identity Thief‚?.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 7/25

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios)


Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 7/26

Rebel Without a Cause

Viewer of ‚Rebel without a Cause‚?, with a cause. (That should be yourself.)

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 7/27

Singin' in the Rain

Enjoyable, but uneven.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 7/28

Side Effects
Side Effects(2013)

Pick up this prescription today.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 7/31

Dog Day Afternoon

One word: "ATTICA!"

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 8/1

Death Proof
Death Proof(2007)

Part two of a double-bill review ("Grindhouse") coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 8/2

Planet Terror (Grindhouse Presents: Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror)

Part one of a double-bill review ("Grindhouse") coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 8/2


Some of the most stylish three and a half hours you‚(TM)ll ever see.

Full double-bill review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 8/2


Return I will not to old "Brazil".

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 7/20

Safe Haven
Safe Haven(2013)

"Safe" is not the word I would use.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 7/19

Run Lola Run
Run Lola Run(1999)

Faster, go, go, go, rent it!

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 7/18

Despicable Me 2

√ĘDespicable Me 2√ʬ≥ is a pretty abeebin dwah doo dee doe do movie!

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 7/18

This Is the End

"This Is the End" of your lungs. They will crumble with laughter.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 7/17

The Heat
The Heat(2013)

"The Heat" is on, with mad laughter!

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 7/16

Inglourious Basterds


Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 7/14

Django Unchained

Tarantino "Unchained".

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 7/11


√ber-bad, how m√ 1/4ch worse can yo√ 1/4 get?

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 7/11

The Internship

Challenge: ‚Internalize‚? your laughter.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 7/9

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut

Watch it immediately‚¶or steer clear.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 7/7

A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy

The course of true laughs always did run smooth.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 7/6

The Dictator
The Dictator(2012)

"The Dictator" speaks of painfully humorous comedy!

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 7/5

A Haunted House

Mm-hmm, I say, "A Haunted House" ain't that bad!

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 7/2

Monsters University

A welcome return to Pixar's "best in class" status.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 6/25

The Darjeeling Limited

Enjoyment is very "limited".

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com

Man of Steel
Man of Steel(2013)


Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 6/21


TV facing south, pistol facing "North", bullet racing north, TV euthanized.

NOTE: This is a half-star rating; the half-star button won't work.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 6/20

Something's Gotta Give

Some version of the truth: It left me smiling. There's more.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 6/20


In "Eraserhead", everything is fine.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 6/18


Rat Race
Rat Race(2001)

Lungs hurting? Try laughing till you can't feel your lungs.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 6/16

Warm Bodies
Warm Bodies(2013)

Contrary to the tagline, it's deficient in both body and heart.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 6/15

Fantastic Mr. Fox

"Fantastic" film.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 6/14

Spirited Away

A movie for all ages, and for THE ages.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 6/13

Risky Business

What an understated title!

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 6/13

The Age of Innocence

Atmospherically, it's a wedding juxtaposed against a funeral.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 6/12


The Dalai Lama is important, but this movie believes otherwise.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 6/8

Sixteen Candles

A birthday movie with not a single surprise.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 6/7

Gangs of New York

Need a history lesson? Take Scorsese's.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 6/6

Army of Darkness

"Army of Darkness" forgot its weapons.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com 6/6

New York, New York

Martin Scorsese is king of the hill once again with "New York, New York".

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 6/4

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Even smiling will make your face ache.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 6/1

History of the World---Part I

It's good to be watching "History of the World, Part I".

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 5/31

To The Wonder

Don't let the word "Wonder" throw you off.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 5/30

Lethal Weapon

At times here, the humor can be a "Lethal Weapon" to your lungs.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 5/30.

The Great Gatsby

"The Good Gatsby". Chapter 1...

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 5/29.

Pretty in Pink

"Pretty" good, but we've seen much better from John Hughes.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 5/26.

Star Trek Into Darkness

Beam my thumbs up.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 5/25.


The more it does "Speak", the more powerful it becomes.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 5/24

Wayne's World

I must've gotten the times mixed up when I wanted "party time, excellent."

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 5/23

Strictly Ballroom

Baz Luhrmann, take your Adderall.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 5/23

Room 237
Room 237(2013)

Enter "Room 237" and you'll never see "The Shining" the same way.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 5/21

The Producers

"Where did I go right?" Just about everywhere, Mr. Brooks.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 5/19

Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction(1994)

As eternally transfixing as Marsellus Wallace's luminous suitcase.

Full review coming to themoviefreakblog.com on 5/18

Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn

"Evil Dead II" - Where cabin fever becomes hemophilia.

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

Watch watch "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" now now.

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com

The Evil Dead

Drop "Dead" funny meets plain awesome.

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com

The Hurt Locker

Good, but "Hurt" oh so badly by its script.

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com

Parental Guidance

"Parental Guidance" not suggested.

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com

Shutter Island

Try and "Shut" it out of your memory.

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com

Interview with the Vampire

So. Bloody. Boring.

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com


It's difficult not to love "Amour".

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com

The Intouchables

The memories, the smiles "The Intouchables" left me with are "Intouchable."

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com

Saving Private Ryan

Deeply poignant.

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com

The Fugitive
The Fugitive(1993)

The perfect blend of action and drama.

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Filthy hobbitses, it tricked us into believing we would not enjoy "The Hobbit"! *gollum, gollum*

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com

Broadcast News

Check in 4/6 at themoviefreakblog.com for my review.

My Left Foot
My Left Foot(1989)

Check in 4/4 at themoviefreakblog.com for my review.


Check in 4/2 at themoviefreakblog.com for my review.

Gone Baby Gone

Check in 3/30 at themoviefreakblog.com for my review.

Stardust Memories

Check in 3/29 at themoviefreakblog.com for my review.


Check in 3/28 at themoviefreakblog.com for my review.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2

Check in at themoviefreakblog.com 3/27 for my review.

The Golden Compass

Check in 3/26 at themoviefreakblog.com for my review.

Staying Alive

Check in tomorrow at themoviefreakblog.com for my review.

One for the Money

Ermahgerd. I'd rather take a bath in propane surrounded by a buncha tiki torches, ya know? Full review at themoviefreakblog.com

District 9
District 9(2009)

It was nominated for Best Picture, I think, but if you've read the "Movies I Don't Enjoy" page on my BLOG, excessive use of the F-bomb is not my thing.

The Way
The Way(2011)

Now playing at Theater Insomnia...

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com 11/30

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Just a title like Jiro Dreams of Sushi can save you over an hour and twenty minutes.

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com 12/4

Rock of Ages
Rock of Ages(2012)

Rock of Ages, end for me.

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com on 11/20


Lincoln is easily Spielberg's most unforgettable since Schindler's List.

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com on 11/21

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

After a horrific personal experience, I advise you all to remove Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted from your "want" lists.

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com on 11/23


If only this was the mystery genre today.

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com on 11/24

Rosemary's Baby

A sly surprise.

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com on 11/26

The Towering Inferno

Starting up, you're praising the fun and beauty. By the end, you're praising that it's over.

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com on 11/27

The Third Man

It's difficult not to be captivated by this outstanding film-noir.

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com on 11/28

Malcolm X
Malcolm X(1992)

A powerful, full-fledged look at racism.

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com on 11/29


Review coming soon.

Shakespeare in Love

It's amazing what little is actually known about William Shakespeare, despite the greatly influential playwright he was. Most of what we do know of him, in fact, leads back to his works, for which his life was often inspiration. Had Shakespeare not written Hamlet, we most likely would not know of his only son, Hamnet, who died at the age of eleven. The idea for Shakespeare in Love had been conceived long before its 1998 release. For several years, however, it was merely a question that had been posed regarding Shakespeare's love life.

The performances are a joy. For only eight minutes of total screen time, Judi Dench is especially memorable as the Queen. Her initial appearance marks one of the wittiest moments of the film itself. These scenes feature Dench swiftly dismissing each attempt Paltrow, who just as well delivers a jaw-dropping performance, makes to impress her. Paltrow bows down; Dench snaps, "Stand up straight." Paltrow breathes, "Your Highness," as an honorary salute; Dench retorts, "I know who I am." It's the condescending tone that is taken to an entirely new level in her character.


Review coming soon.

John Carter
John Carter(2012)

Review coming soon.

Mirror Mirror

Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is THE universal example of a childhood favorite. One who has not seen it at least twice before the age of eight is quite simply a poor excuse for a human being. It's too bad the year of its seventy-fifth anniversary happened to be the year Walt Disney Pictures went to hell. John Carter bombed enough to put chairman Rich Ross out of business; uproar began when the company acquired Lucasfilm and began diabolical plans for another Star Wars trilogy; etc. Only to top it off, an insult to their beloved classic, known as Mirror Mirror. Perhaps I'm the only one who seems to believe the double-talk title is an apt representation of the repetitive, obnoxious plot. Unfortunately, young children are the huge bull's eye to this film's schlocky sort of charm. If parents decide to raise their kids with this debacle, then perhaps December 21st (also the very day Snow White was released in 1937) will see the world's end.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Rarely ever do I so haplessly fall victim to a horror movie. A Nightmare on Elm Street is a truly terrifying experience. The presentation of fright works in a fantastical atmosphere, but as the plot presents a dynamically convincing tie between dreams and conscious happenings, there is a realistically ominous, densely macabre sensation of terror escalating by each passing second. This is the tale of a group of teenagers, haunted by the same nightmare in which a deformed child killer (Robert Englund) in a hat, a striped shirt, and knives for fingernails, is stalking them. Upon waking up, they discover that whatever has happened to them in the dream (i.e. scars, contusions, burns, etc.) is real. Yet outside the dreams, the man himself is only the hidden spirit of a child killer named Freddy Krueger. He is using dreams as his "afterlife" to grotesquely murder the sons and daughters of the lynch mob that killed him.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel opens up with the clarification of one goal. The film wishes not to inspire; it desires not to change the world or alter Hollywood's own standards. It just wants to entertain. This is certain in its premise, which acts vis-ŗ-vis every film of its ilk from Harold and Maude (1971) up through The Bucket List (2008). Why yes, this is a comedy about a group of senior citizens who escape life as they know it and rejuvenate themselves. Put aside this formula and it's quite an amusing indie comedy for almost any age. For an over-50 audience, it's likely to ring with some authenticity. For a 50-and-younger audience, it's Little Miss Sunshine "lite" with several Alan Arkins.

The Exorcist
The Exorcist(1973)

It's only when I watch a truly brilliant horror film that I begin to realize why the genre has deteriorated in recent years. Such films as The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Rite want to be the new Exorcist, but it's humanly impossible to shape garbage into glory on a budget and severe time constraints. We sit in front of such clones and see the crust of The Exorcist: mutilated and demonic bodies vs. priests. But there's no inner core, no depth to keep us awake throughout the film, let alone throughout the night.

Act of Valor
Act of Valor(2012)

Act of Valor subverts expectations entirely. Unless for whatever reason you find, say, Braveheart lacking in dramatic depth, there is almost no resemblance to a video game born. Most of this is thanks to the opening twenty minutes, the crux of what sets the entire film apart from a fun-yet-shallow Jason Statham flick. There is a sweet, loving vibe in the film as we see the soldiers' care for their families at home, as well. This utter poignancy reappears during the film's finale, one of the most satisfyingly emotional conclusions in a war document since Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima. The hour and a half in between is action, but we've been given enough drama to care about the characters, hence the thrilling success. The sound mixing, film editing, and (surprisingly stable) cinematography all increase the tenseness heavily.

Chico & Rita
Chico & Rita(2012)

What makes the film so grandiose is the deeply sensuous atmosphere created by the applauding, dreamlike glow through which the music is viewed. It's not the kind I would download on my iPod prior to viewing Chico & Rita, but this unique display may be just enough to pique my interest. Now and then, I would close my eyes and let the jazz create iridescent images in my mind. Only upon opening my eyes again did I find the film's own visuals providing even more engrossing interpretations. The story garners extra love for how it so gorgeously assesses the endless warmth, and how that eventually edges over into a rather frozen feeling. During the former half of the film, we begin warming up with the characters, something rare for an animated movie. Their travels are not escalated by fame, but by desire. During the latter half of the film, Rita uses her makeup to write heartbreaking messages to Chico on the bathroom mirror. There is such an overwhelming amount of character development in the former half, you can almost smell the pungent streaks of lipstick. The most unbearable heartbreak is when the entire experience is over.

Friday the 13th

I'm not quite sure how it is possible to applaud Friday the 13th beyond the undeniable "guilty pleasure" level. Shot, spliced, and copyrighted in 1978 before it's 1980 wide release, the film was part of a flood of rushed, low-budget Halloween clones; it's extremely trashy; it lowered SAT scores when its targeted teen audience made it a successful sleeper hit; and it gave birth to nine sequels, two of which were titled either "The Final Chapter" or "The Final Friday." But there's something irresistibly fun about it I cannot quite put my finger on. Prior to this directorial zenith, Sean S. Cunningham had assisted horror aficionado Wes Craven with his own directorial debut, The Last House on the Left. I have yet to see that film, let alone anything from Craven, but seeing that it's a cult hit as well, I'm not at all surprised by the cult appeal riddled in the crevices of Friday the 13th. As far as substance, we're talking about one of the most abominable horror movies ever completed. As far as entertainment, the film is simply one of the best.

The Tree of Life

What we're dealing with here is an incredibly intriguing film. Beyond the curious premise, there isn't much we understand in the plot, but the visuals keep our eyes glued to the screen for every last minute. It adds up to two hours and nineteen minutes, so I feel confident in naming this the best cinematographic work I have ever witnessed, captured light years beyond perfection by Mexican photographer Emmanuel Lubezki. However such grandiloquence lost that well-deserved Academy Award to Hugo, I will never understand. As far as sound, the beauty comes quite close. Some of the more narrative scenes are complemented by birds chirping, others muted against piano music. The contrast is even greater during the more philosophical sequences. During some, the loud energy adds to the marvel; during others, you could literally hear a pin drop twenty yards away.

Thelma & Louise

It's actresses such as Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon that inject likability, even if their actions are far from agreeable and their moral standards far from admirable. It's not the actresses themselves that give the film its witty spark, but how they so profoundly develop their characters from first-timer Callie Khouri's Oscar-winning screenplay. These two gals are implausibly ruthless and bold; stunningly enough, the noteworthy feminist quality of the story itself is never stepped down by the typical "you go, girl" corn. There's also a fabulous amount of style, only adding even more atmosphere to the film: Thelma and Louise's road trip is highlighted by dozens of memorable tunes that deliver a sense of their personalities.

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

Call me crazy, but I was indeed pleased with Halloween 4. Only once in a blue moon do we get a decent slasher sequel, let alone a decent slasher, and with only one returning actor-Donald Pleasence as Sam Loomis-it's hard to expect very much. What makes this entry so engaging is that it possesses several redeeming qualities of which Halloween II was devoid. Suspense is a huge one, structured by none other than what made the originating film so groundbreaking and memorable: a handheld camera, John Carpenter's spooky theme music, and the employment of voyeurism all create a particularly eerie atmosphere. The film makes room, especially near its well executed twist ending, for slashing, but it's not nearly as mindlessly prolonged as in its predecessor.

The Innkeepers

The Innkeepers is a film all too upbeat to call a horror movie, dare I say all too tedious to call entertainment. I shouldn't have to research whether or not this is a horror-comedy, and I won't. In the case that the film was intended as a horror-comedy, everything about it failed miserably, as the quirky jokes evoke no more than nervous laughter. As a pure horror, however, it's just as much a failure, with a far more blatant appreciation for the "awkward moment" than, say, When Harry Met Sally. At first, the employment of loud noises is mildly amusing as a method of making an audience jump as well as diffusing the prior horror, but the overuse of the method grows predictable and obnoxious rather rapidly.

The Thing
The Thing(1982)

Director John Carpenter's Halloween is almost a dictionary definition for the idiom "rags to riches". Carpenter spent all of 1962 through 1969 directing a series of short films; his first two works, 1974?s Dark Star and 1976?s Assault on Precinct 13, still struggle in obscurity. Then comes 1978, and all of a sudden this average joe is now the filmmaker behind what could be the most influential horror movie ever made. Essentially, all Carpenter did was build off the "shower scene" from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (and cast the lead actress's daughter as his lead actress), but just that spawned numerous sequels and remakes, lowered SAT scores with the Friday the 13th saga, and designed an entire oeuvre for Wes Craven, in which every film from A Nightmare on Elm Street to Scream 4 leaks Halloween's own blood. Carpenter continued with three consecutive works that, after his breakthrough, are easily recognizable. The third follow-up was The Thing, a remake of the 1951 B-movie The Thing from Another World. Let's admit, this 1982 remake is lots of fun. Much of John Carpenter's style returns, with eerie cinematography that leaves more of the graphic violence to the viewer's imagination. However, the initial work should have been left to stand. The trashy archetypes of B-movie atmosphere permeate casually, and as a result, any hope of terrifying an audience is demolished.

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

Charlie Kaufman is a genius, one of few remaining screenwriters who can structure a film like prose amid the utter beauty of a poem. Only on the rarest of occasions does Kaufman write in an accessible nature, so to speak, but the mesmerizing atmosphere that has been constructed not only holds our undivided attention for as long as it pleases, it also demands further viewings. Not to decipher, but to enjoy the glorious experience once more. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a brave feat deserving of insurmountable praise. We'd generally scoff at a cross between the romance and science fiction genres. It seems like a novel idea for those longing to revisit the golden age of B-movies. But Kaufman can, quite simply, do anything, even make an audience tear up at the end of his romantic sci-fi film.


The term "action thriller" has deteriorated ever so nastily from what it meant decades ago. Back in the twentieth century, the genre was laudable for its intoxicating ability to mold suspense with grit. Nowadays, good ol' Hollywood has taken charge of the genre, and withered it down to nothing but a pile of special effects and corny jokes, only enjoyable with a few buckets of popcorn handy. Although Headhunters would have still been a stunning cell from the mind of a genius back in the late '70s or early '80s, it's manna from heaven during this era. The film is Norwegian, but who's to say that Norway doesn't know how to bring us back to the time when "edge-of-your-seat thrills" were self-explanatory?

Beverly Hills Cop

The film is nothing groundbreaking, nor is it truly anomalous as an action comedy, but damn, if it isn't ten tons of fun. You wouldn't believe how glorified the synthesizer piece "Axel F", performed by Harold Faltermeyer, still is today. If nothing else, we associate it with Beverly Hills Cop so much, hearing it played in the film's often farcical context feels like driving giddily around a popcorn machine, in which Murphy is extra butter. The film itself isn't consistently funny, and numerous attempts at humor fall flat, but Murphy, as the story's hero, always adds a bit more flavor. There are, however, a few major faults I must address, all complaints related to the script. When establishing the plot, writer Daniel Petrie Jr. proves a shade off genius. We can forget the madness and bare lack of realism because of the clever look at the plot we are given. Upon continuing the plot, Petrie begins beating around the bush. These several scenes are madly funny, but they focus less on plot, and more on ensuring a "hard R" rating. The raunch-over-story agenda transforms what could have been a dynamic ending into a tune-out session.

Beverly Hills Cop isn't a classic. It's stylish, energetic, and humorous enough to leave a colorful mark on a viewer's memory, but as far as substance, the gap only expands (filled in part with coffee grounds).

Kramer vs. Kramer

I enjoy dramas about dysfunctional families just like I enjoy dramas about historical figures. If there is something unique and worthwhile the film has to offer, count me in. If it's just another addition to the pile, count me out. Kramer vs. Kramer was first released in 1979. It wasn't the first film centering on a dysfunctional family, and it certainly wasn't the last; nor was it anywhere close to the greatest. Ordinary People (1980), What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), The Descendants (2011). The list goes on and on, but when I imagine such films, those three are the first to come to mind. Not only do they offer outstanding performances, they offer great, unexpected surprises and alterations to keep us entertained with a story about as old as Methuselah. Kramer vs. Kramer, despite remaining one of the most recognized and praised films of the 1970s, only ventures halfway. Although such marvelous acting ability is worthy of praise and makes the film watchable, in no way does it redeem the film's overwhelmingly submissive faith to convention.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Lo! Monty Python and the Holy Grail hast spake unto thee of King Arthur and ye olde Knights of the Round Table, amidst ye olde low budget! Okay, I won't write my whole review like that. My Old English is a bit rusty, and I hesitate to say you actually understood what I was saying. The same goes for the film itself, however. British comic troupe Monty Python debuted on television in the late 1960s with Flying Circus. Three years after compiling some skits from that series into a 1971 film, the gang released this film, arguably their first true feature-length work, whilst still faithful to the offbeat, farcical, often nonsensical taste that popularized them.

read it all at my blog

Raising Arizona

Clearly, this isn't the most realistic story ever told. Opening up, the film seems almost serious, a description that very rarely fits its creators. Come fifteen minutes, it's as if we've just opened up Pandora's box. Everything is hectic and bizarre, dare I say enough that such latter works as Fargo and The Big Lebowski appear contained, bright walks in the park. Additionally, pacing is just about nonexistent, and the slight formula the Coens frequently use to craft subplots is somewhat identifiable, but only a skeptic would dare tear apart the film for these flaws. We're not looking at a David Lean or Cecil B. DeMille epic that aspires to do nothing but change the world. A believer would merely accept it at that and enjoy the maniacally well executed fun.


Science fiction is wearing thin as quickly as someone on a binge diet. In every recent year, at least one film is released to prove the genre still has legs. 2009 - Avatar. 2010 - Inception. 2011 - Super 8. Early this summer, Prometheus was released, and it wasn't terribly likely there would be any sci-fi to top its magnificence. Looper doesn't reach peaks quite as insurmountably high, but it would be a sin to say it doesn't come close. Think of what Inception would be if the central concept were time travel, with a lead that echoes to Harrison Ford's in Blade Runner. Although the script does occasionally falter in trying to avoid inconsistencies, it is crafted with the use of every last possible ounce of thought. Writer Rian Johnson, who also directed, goes against the grain as far as style. He is aware that most science fiction trash-ignoring B-movie garbage-comes from screenwriters trying to construct the future into the paragon. It's great to finally see a film in which characters have the same sort of things in their way as we do today. Elevators run slowly, traffic takes hours to push through, etc. Best of all, this makes it easy to focus on the central premise.

read the rest at themoviefreakblog.com

Pan's Labyrinth

The film is not at all a straightforward experience. It's instantaneous proof that Mexican writer-producer-director Guillermo del Toro, quite simply, is a genius. Some of the most depressing plot elements are gathered and thus used as seeds that evolve into some of the most elegantly beautiful, wholly unforgettable moments. For instance, the lullaby a fearful Ofelia is sung near the film's midpoint. There's an exuberant amount of curiosity as we venture through young Ofelia's journeys, but knowing that this is a getaway from her hideous lifestyle, the disturbing (not to mention graphic) depiction of war works in supporting the woefully pungent atmosphere, not marring it. Furthermore, as the film tells its story through the Spanish language, those who are fluent may absolutely pick up on more qualities the film has to offer. There's grandiose cinematography as well as an elaborate array of visuals, but a non-Spanish speaker could easily miss them with just devotion to subtitles.

read it all at themoviefreakblog.com

Romeo + Juliet

Romeo + Juliet isn't a Shakespearean film. It's a film for MTV addicts who, quite frankly, couldn't care much less about Shakespeare. Ironically, it tries to show off its beauty so pretentiously and gratuitously, I can't envision such MTV fiends watching it without shunning it. And now it's in my head like a parasite...if I may quote Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare's Macbeth, "Out, damned spot!"

read it all at themoviefreakblog.com


Mind-blowing fun.

The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods is an uncommon sort of horror-comedy. Within the past few years, we've gotten Drag Me to Hell and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. Both of those are ingenious in their own rights, but essentially, neither one puts the genre to a very effective use. The idea here is similar to what we saw in 2000?s Scary Movie, yet the results are much more surprising and sophisticated. Much fun is had during the transformation of dull cinematic corn into the cream of the crop. We get a more "behind the scenes", Truman Show-ish look at the adolescents' situations; this is perhaps the least absurd step taken. The final twenty minutes are indeed ridiculously loud and chaotic, but (oddly enough) they justify the film's point more concisely than everything prior.

read it all at themoviefreakblog.com

Chariots of Fire

The story chronicles two runner who are competing against one another in the Olympics, despite their similar backgrounds. One is an English Jew, fighting against the prejudice he has been harshly subjected to; the other, a devout Christian from Scotland who believes in supporting his beliefs with sports. Now this is based on a true story to which it stays quite faithful. Costumes are immaculately designed by Milena Canonero, and we get the pitch-perfect bleakness of early twentieth century Europe. Unfortunately, Greek composer Vangelis's score makes the film seem incredibly '80s, and the feeling is lost. His score is hit-and-miss, with the more successful side acting out during the utterly breathtaking sequences of competition.

read it all at themoviefreakblog.com

The Raid: Redemption

The first two or three minutes consist of a conversation between a SWAT team (have I seen that setup before?). This was the point at which my heart rate was the fastest. We're being prepared for the inevitable action at this point. But before you can even say "go", director Gareth Evans is throwing blood at us left and right. He seems to think he's doing something entertaining, like throwing confetti out of a parade float, but it's just boring. "Routine" is too generous a description for the way everything works out in The Raid. It's like the same three-minute beatdown over and over again, except on different floors of the building. I kept waiting for "Level Up!" to appear somewhere on the screen because of how superficially the film resembled a video game. My recommendation: watch the fairly similar Die Hard instead. You can fall asleep after that movie.

read it all at themoviefreakblog.com

Pink Floyd - The Wall

The Wall acts as a poem to tell its story. In both art and script, the film is a breakaway from what we would imagine it to be: a terribly overlong music video. Although pacing is almost nonexistent, with verses drastically varying in length, the curious premise requires the undivided attention of one who listens to Pink Floyd for their conceptual intrigue, not just the psychedelic tinge. Outside of the music itself, only around 250 total words are spoken, perhaps less than that. The plot is extremely unconventional, built up by a plethora of metaphors. Those who appreciate the subtleties of avant-garde art such as Fellini's 8 1/2 will without a doubt love it; others, even Pink Floyd fans, may find trouble understanding the brilliant idea. Our story revolves around Pink (Bob Geldof), an man young yet unbearably depressed. We learn of his earlier life in more comprehensive flashback, and his current situation in metaphors. The "wall" itself is perhaps the best instance of symbolism, as a resemblance of alienation.

read the entire writeup at themoviefreakblog.com


For anyone who has watched a crime-related television show, the premise hesitates in its level of familiarity. Will Graham (William Petersen) is an FBI specialist looking for a vile killer nicknamed the "Tooth Fairy". He is only known by this name, and he has a few relations with the incarcerated psychiatrist Hannibal Lecktor*** (Brian Cox), whom Graham uses as a medium to track down his suspect. The film, remade more recently and a bit less memorably, goes into a surprising amount of depth. No sequel had been written to Thomas Harris's source novel (Red Dragon) at the time of the film's release, but even so, the likelihood of director Michael Mann desiring a follow up work is quite dubious. Whereas the doctor's back story was spread out nicely throughout the latter works, we get a well-paced CliffsNotes copy from the less than two hours of Manhunter. The lack of extraneous details in both dialogue and plot make the character development excel. How insulted Peter Webber and Gaspard Ulliel would feel if they knew the megastupid narrative in Hannibal Rising had been boiled down to a single conversation scene (not a flashback) from over twenty years earlier.

Manhunter is 100% a B-movie with a partially A-list cast. The effect of the fairly low budget is hit and miss, but unfortunately more of the latter is noticeable. The opening sequences unfold just as John Carpenter's Halloween did in 1978, and with the same amount of success: spookiness created by hinting at most violence, filming through a handheld camera, etc. As the movie progresses, however, a more cheap, uninspired atmosphere gradually develops. Upbeat synthesizer music doesn't make much sense in a horror movie. The performances, though not as nonplussing, are delivered with very little care. This is the singular area in which Manhunter is outdone by its remake, but it doesn't make the former any less worthwhile.

read the rest at themoviefreakblog.com

The Invasion
The Invasion(2007)

The Invasion sets up carrying the original premise, but once product placement, modern technology, and different characters get in the way, the premise is all that makes this an identifiable retelling. Psychiatrist Carol Bennell (Nicole Kidman) is conducting research on an extraterrestrial epidemic that has suddenly struck her hometown, and begun to spread further. For whatever reason, she feels motivated to stop the virus from taking over the world. Meanwhile, her son (Jackson Bond) has been taken away to her ex-husband Tucker (Jeremy Northam)-who is suffering the mysterious epidemic as well! Trying to discern what reaction the script is intended to draw is nearly impossible. Sci-fi thrillers aren't supposed to make us laugh or roll our eyes at the screen. Screenwriter David Kajganich is a first-timer here; unfortunately, there was no one else to assist him or make the abysmal writing more exciting. It's as if Kajganich has never seen a horror movie, let alone a modern one. Red-flag clichťs are as much in plain sight as jewelry when we walk into a jewelry store. It makes the film disastrously obvious.

read the rest at themoviefreakblog.com


GoodFellas is the kind of mob movie we rarely ever come across. Not until 2006 did we get another just as well-made American crime thriller about a Europe-based mob. Incidentally, Scorsese directed that feat as well, but especially after seeing the mastermind he proved himself in this near impeccable beauty-the one that should have triumphed as The Godfather Part III-it's not one bit a surprise.

read it all at themoviefreakblog.com, wiseguy

The Prestige
The Prestige(2006)

It's a wonder how The Prestige ever thinned out so much, especially as an adaptation of a 400-page novel. Two magicians, rivaling near the end of the nineteenth century, are both out to create the best illusion onstage. These two leads and the tales surrounding them try to compensate for a one-note opening act, and meet halfway, at best. Only when the story finds a darker route does it suddenly find a loophole to evade any more bored of an audience. This is also when Nolan's cinematic makeup takes action. Although this kind of magic show would deprive most young children of sleep, the disturbing obsessions the characters undergo, affecting their personal lives, are a bit of a treat for an audience who may appreciate the surprising twist. By the third act, however, all the clever spark is suddenly dead. Worse, we feel cheated: all the character development that seemed magnificent in the first act, now has proved a major fluke and made for only a predictable conclusion. We've never gotten this much of a disappointment from Nolan. How ironic that the one film he has made about magic, is the least magical picture he has made yet. Again, there is the usual addition to the "Nolanventory", the kind of thing that would be a gimmick in the hands of any other director. But no great magic show can traverse for two hours and ten minutes without a significant amount of additional chutzpah...the great "cadabra" that would instantaneously complete this "abra".

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Monsieur Lazhar

By no means is Monsieur Lazhar bad or even mediocre. Let's admit, it has the ability to convey an unknown sort of beauty and present some moments-particularly the shocking opening and the bittersweet conclusion-that will no less than resonate with an audience. On the other hand, it seems all too familiar. We've seen this plot countless times: bitter coexistence between character(s) who cannot forget their trauma (the students) and character(s) who just want to move on (Lazhar). Ordinary People is a mere start in this extensive list. Perhaps Monsieur Lazhar isn't skilled enough to progress as an A-plus classic. At a B-minus, though, it's a film deserving moderate recommendation.

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2016: Obama's America

Contrary to films produced for pure entertainment, documentaries are only intended to attract a certain audience. We wouldn't expect an obsessed biology aficionado to eagerly attend the private screening for a documentary drawn directly from the Holy Bible, for example. Add in politics and we have something else, where critical reception is nothing more than feedback inevitably biased from one's political party. By definition, the field of writing is an entirely liberal study; such is the reason for unending praise for Michael Moore, who, to a conservative, is likely to appear not as informative, but as dogmatic, redundant, and obnoxious. I respect the negative reception held by 2016: Obama's America. A Tomatometer score of 31% isn't entirely unexpected, as the film's pivotal theme is being "anti-Obama". That is not at all to say that an American who doesn't appreciate Obama, either, will equally detest this. From a more Republican standpoint, the film isn't a fascist, blasphemous insult to our current POTUS, but rather a well-intended (and well-made) warning of what may happen to America within four years or less, under President Barack Obama's possible second term.

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The Elephant Man

It's extremely difficult to assess The Elephant Man beyond its strictly harrowing and thoughtfully afflicting value. If writer-director David Lynch crafted this masterpiece for other reasons than to show how disgusting humanity can be-especially without realizing it-then I will refrain from trying to search for other rationales. We look at the perfectly written, meticulously paced writing, and from there, it only leads to countless other great achievements: brilliant, careful editing; an ongoing tour de force involving just about every last player; the spiritually dampening conclusion, set against Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings"; and a catharsis that is so deeply doused in our thoughts, it guarantees its own testament inside the human heart. Let's not forget the famous "I am not an animal" scene, in which the picture is brought to a stunning climax. This isn't a feel-good film, nor is it a film that will endure several willing viewings. Let's say that with its ability to leave an audience both verbally and emotionally speechless, it should act as required viewing.

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Rushmore does have a bit of aptitude in the comedy. The script, albeit painfully unrealistic, was co-written by Anderson and Owen Wilson, who also worked as a screenwriting duo for Bottle Rocket and The Royal Tenenbaums. Although Wilson's humorous style is far different when he is seen as an onscreen comic, the setup offered in the script itself is quite a hoot; starting out, we see the perfect assessment of quirk. How unfortunate that circa thirty minutes later, the characters have become a result of an obsessive toying with exaggerated personalities traits. It's mind-numbing and confusing. In slight digression, the film clocks in at 90 minutes-credits exclusive-and nearly fifteen of those minutes aren't very necessary at all. The film could have ended far better at the 75-minute mark, at which point the plot's steam is barely hissing away. The additional quarter hour is a failing attempt at trying to construct a catharsis of an epilogue. Had Max Fischer not been ruined so much, it would have been successful, but we simply don't care about his story any longer. Now the steam is chugging profusely. Only that ending I would go as far to call a waste of time; the rest, a mere pseudo-intellectual misadventure.

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Insomnia, as previously mentioned, feels like a two-hour episode of a television crime show, the only changes being the haunting psychological character study that we rarely get a glimpse of on television, and the screenplay's relieving lack of forensic jargon in order to let us get on with and make sense of the story. For the majority of the film, we feel as if we are indeed watching a pilot episode for an upcoming crime series. I occasionally forgot I was watching a theatrically released motion picture, and wondered who would play the antagonist in the following episode. The narrative doesn't fully satisfy. On the other hand, it does echo the rest of Christopher Nolan's work, in a sense that the visuals are used very wisely. The perturbing opening titles, the occasional surreal closeups of murder and hemorrhage, the repeating jump cuts as Al Pacino's character grows more paranoid, the memorably ominous fog scene. The faint of heart may certainly find the title an apt description of the night on which they view this film.

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Bullitt is a slick, stylish thriller. Supported by a jazz-fueled score composed by Lalo "Mission: Impossible" Schifrin, and immaculate concentration on cinematography, the film works with much suspense, forty-four years later. It's also made up of a unusually intellectual foreground. We can admit to the ideal cop thriller having a certain style, but rarely is one realistic, let alone comprehensible. The screenplay, an adaptation of Mute Witness by Robert L. Fish (under the fictitious surname Pike), is so natural, we barely realize how commonly the story itself has appeared nowadays: a cop-Lieutenant Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen)-is focused on protecting a witness with important information, when all of a sudden the witness is murdered and his scopes shift toward searching for the killer. And let's suppose Bullitt isn't an inspiration to the countless novels, short stories, television shows, films, etc. that exhibit similar plots. It still does pretty damn well at bringing more excitement each minute. The climactic scene is only forgettable under the attainment of Alzheimer's disease. Not until Casino Royale was produced almost four decades later did a chase scene even come within sight of the stupendously featured sequence here. You could argue that since Casino Royale's chase is a rather free running parkour all over Madagascar, and Bullitt's is a high-octane automobile dash through the streets of San Francisco, the two don't even belong in the same league. After a few of the film's more dramatic scenes, the ending is reached. Only then is the suspense brought to its more than satisfying pinnacle. Let's place it up among the "baptismal shootings" in The Godfather, the "awards ceremony" in Star Wars, and the "missing Shape" in Halloween, as one of the greatest endings ever made. The only ways in which this ending differs from those are that it's far more subdued, and-somehow!-filmmakers haven't mistaken it as a notion to produce followups or remakes. It's the kind of film film that requires just an egg timer to record how quickly its legacy will disappear with the production of such unnecessary continuations.

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A Thousand Words

Once upon a time, Eddie Murphy was a spectacular comedian. As with many other comedians, his career began in the 1980s with still critically and publicly acclaimed hits such as Beverly Hills Cop and Coming to America. That all changed in 1998, when Murphy began veering his comedy more toward family territory. The result: several flops such as a Doctor Dolittle remake, Dr. Dolittle 2, Daddy Day Care, The Haunted Mansion, Meet Dave, and Imagine That. We've forgotten most, if not all of these existed despite their recency; looking at how well that page out of Encyclopedia Craptastica was received by critics in general, those six films average out to a decimal slightly below 31% approval, with scores of 44% at best and 13% at worst. Last year we were taken by surprise. Many of us may have gotten used to Murphy's newfound lack of true comedy and skipped Tower Heist, a film in which he was ironically the standout. I still consider buying the film on DVD from time to time, just to have access to those laughs we haven't seen since his motor-mouthed days of stand-up comedy and Saturday Night Live, before remembering that his Atlas-esque ability to carry the entire film over his own two shoulders, was virtually the only reason that movie was commendable. Needless to say, Tower Heist was all too promising. Perhaps it was a way to get our hopes up for another Murphy movie, even if that meant he, an actor known best for his hilarious characters who don't know when or how to shut up, has to abide by silence for almost an entire movie. Thankfully the film has something to joke about in its concept, if nothing else, but that joke is all on Eddie Murphy, who heavily succumbs to it. Let's call this A Thousand Turds for the sake of aptness.

A Thousand Words tries its hand at awe-inspiring quirk several times, only to go in a direction completely unintended. You can't expect Eddie Murphy to star in a moving dramedy that uses a thought-provoking script to have an audience make sense of things themselves. For better or for worse, that was realized, and the film acts instead in the drag of a (Austin Powers fans, I believe this would be the perfect moment for "Mini-Me" air quotes) "cooo-meee-dyyyy" that tosses characters and events out so randomly, it makes the deus ex machina tactic seem brilliantly unconventional and genuine. We start with Jack McCall (Eddie Murphy), a hard-working family man devoted to his beautiful wife (Kerry Washington) and adorable toddler son (Emanuel Ragsdale). He is an important figure at an oh-so-busy publishing company, and in some of his spare time, he visits a psychiatrist. The scenes depicting his psychiatric support are intended to make us laugh, but somehow, the throwback to the classic motor mouth is downright annoying. Jack is visited by a genie-type figure and a tree with a thousand leaves that has suddenly grown in his garden. The genie soon hints at why the tree is there: some sort of spiritual nonsense along the lines of, "We, the gods, hereby declare that we are sick and tired of you and we want you to shut up for just three days." His life, for the next three days, relies on the tree, and whatever happens to it, happens to him as well, and whatever the tree feels, he feels as well. You could correctly guess that on several occasions, we find him humiliating himself in front of his co-workers, when squirrels dig themselves into the tree or people come by and spray it with fertilizer. What really holds Jack's life by a thread is that whenever he speaks a word, a tree loses a leaf (once he's discovered this, at least two-hundred leaves have already vanished), and when there are no leaves left, he dies as well. I guess it's crucial to repeat that this itself is essentially a one-joke movie, but even amongst the poor acting and script, it's even worse because of how terrible that one joke is. We want Eddie Murphy to speak. The short little snippets and nonsense words he blurts out when necessary (if you couldn't predict that his character gets begged to speak throughout the entire movie, you probably haven't seen very many movies at all) simply are not enough. It's like watching an Olympic swimming match on TV, with a camera that is constantly cutting over to shots of Michael Phelps sitting out in a wheelchair. We begin to lose interest at the rate the leaves fall.

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The Bourne Legacy

It seems the two trilogies that receive the most mentions as the greatest trilogy ever made are Francis Ford Coppola's three Godfather films and George Lucas's original Star Wars trilogy. I beg to differ, as both of those trilogies-as well as countless others-suffer from inconsistency. Although perhaps not quite as much as in other series of multiple films, both of those examples fall noticeably flat in their third and final entries. It's very rare to find a trilogy that actually delivers as it should, without cheating the audience, which is why I feel every bit confident naming the Jason Bourne trilogy the trilogy that filmmakers who plan to produce trilogies of their own should use as a definitive paragon. Quite simply, it successfully executes everything a trilogy should accomplish in order to soar. It starts out very, very well and from there, only gets better; it uses the similar style among all three entries; it proves to be vastly superior to the trilogy of novels on which it is (surprisingly loosely) based; and, best of all, it would make perfect sense to watch back to back. The way the three-part story is brought full circle by the conclusion of part three is so mesmerizing it deserves a few extra points in its own right. You could say that it isn't nearly as culturally important or even as influential as The Godfather or Star Wars, but given a decade or two, that statement will be nothing more than a splash of deep red ink bleeding through the whites of every printed copy this review endures. No one ever said Jason Bourne would be better in a tetralogy, which is one of numerous occasions on which The Bourne Legacy proves a disappointment, especially when we look back at the three previous works.

While following the news early this year and late last year regarding this fourth installment, I began wonder what the final result was going to be. It seemed each and every new announcement provided information about an additional leap of faith decided to execute during the production. Some might say that a reboot that doesn't feature Matt Damon, doesn't feature the character himself, doesn't feature either of the previous directors, takes its title from the first Bourne novel not written by original author Robert Ludlum, and doesn't even use that novel as a source for its story, has some potential. The film doesn't throw away this potential-surprisingly, it uses quite a fair amount of what it has to succeed at some level. We can't expect an overwhelming success when former lead actor Matt Damon turns down a fourth appearance as Bourne; after all, nothing laudable acted as a result when Jodie Foster turned down Hannibal or when Keanu Reeves said "no" to Speed 2. It's good to know a filmmaker by the name of Tony Gilroy cares about the character perhaps as much as we do, beyond simplistic monetary standards. Gilroy co-wrote the three previous films, and if his superb screenplay-albeit against a lackluster plot-and thrilling directing cannot significantly show he knows how to keep an audience from feeling cheated, there isn't much else that will.

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The Big Lebowski

Sometimes great minds do think alike. Brothers Joel and Ethan Coen can be defined by absolutely nothing but pure brilliance. By just scratching the surface in an analysis of their creative methods, we discover that the two of them are responsible for Fargo, a film that disproved anybody and everybody who ever doubted the feasibility of a comedic thriller; O Brother, Where Art Thou?, an even more anomalous picture that twisted the plot from Homer's solemn epic poem The Odyssey, into an absurd, Southernized, Great Depression-set escapade; and True Grit, one of very few remakes that is applauded far more than the original 1969 work, perhaps due to an adventurous wit John Wayne could never have dreamed of delivering. I dare say that of what I've seen out of their filmography, The Big Lebowski is surprisingly lacking in both invention and innovation; I might go even further and express that more creativity can be excavated from its massive cultural impact, i.e. the inception and expansion of "Dudeism" by its many, many cult followers. Is it lacking in humor? No, not at all. Of course black comedies such as Fargo are easily more "cinepsychologically" identifiable, but when the massively side splitting chortles received in that film are weighed out beside those among The Big Lebowski, the scale evens out pretty smoothly...man.

The less you know about the film, the more priceless entertainment you'll likely draw from the initial viewing. That's not a phrase I'd so much as expect myself to employ for something in the absurd caliber of The Big Lebowski, but it's an awfully bona fide statement. To reveal just a few more events that occur in the story's thirty-minute setup would make the effect of the eventuating climax seem predictable, slapdash, and simply boring. The Dude himself is what makes the story so hilarious, when nothing else does. He speaks like a seventh-grade jock trying to incorporate challenging vocabulary into his everyday speech. I suppose I should reveal just one more tidbit from the setup: Quoth the Dude, "Let me explain something to you. Um, I am not 'Mr. Lebowski'. You're Mr. Lebowski. I'm the Dude. So that's what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing." We are given the same misleading opening narration, on top of that, that made films like This Is Spinal Tap and the more recent Kung Fu Panda even more memorable (but contrary to the latter example, this is not a family movie). We are led to expect a film that sings the praises and triumphs of some sort of legendary victor that anyone in the film's universe has heard of. We're mislead so far, with first-person viewpoints that simply cannot be described by words like "oddball" or "psychedelic", we have to wonder if the narrating character was the Coens' former choice to preface a mockumentary glamorizing African poverty.

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Fight Club
Fight Club(1999)

Fight Club is no better than it has any right to be. With an A-list cast featuring stellar performances from Brad Pitt (Moneyball, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), Edward Norton (Red Dragon, American History X), and Helena Bonham Carter (Harry Potter, Big Fish), the script-an adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's 1996 novel of the same name-is taken to a whole new, far more grandiose level. Attach an unmissable nod to director David Fincher (Se7en, The Social Network), whose most impressive ornaments include a brilliantly surreal opening title sequence and the most timely and appropriately sparing cues for jump cuts, and the result-though not set up the best-is an overwhelmingly involving black comedy. It makes the merely acceptable and consistently similar update Never Back Down seem a worthless, trashy, unintentionally hysterical ripoff.

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The War of the Roses

THE WAR OF THE ROSES does occasionally suffer from showcasing a handful of gags that literally fall crÍpe flat; however, there are tens of dozens of incredibly successful jests-easily enough to outweigh the failures and to make them instantly forgettable. Not since I watched A FISH CALLED WANDA have I guffawed so guffawed with such side-splitting joy, with close runners-up being FARGO and HAROLD AND MAUDE (why yes, I am very fanatic of the dark comedy!). This is the kind of misfortune we laugh at so agonizingly, we never never get the notion about how terrible it would be in reality. To make matters worse, much of the film is set around the holidays. In comparison, the premises of DIE HARD and GREMLINS seem tame. THE WAR OF THE ROSES isn't a horror movie. It isn't disturbing or emotionally harrowing. And even though logic isn't a forte for director DeVito or writer Leeson, the senseless violence is presented in a fashion that is comical, cohesive, and tasteful. Even with a scarce lack of innovation, the story is entirely entertaining and a riotous viewing.

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Wall Street
Wall Street(1987)

It's Michael Douglas's portrayal of Gekko-aptly dubbed "Gekko the Great" by the antihero himself-that makes the film so much more intriguing. His pitch-perfect performance is sometimes serious, others laid-back. The decision of which of these two conversational routes to take is crucial in his challenging role, whereas it wouldn't very much matter in most other cinematic roles. His shifting between solemnity and relaxation is so gradual and subtle, so as not to make his character seem even slightly awkward. Above all, Douglas's famous "Greed is Good" speech is delivered with such profound gravity, it's bound to leave a viewer speechless. It's interesting how many times "greed" is employed in such a short amount of time, yet the speech doesn't come close to devolving into a pleonasm. Douglas earned a righteous Best Actor Oscar for his performance, and it pervades his performance. Charlie Sheen, on the other hand, is a bit of a disappointment in his performance as Fox. Of course, the problem here isn't drugs, tiger blood, and self-proclaimed "winning"; come December, the film will be celebrating its 25th anniversary, giving it a release far before this man fell apart. It's his acting here that falls apart-in fact, Charlie slightly overacts. Near the end of the film, there are a handful of scenes featuring Bud Fox and his father Carl arguing. Carl Fox is portrayed by Martin Sheen, who happens to be Charlie's real-life father. Knowing this personal relationship shared between the two of them, it's actually surprising how lacking in authenticity their quarrels are.

WALL STREET is a likeable, well-made drama, engaging from the very start. Admittedly, it isn't perfect, nor does it feel like a vile cheat. Even after over two hours of familiarizing ourselves with the characters, immersing ourselves in their idiosyncrasies and peccant personalities, the ending is still a bit of a surprise-and it sums up the film more concisely than almost any other conclusion I've ever seen. Revealing that one, strong moral would instantaneously disclose countless spoilers, so under downright obligation, I will refrain from saying anything more. Besides, what more can I say? WALL STREET, for lack of a better word, is good.

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Hannibal Rising

From the very start, HANNIBAL RISING is established as a careless, failing effort to make us care about the villain. After three films that had no phrase other than "sick b##tard" running through our minds, are we honestly supposed believe that Hannibal Lecter has heart? The story sets up in 1944, when eight-year-old Hannibal (portrayed by Aaran Thomas) and his sister Mischa (Helena-Lia TachovskŠ) are taken hostage by Nazis during World War II. Hannibal is enraged, not to mention scarred for life when his beloved sister is eaten by the Nazis (??). Fast-forward eight years, when Hannibal (portrayed for the rest of the film by Gaspard Ulliel) has moved out of his aunt's house, where he has undergone unwanted attempts to calm his soul via some sort of spiritual Asian ritual (??), and on to medical school, where he finds his forte. Knowing that most of the serial killer's aggressive attempts to avenge his sister take place in the very spot where he earns his doctorate, why not just call the film Hannibal Unsurprising?

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FOLLOWING "tracks" an anonymous, aspiring writer (Jeremy Theobald), young, lonely, and bored. He has made plans to write his first novel but can't quite decide on how his characters would act or behave, what their personalities are like. To cure his writer's block, our protagonist begins shadowing just about anybody he finds interesting while walking through the city. When this tedious habit evolves into an obsession, the writer finds himself in danger, involved in crime, and being betrayed. The film works every bit as an inspiration for Nolan's breakthrough picture MEMENTO just a year later. It practices the "neo-noir" genre popularized by films of the early to mid 1990s such as THE USUAL SUSPECTS and SE7EN. A production made on an ultra-low-budget of $6,000-making it easily one of the least expensive films ever released-FOLLOWING is photographed by Christopher Nolan himself, using a subpar and often mildly shaky technique set against mysterious, low-key black-and-white photography. Dare I say that had the profanity been removed and the violence been presented in a less intense manner, this could easily fool an audience as a film shot in the 1940s and 1950s, when films-noir were initially produced. This idea, albeit with far more professional cinematography, were clearly the inspiration for the select black-and-white scenes in MEMENTO.

FOLLOWING isn't a film I would recommend bypassing. Although it's nowhere close to any of Christopher Nolan's best work, it's overlooked to the point of shame. Yes, MEMENTO is by far the more favorable choice. But if remakes were defined by technique rather than story, MEMENTO would be purely a remake of FOLLOWING. Among other optimal reasons, why not watch FOLLOWING for the mere sake of seeing the roots of Nolan's creativity in action? Let's admit: while not perfect, it's sufficiently entertaining and pretty exciting.

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A Fistful of Dollars (Per un Pugno di Dollari)

PER UN PUGNO, though played out at a slow pace, is an intriguing tale to watch. We are immersed into the story so easily, alongside fine direction from Sergio Leone and a superb performance by Clint Eastwood, there isn't much time to actually think about how much of a Western archetype the thematic outline is. Although an unofficial remake of Japanese actioner YOJIMBO, released three years earlier, much of the film was written in the mode of a stereotypical Western. Especially since the leading protagonist is widely considered one of the greatest characters ever brought to the silver screen, this layout isn't particularly a bad quality. The film opens with a stranger (Clint Eastwood) arriving into a petite Mexican border town called San Miguel. The man's name is said to be Joe, but this is rarely mentioned in the film, and he uses a different name in each of the two sequels; by film aficionados, he has been dubbed the "Man with No Name". The town has been torn apart by greed, revenge, and pride. During the time of the stranger's arrival, all of this has led into an apparent war between two families, the Rojos and the Baxters. Most would flee such a wretched town almost immediately, but being the fearless gunfighter that he is, the foreigner stays. Using his proficiently cunning skill, he deviously plays the two groups against each other, in a violent plot to earn...a fistful of dollars.

The ongoing praise that has been aimed at PER UN PUGNO is almost entirely agreeable. The picture is nearly half a century in age, but it still holds up as one of the most intriguing escapades ever produced; it's a close second to DIE HARD on my fictional mental list, "The Greatest (Albeit Slightly Illogical) Escapist Films Ever Conceived". Those who could overlook the illogical factors of that late '80s flick, however, aren't terribly likely to notice those hidden in this 1964 film. There is a factor, unfortunately, that makes a noticeable impact upon DOLLARI. Producers Arrigo Colombo and Giorgio Papi budgeted the film at a low $200,000 (less than $1.5 million, when adjusted for inflation), and it shows from the very beginning. The opening title sequence, designed by Iginio Lardani, would have worked well, had it not been a poorly sketched cartoon with hokey sound effects and lettering. The cinematography, though usually acceptable, also fails when attempting to abruptly change from a landscape shot to a close up; the zoom effect is a bit cheesy. On the other hand, there is one magnificently honorable success in the film's technical realm. Overlooked Italian composer Ennio Morricone, credited under the pseudonym "Dan Savio", composed an unforgettable score for the film-the kind of score such films would fail without. After it had been suggested by the director, Morricone fabricated the film's two key, innovative themes in the likeness of Tiomkin's compositions for UN DOLLARO D'ONORE (English title: Rio Bravo) and GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL, two late-'50s Westerns. It's the one technical element that progresses throughout the film as a background supporter, builds up suspense when necessary, and leads up to an unexpected conclusion.

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It's easy to admit that Jack Black has not crafted himself an all too commendable career. To name just one of his roles would get me spewing a barrage of films that would have quite simply been more memorable without him, so I will refrain from doing so. BERNIE is the second collaboration in nine years between director Richard Linklater and Jack Black, following SCHOOL OF ROCK. Knowing such, it's automatic that most of our expectations are high. Yes, SCHOOL OF ROCK featured Jack Black playing not much more than, well, Jack Black, but that performance stands out as by far the best comedic delivery in his entire career. Bernie does not star Mr. Black as his usual character, though. This is a far more dramatic role. Ironically, it's handled in a straightforward, contained manner that makes any mark of stupid behavior or silly humor in the actor's career utterly untraceable. I dare say he often appears to exceed the abilities of more generally talented performers such as Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey, and is therefore the least of reasons to dismiss the film.

It's likely that although BERNIE was given its theatrical release just less than four months ago, not too many have heard of it, and even fewer have seen it. The film was given a very limited release and therefore made only $8.4 million at the box office. This is quite a shame, considering how clever and well-made the film is. I'd wholeheartedly recommend it, now that it's publicly available on home video. Those who can appreciate the darkly seriocomic script on which this relies will easily find lots to guffaw at. It's not an instant classic like FARGO, in which EVERY possible risk is taken and achieved greatly, as far as attempts to make an audience burst into laughter during horrifying situations. It is, however, a witty and memorable "viewing". (I apologize for the bad pun.)

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Red Dragon
Red Dragon(2002)

After the utterly nonplussing HANNIBAL, it wouldn't be fair to hold high expectations of the Hannibal saga any longer. It's possible the film would have failed if expectations of something as remarkable as THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, but if there's one component resurrected (almost) just as phenomenally as was done in that classic, it's the performances. With Anthony Hopkins reprising his stunning villain, we must expect the film to succeed at some level in this area. We are blown away by how well the talent of other names are showcased: Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Emily Watson, to name a few. Unfortunately the film fails in its attempts to aim for originality. It's certainly justifiable that RED DRAGON is its own work and, in fact, not a prequel. There isn't much done to Hopkins to make him appear younger, for example, and although a date is given in the beginning of the film, we barely remember it because the presentation could reflect any time between the mid-20th century to now. The plot, however, tends to play out as a rehash of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. FBI agent Will Graham (Norton) is assigned to investigate a mysterious-and surprisingly underwritten-serial killer dubbed "The Tooth Fairy", just like in SILENCE when FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) investigates "Buffalo Bill". To uncover necessary information, Will seeks help from Hannibal "the Cannibal" Lecter (Hopkins)-just as Clarice did in SILENCE.

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The Secret Life of Bees

When you come across a film poster flaunting a smile across every included face, there's a 98% chance it's another "feel-good" flick about to hit cinemas. Save for a few exceptions that have backed away from the tiresome archetypes (i.e. JERRY MAGUIRE, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE), rarely is this a good sign. I often feel worried that the film's crew thinks its key audience is full of idiots who cannot even mildly identify the recurring thematic formula: identify the problem in the story, gradually evolve from saddening to joyful, relieve the audience's emotions with a scene that will guarantee a good cry, then all of a sudden end on a severely optimistic note. THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES is a film harrowed in majority not because it plays out as such a film, but because it offers nothing new, or nothing noticeably original, for that matter. The film isn't terrible, due to some select bright spots and a solid performance from Queen Latifah-may I add that this gets my vote for her best performance since CHICAGO. Aside from those who watch films for that ultimate catharsis, it's not particularly engaging.

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What makes this thriller so intoxicating is how little we actually know about the crime when it starts out, and how much desire there is for an additional viewing once the conclusion has been reached. Certain films are just not meant to be 100% comprehensible; filmmaker Nolan made this clear once again with his INCEPTION a decade later. You could say it's "the greatest mind game ever played". It's all about how much and what we assume, as the audience. The film opens with what we assume to be the murder of the actual criminal-before the scene ends with a "red herring", so to speak, that makes us unsure of whether or not this is actually him. We gain significant information through all Leonard does to keep record: taking photographs of people, jotting notes on the photographs regarding whether or not he should actually trust that person, tattooing his body with notes-to-self, etc. Admittedly, the film could be plotted out sequentially, and watched that way, but it would be nowhere as much innovative and exhilarating fun.

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Double Jeopardy

It's rare for me to find myself so convinced that one person's trash actually is another person's treasure. I can, quite honestly, envision enjoying DOUBLE JEOPARDY. Had this plot been scripted by a mastermind in the crime genre and directed by someone of the Martin Scorsese caliber, it would have soared. Albeit intriguing, I'm not one to overlook cornball dialogue, poor acting, severe lack of reality, and the employment of just about every clich√ (C) in the book--as far as crime thrillers--when I sit myself down in front of such movies. Trash? Not quite, but certainly trashy. Treasure? Uhh, no.

Full review at themoviefreakblog.com


I'm not a huge fan of filmmaker Ridley Scott. Of course, I've thoroughly enjoyed his perfectionist work with the sci-fi genre-but those classics only amount to three films, among the other seventeen he has directed. 2001 must have been the year Scott decided violence was the only valid answer for finishing a film. It was the year he directed BLACK HAWK DOWN, quite possibly one of the most ruthlessly violent and emotionlessly disgusting war movies ever made. That was in December. Let's skim back to February, the month that saw the release of his HANNIBAL. This sequel clearly wasn't just an intention to follow up THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, it's a celebration of the film's tenth anniversary. Unfortunately, it becomes more of a film that takes a rather different route than its unforgettable predecessor. Whereas Jonathan Demme built suspense in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS by keeping everything truly horrifying just barely off screen, Ridley Scott wraps no restrictions whatsoever on our vision, leaving the limits at a human face being fed to dogs, the exposure of a human brain, and pretty much everything in between. We feel more repulsed than thrilled, and we begin to wonder why SILENCE is so controversial for "glorifying" serial killers, and this follow-up isn't.

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The Dark Knight Rises

I do love films very, very much. Otherwise I would not be devoting so much of my life to writing about them. I do have some cinematic pet peeves, however. My biggest, by far, is the art of "threequels". It's as if the filmmakers have a lazy idea that they can construct a great movie, follow it up with another great one, and then-now that they have the audience's attention and anticipation-burn away all the guarantee for a great third entry with a continuing sequel that works more for money than for story. I could write a book about how frequently this occurs in the film industry. Christopher Nolan makes his epic Batman interpretation a rare exception, though. Admittedly, it isn't the best of the trilogy; it's close to nothing in comparison to 2008?s THE DARK KNIGHT, which is considered by many to be the greatest superhero film ever made. As the "superhero movie" begins to solidify as its own single genre, consisting of a fair range in quality like any other genre does, I would not likely hesitate to place THE DARK KNIGHT RISES in the top five.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is, in whole, a well-rounded conclusion. At two hours and forty-four minutes, it takes its precious time to put a lid on the presentation of well-known, contemporary mythology. Ironically, this is the most engaging entry in the trilogy, despite significantly exceeding the run times of the first and second entries. Better yet, it ends on a very strong, albeit surprising note. Again, there's no fun in seeing it if I spoil anything, so I won't. The film commences like a fresh sheet of paper, then grows darker and more thrilling with every passing scene, rarely ever blemished in its conveyance. Many thousands words ran through my mind as I sat in the theater, and "disappointing" was never one of them.

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Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

When George Lucas created STAR WARS just three years before, he wasn't constructing a film but instead a universe. A sequel to further the story was inevitable and vital to the timeless tale's legacy, and after being received well by both critics and audiences alike, a sequel was confirmed. If THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK were the primary entry in this three-part legend, it would not have stood out. After all, it was released in 1980-the year responsible for an overwhelming number of unforgettable classics. THE BLUES BROTHERS, AIRPLANE!, THE SHINING, ORDINARY PEOPLE, RAGING BULL, and many more. Considering this is one of the greatest sequels ever made, it stands out in its own unique respect.

If anybody other than a compelling genius like George Lucas were behind this, they would pervade every crack and crevice of the film. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is a film that looks down on the "failing sequels" stereotype with an insurmountable number of ways to prove it wrong. Clearly, the stereotype remembers sequels like BATMAN AND ROBIN and SPEED 2, films that meaninglessly give another story that is bound ever so loosely by the characters appearing in their predecessing works. There aren't many other follow-ups quite as sturdy, but when it all comes down to how well the film does as its own work, it's a masterfully produced and well told epic.

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The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde inseglet)

Have you ever talked with someone who makes it clear he or she has a point to make, but instead rambles on and on endlessly and only once or twice makes a brief remark relevant to his or her point? If there's a film that represents that person, it's THE SEVENTH SEAL. The picture-often considered one of the all-time great films, as is filmmaker Bergman-opens with a title card and begins with about fifteen minutes devoted to an interesting story. In Sweden, during the time of the Black Plague, a young man (Max von Sydow) plays games of chess with the figure "Death" (Bengt Ekerot) as he furthers into his questions about life, death, and God. With that philosophical premise, one would hope for a moving, thought-provoking story. Sadly, the story barely moves on; instead, it meanders while featuring silly, monotonously spoken characters, unintentional humor, and quizzical plot points.

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Desperately Seeking Susan

DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN is an oddball dramedy. The film relies mostly on a singular, loose joke: a bored woman gets to live the life of her dreams, as the other woman tries to get back that life. Susan is a weird character, anyhow. It's pretty rare for such an important character in a film's story to not bear a resemblance to anyone I've ever met. Yet Madonna portrays her unpredictable personality to perfection. It's rare that she gives a decent onscreen delivery, save for EVITA, but she actually makes portraying her character seem easy here.

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Silent Movie
Silent Movie(1976)

In terms of being a reverent homage to the silent era, SILENT MOVIE is a complete failure. But with a director like Mel Brooks, dubbed the Master of the Spoof, you can't quite expect this to be a 1976 comparison for THE ARTIST. We understand from the very beginning that this is more of a comedic pasquinade than a melodramatic homage, once we see color cinematography and hear corny, Three Stooges-esque sound effects. Yes, the film is silly. It's about as nonsensical and stupid of a romp as you can get, quite frankly. But as this is a comedy that pays no mind to being straightforward or taking itself one bit seriously, it just makes it all the more fun. Because stupid is as stupid...entertains, I guess.

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The Secret World of Arrietty

Hayao Miyazaki, who wrote, planned, and executive produced 2012?s THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY, has some potential to create a Japanimation that is a brilliant, dazzling classic. He did this profoundly just a decade ago with SPIRITED AWAY. The reason that film is such a memorable piece of art is because it is a high fantasy that puts us into the young female lead's shoes and gives us an experience of equal parts exhilarating adventure and bewildering fear. Although the picture is well done in terms of entertainment, and there is a decent amount of escapade as well as a sense of worry, especially near the end, it seems to handle the fantasy genre in a too much more upbeat, wholesome manner. I don't mean to cast any aspersions on G rated movies; you know that when the MPAA slaps a PG certificate on thoroughly harmless family movies such as UP and THE MUPPETS, this may just be one of the very last films to carry a G rating before it disappears. The story seems to be plotted out quite uneventfully, to the point where I can't see anyone over the age of nine finding it as altogether mesmerizing as SPIRITED AWAY. Hence the title: it's her secret world, not her awe-inspiring world. Because of its solid voice performances (in this U.S. dub) and its bright visual atmosphere, it's entertaining, at best.

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The Purple Rose of Cairo

It's clear Woody Allen knows how to pick and choose a strong cast. Mia Farrow is irrefutably underrated; nobody has seemed to ever understand her potential, and I strongly feel that she is, in fact, one of the most outstanding Hollywood actresses from the latter half of the twentieth century. Not only is she beautiful, her delivery is brilliant, and her chemistry with Jeff Daniels-who delivers just a slightly less powerful performance-is grand.

What more can I say about THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO? It isn't perfect, but it's very much close. I'm talking about a sheer motion picture that represents the 1930s in perchance the utmost picturesque, vivid manner possible. The writing is guaranteed pleasure for those who don't generally view film as a work of art, but for just about any cinephile watching this is bound to get a magical thrill similar to the kind a young child receives when he or she enters a candy shop. In just two, simplistic words, it's magnificent.

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The Silence of the Lambs

It's a bit of a surprise that the film is a heavy study of not one, but two complex characters. The film is such a deep analysis, it makes classic thrillers such as Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO and John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN seem shallow; I dare say that "Buffalo Bill" and Hannibal Lecter are two of the most important antagonists in the history of all thrillers, and as such a prudent examination, the film itself is underappreciated. It's quite possible that Hopkins's career began to slowly take a downhill route by the 21st century, with roles in fiascos such as HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, BEOWULF, and THE RITE, but he delivered nothing but a mighty fine effort back in 1991. We hardly notice that his appearance adds up to less than twenty minutes because he surrounds the entire film as such an important character, and the uneasy results of his appearance leaves distasteful aftereffects long after we've moved on from him.

But I must wonder: are the lambs still screaming?

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Troll 2
Troll 2(1990)

When it comes to movies that are conscious of how awful they are, I strongly believe in a very thin line that separates those that are so bad they're good, and those that are just plain terrible. Whereas PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE is often considered the "King of the Z-Movie" for its ability to sufficiently entertain despite being terribly in every possibly respect, CHILD'S PLAY and JAWS: THE REVENGE don't go far enough over the top to achieve an adequate level of entertainment. That line-though very thin-is perfectly straddled TROLL 2. It's like watching a group of professionals (CHILD'S PLAY and JAWS: THE REVENGE) struggle over a barely fraying tightrope, and later on seeing a mere amateur (TROLL 2) flawlessly cross the distance between two buildings on a line of thread. I mean, I'm not saying the film is flawless. Quite frankly, it's a ninety-five-minute flaw that takes liberty in creating its own apocalyptic clichťs rather than relying on others to keep the story going. Sometimes when I watch terrible films, I tend to wonder how they are so meticulously entertaining, but not here. Plain and simple, it's not the story that fluently progresses the film, but rather the rampant flaws that are so excessive, they could gather into a story of their own.

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Broadway Danny Rose

Dear Mr. Woody Allen,

This letter is regarding BROADWAY DANNY ROSE. I'm aware the film was released an entire twenty-eight years ago, which must seem like forever to you, considering how prolific you are as a director, but you just can't forget the unforgettable, can you? You know, I'll freely admit that I'm only fourteen years old, and when I express my love for your work to others-particularly those who for whatever reason yield a lack of appreciation for your hysterically wry humor-I often am told that I'm your youngest fan. And I just don't see why I should give a damn. Why? Your work (save for a few disappointments in recent years, such as SCOOP and TO ROME WITH LOVE) consistently reminds me just why I love film. BROADWAY DANNY ROSE is a beauty I must applaud you for, because it does this especially well. You take a subject like theater that a diehard film fan like me, quite frankly, does not care so much for; you use that to embody your main character, Danny Rose, who marks your best performances, by the way; and you take some risks with the production. My personal favorite film of yours is MANHATTAN, which appeared just five years prior to BROADWAY. When I see the word "Broadway" in a film's title-or anywhere, for that matter-I think of flamboyant, colorful costumes flashing brightly in front of my face. Yet your presentation of a film that is quasi-Broadway-centric reprises the utter beauty of MANHATTAN: black-and-white.

I'm sure you understand that even if it doesn't come without those flaws, BROADWAY DANNY ROSE is brilliant and deep in the eyes of a cinephile. They say "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", and I guess with a film like this, I must be one of at least a thousand beholders.

Thank you for your time, and please continue to maintain an excellent career.

From your ever loyal fan,

Alexander "The Cinemaniac" Diminiano

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Moonrise Kingdom

I can't say I'm terribly familiar with director Wes Anderson. I've wanted to give a watch to some of his acclaimed classics such as RUSHMORE and THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, but it seems I have not gotten around to doing so quite yet. After seeing the mesmerizing gem Anderson carefully pieced together within just the past year, I'm absolutely dying to seek out more of his work. I've said my peace about the technical grandeurs as well as those from the story, collaboratively and flawlessly scripted by both Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, with not a single word misplaced, forgotten, or wasted. It leaves the well-assembled ensemble cast. I'm aware that Anderson has assembled this way in previous films, and just seeing from one film, it's clear how successful his hand is at the technique. Though the greatest standouts and leading roles are from the debut roles by Gilman and Hayward as the young, fleeing couple, there is a great amount of recognizable talent among the rest of the cast: Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, and Frances McDormand. If there is one performer who impresses more than any other, it's Murray. It's rare for his delivery to be so outstanding; he's the kind of actor who is great when he wants to be. Undeniably, this ranks as high up as his work in LOST IN TRANSLATION, GROUNDHOG DAY, and GHOST BUSTERS as some as his definitive best.

MOONRISE KINGDOM is an undeniable chef d'oeuvre. It's one of the few films I've seen that fluently manages to blend quirk, wit, soul, and joy, to the very point of dazzling perfection. I can vividly envision the result in my mind, there just isn't a word the English language provides to speak it. Anyone who has sat in a theater with me and so much as glanced down at me during the credits knows what I look like when my mind is blown in such a public experience. I'm mentally awake once the credits start, but the unfathomable emotion brought by the point the film ends stuns me silent. This happens, but very, very rarely. Perhaps if I was living in the 1960s, the age that brought several classics, it would happen very often. But I'm pretty sure I lived through the 1960s, at all, for the terse yet downright enthralling and involving ninety-four minutes of MOONRISE KINGDOM.

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Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Due to much of the rest of the film, SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN isn't wholly undercooked. There is a sense of delicious entertainment that seems to permeate the surrounding plot. In a sidebar story, the dramedy presented a growing love between the characters of Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor. Usually, "second story romances" are one of my biggest cinematic pet peeves, but the idea worked surprisingly well, at a subtle, well-acted, believable standard that was no distraction from the more significant plot. The film, though perhaps lacking in the dramatic area it needs to achieve, has a sweet, charming sense of humor, one that sets the mood, evokes a chuckle every once in a while, and adds a hint of enthusiasm into the film. Though SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN is nowhere near perfect, it presents what I love best about sports-oriented films. It makes me care about the subject matter, despite my critical dislike for the activity. But that's in its beautiful feeling, not its lackluster presentation.

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Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

In the eyes of a skeptic, STAR WARS is a film strongly fit for those who are just as much fascinated by comic books and the marvels of science. Those skeptics should be ashamed of themselves, every last one of them. Not only are such statements downright hateful to one of the Seven Wonders of the Cinematic World, they are uninformed by a refusal to witness such a beloved science fiction classic. I'm sure there are some who find distaste in the film even after experiencing it, and I honestly hope those people plan on receiving lobotomies. Looking at its accolades, you can find proof that the Academy sees no reason to award a science fiction film the Best Picture Oscar, by just looking at the film's notorious loss for Best Picture. I say this with not the slightest hesitation, even though I strongly regard the director of the eventual winner as my all-time favorite filmmaker. Again, I (have some serious trouble trying to) understand that some people find STAR WARS silly and absurd, an interpretation that requires much explanation. That being said, I bid you all farewell until my next review. May the Force be with you.

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Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Although it certainly does not come without flaws, and it does not come with any particular brain, AUSTIN POWERS has the tendency to be funny. In its utter stupidity, it has absolutely no right whatsoever to make us laugh so hard. But it does and it succeeds. This isn't a film everyone will enjoy. Again, when I hear the term "guilty pleasure", this would be the first to come to mind. But for those who enjoy an hour and a half of foolish entertainment every so often, I'd highly recommend it.

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I'm not a great fan of Ron Howard's directorial work. I thoroughly enjoyed 1995?s APOLLO 13, and I would swiftly jump to stating that it is one of my all-time favorite movies. But that's just one film. Films like HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS and A BEAUTIFUL MIND are those I would only leap to defending when it was severely necessary. I would not hesitate, however, to say that the man does know how to assemble a solid cast. Howard has done so in most his films, but I have yet to see an assembly as great as in FROST/NIXON. Just Frank Langella and Michael Sheen are marvelous in their respective performances as Richard Nixon and David Frost. Of the two, Langella excels a bit more, despite the routine presentation of his real-life character. Looking beyond at other impressive names such as Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell, and Rebecca Hall, as well as each of their performances, the film seems to be, if nothing else, a showcase of convincing performers. Combined with the grainy and occasionally panning cinematography, we're taken by the effect of a documentary.

FROST/NIXON is a film that takes itself seriously, perhaps a bit too seriously. It exceeds two hours of screen time to chronicle a tale that could be documented just as effectively in a forty-five-minute television special. There is so much talking going on that we often feel like we're watching C-SPAN. I have to wonder how much of the interviews were cut out for the purpose of interesting the audience. There was a good amount of extraneous information delivered. At least the interview in which Nixon took twenty-three minutes to respond to a simple question, was truncated down to around five minutes. FROST/NIXON also seems like one of Oliver Stone's presidential dramatizations. There is a lot of story as well as information given-though if Stone himself had directed, it would have been a more appropriately heavy take on the events-as well as a good amount of depth planted inside the characters-again, it's not the kind of depth we particularly need. To compare with that director's similar works, FROST/NIXON is nowhere near as tremendously engaging, well-told, and classic as JFK; but it isn't nearly as dreadfully lackluster, insulting, and half-baked as W., either. In short, it's a fine drama.

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It's not just the story that makes PSYCHO such a fabulously eerie picture. It grows eerier through every viewing, in fact, when each time it is watched, more subtleties are picked up on by the viewer. This was Alfred Hitchcock's final black-and-white-shot film, following 1956?s THE WRONG MAN. It's the claim of some skeptics that this was a cheap excuse to use cheap tactics such as chocolate syrup to simulate the effect of bleeding during the notorious "shower scene". Clearly, that isn't the case. The black-and-white gives us a sheer feeling of terror while watching the film. It's not a horror film, but it comes pretty close with such atmospheric, tasteful qualities. We feel as if Hitchcock is not directing the film, but rather directing a murder case. His technique is insurmountable. PSYCHO II and PSYCHO III each study Norman Bates in thorough depth, for example, but neither of them reach the level of suspense and shock that this did.

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The Mist
The Mist(2007)

Though the premise isn't anything new, it's pretty fun. A disastrous storm strikes a town and leaves a mist over the lake. We learn from a married couple the film opens up with that it's typical for mist to serve as an aftermath for storms. But this mist is somewhat different. When townspeople begin gathering food and supplies in preparation for another storm, the mist begins to surround the grocery store. It is nearly impossible to enter, because anyone who does so is shown to be bloodied and then eaten alive by a giant squid-like creature. Again, it's a thrilling premise, despite being downright trivial. Once evolved into a complete plot, however, the story begins to fray rather quickly. It seems to not know where to go during its latter half, leading up to one of the dumbest twist endings I've ever seen. There were about three of them, actually, and really, Darabont should have stopped after the first. That possible conclusion was appalling, to say the most without churning out any spoilers.

THE MIST suffers from a distinct horror archetype created by many non-horror fans. It's twig-skinny in plot and flowing with blood and gore, most of which apears extremely fake. I must make a special note that it isn't terribly frightening either. It's much more gross than disturbing or terrifying. If you're someone who enjoys ALIEN and INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS for the sake of watching bodily mutilation and reptile-like creatures, give this a watch. You'll surely be entertained, as THE MIST expresses no hesitation for similar attacks and feasts on mortal flesh (I try to make that sound more horrific than the film itself, even with such trashy words), though perhaps they are presented here in a bit more of excessive, gratuitous, and disgusting ways. If you watch such films for an engaging plot, I'd recommend ignoring the film.

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Joyful Noise
Joyful Noise(2012)

I'd like to say the premise is something new, but I feel I've somehow seen it before. Not much about it seems original, and maybe that's because it's a bit of a concert behind-the-scenes movie, with gospel music. It's a loose analogy, I'm aware, but you could easily call it This Is Gospel Tap. Of course, the religion-oriented twist would allow the story only mild ridicule and would be more targeted at those who much prefer visiting churches than rock concerts. G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton) is a sassy, sprightly, southern woman, the grandmother of a teenager named Randy (Jeremy Jordan). At church, she participates in a competitive choir and rivals massively with the director, Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah), the underappreciated mother of perky teen Olivia (Keke Palmer)-also a participant in her mother's choir-and Asperger's-suffering Walter (Dexter Darden)-who blames his disability on God and thus refuses to listen to gospel music or participate in church. During that competition, Olivia finds herself hopelessly falling in love with Randy, as he befriends Walter and teaches him the piano.

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Mission: Impossible 2

I once read a book entitled Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field, which, as you may gather from the title, is a thorough run-through of how to write a sturdy screenplay. In one chapter of the book, Mr. Field explains that scripting a sequel is a way of adapting the original work. Just as when adapting a book, rebooting a television series, remaking another film, etc., however, enough information must be given so that an audience who has not seen the original work-or has forgotten about it-understands the characters and what is happening. It was almost a year ago that I saw the original MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE and over six months since I saw the most recent installment into the series. I do remember what they were like, luckily. Had I not seen and remembered those exhilarating pictures, I would be suffering from not knowing what not knowing what was happening (I'm still looking for the plot that appeared in this film), and I would have much different expectations of the rest of the series. Or I would just have no earthly desire to watch any more of the series.

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Jerry Maguire

JERRY MAGUIRE is a fairly satisfying film. You'd be surprised how little it actually presents sports and its athletic nature, despite the plot revolving around the activity. Though there is a bit of exaggeration on Jerry's character, he is an interesting one to watch, especially when solidly acted by Tom Cruise. However funny and charismatic the film may be, it is not quite a classic. Yes, it is quotable in several places-all the above quotes originated in this film and their are more-and it shouldn't be legal to forget a scene as wonderfully made as Cuba's "Show Me the Money" telephone scene. As a whole, the film is a mixed bag, equally strewn with the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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Never before had it thumped against my mind that a comedy could be so seamlessly threaded through a thriller. In fact, I have somewhat dismissed the idea of a hybrid comedy-thriller. Now I'm convinced there is such a blended genre; it's just either uncommon or I have not seen many films that represent the melding so singularly. Brothers Joel and Ethan Coen wrote the story as a thriller. It's a complex, dark, violent twist on a murder tale (and, later, a bit of an embezzlement tale). Add humor in when the story is transliterated and expanded into an entire screenplay, and we have a gruesomely funny black comedy.

FARGO was a very entertaining film. All I'd heard about it was that it was a classic, which I found implausible after learning about how loopy the presentation was. Let's just hearing a description of a film and what it's like, is nothing like seeing it for yourself. The film bleeds class from a heart that beats at an abnormal pace.

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Ever since his childhood, Ray Robinson (publicized as Ray Charles, of course, to avoid confusion with Sugar Ray Robinson) lived a tough life. He was only a mere child when he witnessed his brother drown in a bathtub, and for his whole life, he carried with him the grief of knowing he could have saved his brother. Less than a year later, Ray began suffering from blindness and was forced to find his way around using his other four senses, mainly his sense of touch. Early on in his adulthood, he was discovered to excel at both voice and the piano. His career rose exponentially, despite some controversy over him supposedly transforming gospel music used to praised the Lord into sacrilegious songs with sexual subtexts, with hits such as "I Got a Woman", "Hit the Road", and "Georgia on My Mind"-many of his songs we recognize today very well and don't even associate with him-but at the same time his outside life began to fall. Ray was dealing with segregation and drug addiction, a factor that basically collapsed the rest of his personal life, and would have destroyed his career quickly, had he not produced such hits to keep it alive.

There are some discrepancies between the film interpretation RAY and the actual events, so I've heard, but I'd say these changes were made for the benefit of producing a story that flows. The film is a heavy character study, and it seems the extended version grants it even more depth, with over twenty-five extra minutes of flashbacks and musical footage that did not appear in the theatrical cut. It's not a necessary edit to the film, but I'd recommend it. The story here, extended or not, is about as fluent as most great stories, something difficult for a biographical film to achieve. This isn't THE IRON LADY. Ray's heroin addiction isn't presented for half the film, just as dementia was in that more recent film. Writers Taylor Hackford and James L. White want to make it very clear that there were many equally problematic situations that occurred during the performer's lifetime, spreading them out and transitioning between them evenly. It's a shame Ray Charles himself passed away only a few months before his biographical picture was released. For anyone who appreciates soul music-or at least its king-as much as I do, the film is essential. It isn't perfect, nor is it set up any different than the ideal biopic, but it's otherwise stunning.

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Another Woman

For those who for whatever reason are not aware, I absolutely love Woody Allen. I thoroughly enjoy his way with words, sarcasm, humor, characters, themes, etc. In more simple terms, he's a comic genius. Ever since the beginning of his career, Woody has done quite well at fulfilling his goal of spitting out a film each year. He's missed a year three or four times, and once or twice he has released two films in one year, but from an omniscient point of view, isn't it rather impressive that his directorial career started in 1969, and since then, he has directed a total of forty-four features? Every so often, Woody has an idea for a non-comedy in mind. Having never seen one of these films, I was curious about ANOTHER WOMAN, a drama about an author who becomes involved with an adulterous incident. While the film does impress after a long string of comedies, it fails to stick out among Woody's entire career.

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Red Tails
Red Tails(2012)

It appears as if screenwriters John Ridley and Aaron McGruder-as well as most of the visual credits-carry little respect toward those who risk their lives in war on a daily basis. Having seen emotionally harrowing films that convey the subject matter, films that scream "war is hell" without any characters needing to say it, I know I would never, ever, ever want to fight in a war. If this was the only war film I had ever seen, I would be quite excited to enlist. The film makes war look like a flamboyant, addicting video game: fun to engage in, exhilarating, fast-paced, and making one eager to visit again.

Ironically, RED TAILS possesses not one of those qualities. It's downright boring and slow, and I'd be surprised if I ever decided to give it another shot. The film lacks a plot. It has a premise, but no particular plot. Set in Italy during World War II, this is a ramshackle chronicle centered on four colored-excuse me, I meant Negro, because apparently that's what they prefer-pilots who are finally given a chance to prove themselves worthy of the Air Force, despite heavy discrimination abundant below them. It's quite disappointing how such an interesting premise collapsed into a repetitive production. Let's start out with...action! Negotiation. Action! Negotiation. Action! You get the picture.

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Harold and Maude

The unlikely bond between the two is one of the oddest I have ever seen. Most friendship-centric movies provide the stories mood via merely the two friends themselves, but as the characters' personalities clash, so do the moods provided. It's as if the film is two halves inseparably melded together, but the halves are polar opposites. One half is a downbeat, depressing, suicidal tale; the other an upbeat, cheerful, life-valuing tale. I'm a sucker for such an offbeat, dark comedy. I know those who have soft, sentimental hearts will definitely find justification for some dispute here, but films such as A FISH CALLED WANDA, BEETLEJUICE, DR. STRANGELOVE, THE GRADUATE, LIFE OF BRIAN, and THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY, have managed to crack me up quite heavily. Out of all those films, HAROLD AND MAUDE is the czar. The film has a pretty dark premise: a sixteen- or seventeen-year-old male becoming best friends with a seventy-nine-year-old woman who could easily be his grandmother. It has enough heart to give us a certain prediction of the ending, but it comes so suddenly and shockingly, a bit of a seven-minute-long "you-are-there" moment. Definitely the classic I had expected, surely worth its worldwide cult following, HAROLD AND MAUDE should be used as the comparative standard for judging all modern black comedies.

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When I am grading war movies, I'd say about fifty percent of the final score is devoted to how reverently the film demonstrates war. For example, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA earned a solid four and a half stars, due to its poignant, moving value; whereas BLACK HAWK DOWN earned two stars, basically the result of bumping down a letter grade by every time its mindless action lost me ten brain cells. CORIOLANUS is a bit different. Yes, it's certainly a war film in some respect, but it's actually a bit more a revenge thriller. Had this meant to be saddening in its depiction of the subject matter, it would have failed.

Though they may have suffered from stiff dialogue, the characters delivered. Not one of the performances was anything that closely surrounds mediocrity, especially Ralph Fiennes. It's always impressive to have someone behind and in front of the camera, but it's even more so when he or she or leading in both ways. It's absolutely mind-blowing when you have somebody like Fiennes himself, who is at the very top of his game as director and leading actor. It would be a sin for the Academy to not bestow upon him a nomination for both Best Director and Best Actor, come early 2013. Even the film's audience somewhat fears him as Caius Martius in the beginning of the film. His role grows stronger and stronger, leading up to one of the most shocking conclusions I have ever witnessed. It takes some chutzpah to take a (true) story nearly two and a half millennia old and transform it into something contemporary.

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To Rome with Love

Woody Allen is without a doubt growing older and older. Each year, he releases a film, a goal he set God only knows how long ago, and usually, we're genuinely surprised by how old he actually is (currently, that number is 76). Why is this so shocking? Not one cell in his wryly humorous mind is aging with his body. TO ROME WITH LOVE, Allen's followup to 2011?s MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, is a very, very funny movie. I would quite honestly go so far as to say that it could be even funnier than MIDNIGHT. But much unlike that recent classic, ROME likely has a scarce ability to endure multiple viewings, nor does it have any chance of garnering a nomination for the Best Picture Academy Award, come early next year. With a thin plot that withers itself away even further into set of generically unfocused tales, the film falls flat in several areas.

I'm a huge fan of director Woody Allen. I surely haven't seen every one of his works-you can't expect me to, as my fandom began this past November, and the man has directed a total of forty-four feature films-but I'm very familiar with his style. Side-splitting humor, paired with intriguing plot and substantial mood. Looks like Mr. Allen forgot his typical sense of atmosphere here. TO ROME WITH LOVE claims to be romantic with just the word "love", but never does an atmospheric feeling of love carry on over to the audience.

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The Dark Knight

I have yet to see a film that delivers the superhero genre more successfully than 2008?s THE DARK KNIGHT. From beginning to end, the actioner uses cinematography, performances, visuals, and dialogue to its advantage. While watching it, you could mentally envision it as a graphic novel that converts shots to panels in the most meticulous ways possible, without cartoon-y, SCOTT PILGRIM-ish visuals. This is a serious followup to BATMAN BEGINS. So serious that the Joker's infamous line, "Why so serious?", is unanswerable.

THE DARK KNIGHT is, in fact, a sequel to BATMAN BEGINS, but it works quite well as a work of its own as well. Those who saw the 2005 prelude understand the motivation of the Caped Crusader, but the same character is portrayed quite well here without a single ray of light shed upon back story. The film, as far as I can see, is also flawless and overwhelmingly spectacular in every veritable respect. For that, I give it a well-deserved A+.

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Batman Begins

BATMAN BEGINS was an impressive way to unfold the newly told story of the Caped Crusader. After the bottomless pit the series fell into eight years before with BATMAN AND ROBIN, it's easy to say that no one believed there was any hope for the series. Save for the villain's performance and dialogue, rarely is this film as trashy as many thought it would be. It may not be as unforgettable as it could have been, but if anything, it's definitely a classic in the making.

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Speed 2 - Cruise Control

Whereas SPEED was implausible fun, SPEED 2 is a thoroughly quizzical bore. The first half an hour is a fluffy romance. Alex waves tickets to a cruise liner in front of Annie's face, Annie complains, cut to the next scene when they're on the ship and suddenly Annie is having the time of her life, flaunt the grandeurs of the cruise ship, flaunt Annie's love toward Alex, yadda yadda yadda. There is little transition to the panicking of the action sequences that begin nearly thirty-five minutes through, and we're still stuck in the bright, happy, cheerful state of mind that blanketed the film for so long. The worst part about these action sequences is that somehow, they can't manage (even with a villain who is slightly less corny than Dennis Hopper) to make a human heart accelerate any faster than it normally does. The first SPEED was a well-done thriller. Acting, camerawork, and music guaranteed heartrate to double. But those all seem to drown here. I got tired of predicting and laughing at every action that happened, so I got bored. I got bored of being bored, so I asked for some chloroform.

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The Graduate
The Graduate(1967)

THE GRADUATE certainly is the classic I've been told of. The somewhat quirky characters and their dialogue give this movie some outrageously funny wit, yet there is also a great amount of drama. The film is actually much more a drama, just touched up lovingly with comedy. We see the story through the eyes of Benjamin Braddock, who is a week away from turning twenty-one years old when the story unfolds. He's a rather calm, patient character who would be nice to be around. Complemented by the serene soundtrack by Simon & Garfunkel, his character takes off. Dustin Hoffman's performance indeed familiarizes us with his character even more. The depth produced is what makes such heated arguments placed in the latter half of the film so emotional. It's impressive how much we understand him and his point of view without one bit of narration.

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Though an original horror movie as its own work, INSIDIOUS is also undeniably a compilation of nods to previous horror films. The setting and plot is a sort of POLTERGEIST meets THE OMEN. There are also recent allusions to works the crew has been associated with. The entire film feels a lot like the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY series, which was created by producer Oren Peli. Contrarily, there are a few instances when you would expect something different from the makers. This was written by Leigh Whannell and directed by Oren Peli, who brought us SAW back in 2004. I‚(TM)ve seen INSIDIOUS a few times now, and I‚(TM)ve always thought it to be the most effective horror movie without using very much violence at all. Yet that other film from these filmmakers is utterly gory and brutal to the very core.If there‚(TM)s one recent film that proves what a small production budget can do, it‚(TM)s INSIDIOUS. Other than the lack of an A-list cast, it‚(TM)s quite hard to tell that the film yields a budget of $1.5 million and was distributed by an up-and-coming studio called FilmDistrict. I love horror movies, sometimes more than I should, but it‚(TM)s rare for me to come across one that seems so authentic. The plot may a bit implausible (but an implausible thrill ride), but we‚(TM)re brought to rethink that once we‚(TM)ve experienced the masterful camerawork, the startling musical score, and every other technical gem. You know it‚(TM)s something great when the placement of a song as harmless as ‚Tiptoe through the Tulips‚? can scare the living daylights out of you.Read the whole thing at themoviefreakblog.com


Blemishes aside, SPEED is a very thrilling film. It starts off slowly, with a creative, symbolic credit sequences that wipes down a credit for each floor of an elevator, before finally reaching ground floor. It's not until Payne's opening elevator bombing scheme is over that the actioner skyrockets into a pulsepounding event filled with nonstop, hectic action. Empowered by great performances from Bullock and Reeves, as well as De Bont's marvelous directing, it's lots of implausible fun, the kind that makes your heart rate crank one notch faster from each minute of screen time.

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Weekend at Bernie's

It's a bit ironic that the plot is parelled quite well by the film itself. It often seems as if we're watching a lifeless comedy in spunky drag. At first, the trick works. This is supposed to be a ridiculous comedy. It's supposed to be outrageously funny. I can clearly see myself choking on laughter if I were to take time and sit down to read the script upon which this is based. For the first forty-five minutes or so, we're focused on what is going on in the script itself and the cheerfully goofy plot. As the story progresses the tale downgrades into more of an unconvincing, only mildly amusing bore. The poor, corny performances from McCarthy and Silverman were there all along, but they only stand out above everything else in the rising second act. Though revived by a sort of epilogue, I would struggle to explain how this decelerating comedy ended, even in a minimum of ten words. My disappointment of how dully the unique story was being handled, must have made me tune out during the last fifteen minutes. I started thinking of good ways for the film to end before the conclusion had occurred.

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Citizen Kane
Citizen Kane(1941)

It's extremely difficult to believe that Orson Welles's masterful drama-and beyond impressive directorial debut-is a work of fiction***. The film, running not even two hours in length, is about as informative as modern biopics of much longer lengths. An entire Wikipedia page devoted to just his character exists, based on just the information presented in the film and the inspiration for the character. The page is nearly as long as the page devoted to the film itself. What is even more shocking is how much of an absolute a-hole Kane is. We've all seen films that offer supporting characters who we simply loathe; rarely is such a distasteful character this prominent. His behavior is equally boastful and childlike; we begin to find more disgust in his personality by every passing minute. Yet Orson Welles portrays him also as the interesting character that keeps our attention throughout the film, no matter how obnoxious his behavior is. Also, his character also provides one of the greatest twist endings I have ever seen. I won't give it away for those who have yet to see the film, so let's just say we feel cheated by the conclusion initially, but as the closing scene is more prolonged, we begin to realize a deep meaning associated with it. It also seems to suddenly allow us to think twice about Kane.

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It‚(TM)s official: Hollywood is finally straying away from their sexist assessments of the spy genre. For years, spies have been distinctly male. It seems that a trend is beginning now in which a spy film with a female heroine is released each year. In 2010, it was Angelina Jolie in SALT. Last year, it was Saoirse Ronan in HANNA. HAYWIRE is the introduction of MMA fighter Gina Carano into the film industry. It‚(TM)s ironic that her name drowns in a see of well-known actors, yet her fresh lead performance stands out above all those actors.

If there is one quality that defines HAYWIRE‚(TM)s excellence any more than skillful performing and writing, it‚(TM)s style. Director Steven Soderbergh knows how to spot out a technical crew that can do their jobs well (save for the titles that seem a much better fit for a shampoo commercial). These qualities are an unmistakable nod to old-fashioned spy stories. I mean we don‚(TM)t even have to have seen any of these tales on television or in film to recognize the allusion. There is one scene in particular that uses the method in a particularly effective way. For at least seven minutes, all audio is muted as we see Mallory moving from one destination to the next. Instead we hear an extended anthem that sounds as if composed under the influence of the themes from DR. NO or MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE. The cinematography varies between a plethora of angles. The most memorable is the ‚bird‚(TM)s eye view‚?; when paired with black and white filming, it‚(TM)s like watching security camera footage.

Big Momma's House

It's quite difficult to assess such a stupidly entertaining comedy. Anyone who enjoys the obnoxious humor of the modern Adam Sandler should have a ball with BIG MOMMA'S HOUSE. I enjoyed it, even though it did grow a bit tiresome and it used stupidity as an outstanding principle in its humor. With that said, this is a film that doesn't have both hemispheres of its cinematic brain developed, but it is quite entertaining. It's like listening to a person who is downright stupid, but sometimes goes far enough with his or her idiocy to crack a smile.

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The Woman in Black

Set during World War I, THE WOMAN IN BLACK tells of a British lawyer named Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), who travels to a village where a ghost of a ‚woman in black‚? is haunting residents. The story would be interesting and somewhat deep, had we not seen it several other times. The film is hardly anything more than a ninety-six-minute clich√ (C). If you‚(TM)ve seen any horror movie, or know the genre well, you‚(TM)ll likely find this a very predictable film. The cinematography (that is, when it‚(TM)s not too fluorescent to fit in a horror film), ominous music, and build-up on quote-unquote ‚tension‚? gives every attempted scare away before it even strikes. Due to this critical lack of fear presented, the film feels like an overly quiet, exhaustingly dull drama, only with intermittent screaming in the distance. I can‚(TM)t imagine a horror fan enjoying the film. I can‚(TM)t imagine a non-horror fan enjoying it, either. Nor can I imagine one having any desire to see it. Knowing how dreadful THE WOMAN IN BLACK is, why should anyone have any desire to see it?

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The Amazing Spider-Man

The title assigned to this reboot is a bit too promising. It‚(TM)s as if the film is made to seem greatly superior to the original SPIDER-MAN flick, which it is not. However, Andrew Garfield‚(TM)s rendition of the title character is most certainly amazing compared to Tobey Maguire‚(TM)s previous portrayal. In every scene, Garfield is giving his best effort, and he actually seems like his character. Maguire claimed to be a science nerd and claimed to have affection for Mary Jane‚"the girlfriend in the originating films, for those who aren‚(TM)t familiar with the franchise‚"but he never seemed to express any of it. There is a heavily noticeable of humor in the script, unfortunately, which seems to bring Garfield‚(TM)s version over the top a bit. Even some of the most significantly explanatory scenes (most of which detail Parker attempting to use his superpowers successfully) are ruined by unnecessary humor. I had the same problem with THE AVENGERS. In my opinion, comic book doesn‚(TM)t necessarily denote the publication being comical, so why should an adaptation be so comical? Another character affected by the humor, and probably the most, is the Lizard. Rhys Ifans delivers a steady performance as Dr. Connors, but as his alter ego, humor isn‚(TM)t just unnecessary, it is also unintentional. The voice acting is flat, and on top of that, he often looked stop animated. Which is funny because there was actually a slight allusion to Japanese ‚Godzilla‚? films made at one point in the film.

When everything comes down to entertainment, I‚(TM)d say THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN works pretty well. The film also flowed with a perfect pacing, as I cannot recall ever being bored while watching it. The film never quite becomes exhilarating, but it is quite exciting, especially during the action sequences. Once Peter is suited up as Spider-Man, they become more and more frequent, leading up to the final fifteen-minutes of nothing but intense, action-packed excitement. By comparative standards, this isn‚(TM)t quite as memorable as the original SPIDER-MAN, nor is it as well-written, but it is a decent amount of fun.

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When Harry Met Sally

WHEN HARRY MET SALLY... is anomalous to the romance genre. Rarely do we see such a film that covers as much as an entire decade of a relationship. We rarely see a romance that spans more than a year. Unlike in many romances, we really get to know and understand Harry and Sally. The story begins rather quickly, but that's so that they may be introduced as quickly as possible. By the end we feel as if we actually know them personally, even though neither one of them are the most likeable characters. (There isn't one character in this movie I'd want to meet, to tell you the truth.) In short, this isn't just a funny movie-I'm sorry, a very funny movie-but also an honest movie.


The one outstanding flaw held by the film is that the plot is intriguing, but it barely takes off once established. It's a bit ironic that a film about a man suffering from writer's block has a pretty slight plot. The film is about style, not plot, and that is established within the first fifteen minutes or so. It works out perfectly in its technical work. What makes the film so intoxicating is its stunning visuals, filled with dazzling costume design, choreography, and cinematography. When combined with the wonderful soundtrack, the numbers easily become the most exhilarating points the picture has to offer. The most memorable scene, by a longshot, is "Be Italian", which puts the visuals and music to the absolute best effort.

NINE is a very intriguing film. It's a film that draws the viewer in to its realm of beauty and doesn't dare to let go until the very end. I've stated several times that I'm not very much a fan of musicals or their adaptations. I have several reasons that I won't try to waste time mentioning. But something about CHICAGO director Rob Marshall's unique filmmaking made this film an incredibly enjoyable, entirely watchable experience.

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Live Free or Die Hard

I'm a die-hard fan of 1988?s DIE HARD. Everything about that classic is unique, original fun, set against style and two full hemispheres of a brain. It's rare to find an actioner so well made. After two disappointing sequels, I was worried about the series's fourth entry. Whether it was due to my low expectations or because this was simply a great film, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD is a definite step up from its two predecessors, making it almost as much fun as the original.

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The Number 23

THE NUMBER 23 is a very uninteresting film. You could say the plot is neat (if absolutely unoriginal), but it's the way it is tackled that makes this film such a boring experience. It feels as if there is no script. Instead, there is a string of mathematical equations that all result in the number 23, all tying in to minute details the emotionlessly portrayed characters (i.e. the miscast Jim Carrey) are seeing. We have to sometimes wonder whether director Joel Schumacher (is this the one who directed teen cult classic ST. ELMO'S FIRE or the one who directed comic book bomb BATMAN AND ROBIN?) chose this project so his previous elementary school teachers would be impressed by the great presentation of his first and second grade math skills, because addition and subtraction, if anything, seems to take over the majority of the scenes. Actually, there are intermittent scenes in which Carrey's character, for whatever reason, is seen engaging in extramarital affairs with a Gothic woman. I wish these scenes were placed althroughout the movie; they would have made for much more involving suspense than a kooky fascination with arithmetic.

Clearly it's hard to make a film of undeniable perfection, but it is just as hard to make a film that could not get any worse. Whether it was from trying way too hard or just from simple lack of trying, THE NUMBER 23 is a great example of the worse. The script, the acting, the technical aspects, and everything else is either confusing or quite poorly done. I tried very hard to look for a bright spot, but I merely could not find one in this unengaging film. To say it's 23 minutes too long is understatement, as is saying that it's an hour and 23 minutes too long. It's an hour and 41 minutes too long. Yes, I am giving this an F. And F is the sixth letter of the alphabet. And six is the product of...2 and 3!! If you found those last three sentences remotely terrifying, you will truly enjoy this film.

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My definition of overrated is when I don't like a film nearly as much as every other film critic/historian seems to, and I cannot understand why they may enjoy it more than I. CABARET is overrated beyond human belief. There are definitely some unmissable bright spots here, but if there's one critic who overlooked every single outstanding flaw in this film, I will make room in my heart for worry.

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What's Eating Gilbert Grape

Especially 19 years after the film's release, it's extremely difficult to handle Leonardo DiCaprio portraying a mentally handicapped figure***. We know him as the player of more straightforward characters in such classics as TITANIC and THE AVIATOR. However, if it weren't for his breakthrough performance in this film, we wouldn't know him for his performances as Jack Dawson or Howard Hughes. If anything, this is one of his most overlooked performances, if I may say so myself.

Despite both being dysfunctional family dramas, I can't compare EATING to something like ORDINARY PEOPLE. The film was a wonderfully intelligent and beautiful tale, but not quite woven and bound so poignantly as that unforgettable classic. Some pieces of the story seem a bit contrived, especially near the middle. On the other hand, the story is marvelously wrapped up by the ending, possibly the most emotionally paining point in the entire film. Never is this a tearjerker, though. It's a film that assesses family troubles in a hopeful light.

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21 Jump Street

Aside from the familiar story it relies on, the script for 21 JUMP STREET is quite fun. I‚(TM)m usually not one to appreciate vulgar and obscene humor. Usually it‚(TM)s placed in a pointless and offensive context and left without any relation to the plot. The writers of JUMP overthrew my expectations. Rather than serving as an attempt to place as much sex-, race-, and drug-related humor on the screen as possible, the film employs such vulgar quips in the name of staying faithful to the plot. It really makes for a highly entertaining and hysterical picture.

Despite it being surprisingly enjoyable, there are a few noticeable missteps taken by 21 JUMP STREET. The story is scripted and paced perfectly‚"once the first few introductory scenes are over‚"and the cinematography is just where it needs to be, but the music often confuses. Listening to the music out of the film‚(TM)s context, it sounds like the score to an alone action movie, not a hybrid action comedy. The two lead characters, though well acted by performers Tatum and Hill, are also a bit typical. I think I‚(TM)m, by now, used to the typical buddy comedy, where the two leads are ‚The Tall One‚? (Tatum) and ‚The Large One‚? (Hill). Anyone who can move past those minute flaws should have fun with 21 JUMP STREET. If it doesn‚(TM)t offend you, you probably aren‚(TM)t human. If it doesn‚(TM)t overjoy you, however, you were probably hoping for a dramatic adaptation of the show.

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Youth in Revolt

What makes this film so interesting may just be how intriguing the main character is. He begins the film by clearly explaining to us how undoubtedly different he is, of course without saying it. Just the fact that he possesses a collection of vinyl records and has a fondness for Frank Sinatra should hint at this. The characterization is also a bit of a mixed bag, though. What feels a bit confusing about this movie is how far over the top his character is pushed. He seems like someone who would be more cerebral, more cautious of his actions, so once he has been established, the distance he goes to earn a relationship with the girl of his dreams seems quite unlike him.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Visually, SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD is unique and absolutely marvelous. I‚(TM)m not all that familiar with the graphic novel this is based on (but now I‚(TM)m dying to read it), but clearly the intent of the filmmakers was to make this adaptation as literally faithful to the graphic novel as possible. If you thought 2003‚≤s HULK looked like an onscreen comic book, your mind will be blown with SCOTT PILGRIM. This is, in fact, every ounce an onscreen comic book meant to demonstrate the nerdy lifestyle of the titular character. When we hear a doorbell ring, a faded ‚ding-dong‚? glides across the screen, √† la the presentation of onomatopoeia in such literary formats. When a character becomes suddenly excited, handdrawn lines appear to protrude from the edges of his or her head. The fight sequences are even better, homaging old video games rather than comic books. I‚(TM)m not a fan of old video games, nor do I take much interest in video games, generically, but I found these scenes to be the most fun. Anybody who has visited an arcade should recognize the parodic mood offered. In a routinely comedic manner, these scenes start with a shot of two opponents facing each other, grouped together by a title reading ‚VS‚?; continue on with corny, electronic sound effects; and end with the defeated opponent collapsing into a pile of coins. I watched this afraid of what may happen. I remember being taken aback by the ridiculously odd trailers I had seen two years ago, but I couldn‚(TM)t recall to you one bad review I‚(TM)d read for this. SCOTT PILGRIM is without a doubt the prime example of how much fun you can have with a film that is so incredibly weird.

The Grey
The Grey(2012)

By now, actor Liam Neeson is pretty well established in the cinematic realm of action-thrillers. Maybe not as established as performers such as Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey are with comedies, but we recognize him so well as an action hero that it‚(TM)d be a sin to cast him in anything else. Many of his films, however, are a bit shallow. Take a look at his most recent films, TAKEN and its followup UNKNOWN, for instance. Both films were a bit‚"all right, a lot‚"dumbed down and unrealistic, yet still fun. THE GREY is different. The powerful acting from Neeson, blended with the utter fun (and terror) offered by the film itself, topped off by the fact that this film is surprisingly realistic, makes this film an enthralling experience. To say this wasn‚(TM)t a ‚chilling‚? (no pun intended) film would take a severe misunderstanding of thrillers, or even films in general. This wasn‚(TM)t a horror movie, but the fashion in which director Joe Carnahan presents the whole concept is truly terrifying. Possibly the best thrillers are the ones that defeat the level of fear delivered by any and every horror movie with their convincing sense of reality. THE GREY is definitely such a film.

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What really saves CHRONICLE from becoming a resident of a land of utter confusion is the visual quality. Ever since THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT hit theaters in 1999, we have become used to associating ‚found footage‚? film making with the horror genre. I can attest to the fact that the only other sci-fi flick to use the technique is CLOVERFIELD. This presents some visuals that would look rather standard in your typical sci-fi movie. Showcased in a film like this, the visuals looks a bit more realistic. Sometimes the effects are so mind-blowing in this atmosphere that we almost forget there is a plot surrounding the film; I applaud the crew for using a mere embellishment as a device for holding viewers‚(TM) attention.

CHRONICLE isn‚(TM)t a bad film, so to speak. It‚(TM)s just not much of a great one, either. Generally, it‚(TM)s a mixed bag, but quite a few scenes have the strength to keep us sufficiently entertained. By the end, we are wishing the end wasn‚(TM)t reached so soon. Had there been more depth and detail in the last scenes, it may have been possible to enjoy the bizarre escapade the film becomes. Still, this is worth a watch for anyone who was drawn in by the concealed trailers. I wouldn‚(TM)t recommend renting with high expectations, though, if that happens to be the case.

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Hannah and Her Sisters

It was Dianne Wiest and Michael Caine that won Academy Awards for their great performances here. Though it may not be the only example, it‚(TM)s the best proof that the Academy does not particularly appreciate roles that are purely humor. Allen was absolutely hysterical in this film, and his performance was stellar, albeit entirely comical. Anyone who has seen at least three of his onscreen appearances is used to his portrayals of prejudiced Jewish men who blatantly discuss Catholicism and its many flaws. I was laughing like never before during scenes in which his character rambled on about how the world was a godless place, and when he tried hopelessly to understand reincarnation (‚So does that mean my soul is transferred to a moose or an aardvark after I die?‚?) in a conversation with an advertising Hindu. The fact that his role is of a depressed hypochondriac who can‚(TM)t seem to tale himself seriously makes way for even more humor.

I thoroughly enjoyed HANNAH AND HER SISTERS, as did many who consider it the downright classic it is. The film is so entertaining, biting, amusing, and forgiving‚"all at the same time!‚"that it seems it‚(TM)s only flawed in a respect of it seeming more than a tad bit dated. The cinematography often makes it seem like a cheesy television sitcom of the late ‚(TM)80s or early ‚(TM)90s. I wouldn‚(TM)t say this is Woody Allen‚(TM)s best work. My personal favorite work of his is 1979‚≤s MANHATTAN, followed closely by his overlooked sci-fi satire SLEEPER. To say that this is not up there as one of his best works would be a gross understatement.

Mean Girls
Mean Girls(2004)

If films were thunderstorms, MEAN GIRLS struck me like a bolt too large and blinding to see. If films were telephones, it was one loud, demanding wake up call. If films were rainbows, it was the mythical pot of gold I had always been told about but never even flinched to believe. You get the picture. What I was expecting was a sassy, girly comedy. Yes, it did tend to be both those. But when someone like former SNL star Tina Fey writes the film, it takes off as a side-splittingly funny, slightly offbeat show of color, cat fights, and crazy characters.

Unless every film by both Mel Brooks and Monty Python are factored in heavily, this is certainly one of the weirdest comedies I‚(TM)ve seen in quite a while. Not one of the film‚(TM)s characters shows up without becoming a distinct caricature. Most of these portrayals work well. When the script and acting in one make the Plastics seem true idiots and Cady seem a ‚Martian‚? (as they refer to her in one scene), the story is quite relatable to any modern high school, if not the stereotypes we always hear about them. I lost count of how many times one of the friends I watched this with shouted, ‚This is so true!‚? throughout the length of the film. Unfortunately, some characters are taken a little over the top. Tina Fey herself seems terribly unbelievable as a teacher, as does Amy Poehler in her role as the mother of one of the Plastics.

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The problem with this film is the story itself. You could take almost any princess story, preferably by Disney, reimagine it appropriately in medieval Scotland, and churn out this film. With the overly familiar plot, the film becomes predictable and banal. I‚(TM)ll freely express that I closed my eyes for three-minute intervals multiple times during the last half an hour or so. The film was working not as a source of entertainment, but rather as soothing music, despite a number of scenes that would have been exciting in any other motion picture.

In its technical aspects, BRAVE was a major disappointment, as well. The soundtrack was oddly selected, the musical score didn‚(TM)t strengthen much, and above all, the film wasn‚(TM)t one bit beautiful. I have been blown away by what visual achievements Pixar‚(TM)s features can be. FINDING NEMO and WALL-E are, in fact, two of the most beautiful animations I‚(TM)ve ever seen. The animation is actually quite near hideous, to be most clear. Not even the handful of landscape views we experience are that grand, which is possibly the saddest of all in this visual failure.

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Let‚(TM)s get it out of the way: FOOTLOOSE is a very flawed film. The story is great, but it seemed to be failed by its God-awful script. I laughed out loud at lines so contextually funny (i.e. ‚There will be no public displays of dancing‚¶‚?). There‚(TM)s quite a few scenes and dialogue tags that make this seem unrealistic yet predictable. Again, the story is unique, but the screenplay seems to make this seem so familiar. Moreover, some aspects are unquestionably bad. The big standout is Dennis Quaid. His performance is so commonplace, and on top of that, every one of the sermons he gives throughout the film seems utterly contrived and difficult to believe.

FOOTLOOSE isn‚(TM)t a significantly bad film. It isn‚(TM)t particularly great, either. It has its flaws and it has its moments. There was one sequence that truly stuck out to me, which depicted a heated argument between Ariel and her father. I think it actually brought a few tears to my eyes. Wishing I was as I watched this for more emotionally brilliant, well constructed scenes like that one, but it just never happened. Still, this was a good amount of fun. To anyone who wants their toes tapping for two hours, this is certainly for you.

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Dumb and Dumber

Don‚(TM)t get me wrong, I absolutely love this film. I died laughing of it in the first viewing, and it nearly happened again when I revisited it. There are simply too many flaws that are unmissable and even a bit distracting here. The last few scenes, where the film begins to lose steam, have to be the biggest of all them. I understand this is supposed to be a bizarre, absurd comedy, and I know these scenes are meant to poke fun at crime films, but instead, it seems to become a more unexplained piece of that genre. With that said, this upon first sight is utterly hilarious, but it certainly does not improve with repeated viewings.

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Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Don't we wish we could all be Ferris Bueller? It doesn't matter if we're adult or teen (though a lot of it works well for the latter demographic), whether at school or work, we all need a "day off" of some sorts. I put that phrase in quotation marks because when Ferris first employs it in the beginning of the film, the only way anyone could ever be able to know where he is about to take his day is by having seen this timeless film before. A bored Chicago teenager, Ferris (Matthew Broderick) fakes an illness, skips school, and hits the city with his equally fun-loving girlfriend Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara) and his worrisome best friend Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck). He even gets his own charity-"Save Ferris", one of the most prominent yet most unforgettable jokes the film has to offer-for credibility's sake. Unbeknownst to him, his irate principal Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) is on the hunt for him, as he has missed nine days during the semester.

FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF is an absolute must for teenagers. It's an absolute must for adults, too. It's odd how this film is about getting away, yet it seems to promote getting away with itself. I've seen this film several times. I liked it quite a lot the first time, but it just seems to improve bit by bit every time I see it. Plus, there are a few scenes that guarantee laughs as if they're brand-new. FERRIS BUELLER isn't a feel-good film. It's a feel-like-you're-there film. I wish I could share the experience with Ferris, but after watching it, for whatever reason, I'm under the impression that I just did for an hour and forty-three minutes.

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Die Hard: With a Vengeance

If anything, DIE HARD: WITH A VENGEANCE makes its predecessor look memorable, by comparative standards. This loud action film (did they mean to make it a comedy, as well?) pits classic action hero John McClane (Bruce Willis) against a group of German terrorists-again!-led by Simon Gruber (Jeremy Irons), a close relative to the first film's antagonist. Oh, but there ARE a few greatly notable discrepancies between this film and the previous entry. By his side is an adventurous man named Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson), and he has now been suspended from his job at the New York Police Department. It's ironic that the one and only DIE HARD film that doesn't see McClane as a cop at the NYPD is also the one and only entry in the series that takes place in none other than the Big Apple itself. It's also quite sad. To anyone who loves a good action movie-one that isn't just an insipid excuse like "explosions = plot points" and "extensive chase scene = plot"-John McClane, though he may be a character, cannot be defined as merely a marvel. To see him on the street telling his city of residence that he hates humanity (I'm not kidding!) is a blasphemy. Moreover, Samuel L. Jackson's character shouldn't have even been written into this film in the first place. That's precisely similar to giving James Bond a partner. Actually, in CASINO ROYALE, Bond was given a partner, but he learned never to trust anyone after less than three minutes; it worked flawlessly for that series. So what am I saying about Samuel L. not being written in? Had screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh given Samuel L. a much lesser role, he would have worked out fine here.

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Paris Je T'aime

Accumulated together, the small slices of life can act as mere plot points in a story of both the native Parisians and tourists alike, making this perhaps familiar to those who have visited Paris, familiar to those who have lived in that city, or those who are wishing to be there at some point in their lives. The storytelling isn't always the same here. Oui, every one of the shorts is stylistically odd, with naturally quirky characters, but every segment has a different director and screenwriter. These were brought together as one film by producer Emmanuel Benbihy, who also directed the transitional segments, so one would have to watch such a film expecting different perspectives. When PARIS, JE T'AIME, we comprehend love stories from perspectives that can be anything from frivolous, to poetic, to quiet, to grotesque, to dryly witty. Segments such as the Coen brothers' "Tuileries" and Wes Craven's "PŤre-Lachaise" are among the more brilliant, whereas those such as Sylvain Chomet's "Tour Eiffel" and Christopher Doyle's "Porte de Choisy" are instantly forgettable.

The one major disappointment about PARIS, JE T'AIME is the writing. Are we to assume that all the American tourists in the film know French well enough to understand each other, even when the American viewers possibly watching the film may not know a single word of French? And what's the reason as to why exactly they freely switch between one language and another? Is there one at all? So much of this film would have done better, had there been less short films of longer length, or even just one story of a tourist couple traveling in Paris that doesn't meander through needless plot points. That said, PARIS, JE T'AIME is beautiful, despite its flaws, and sufficiently entertaining; however, there have been better love letters to Paris. May I suggest: last year's MIDNIGHT IN PARIS?

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Black Hawk Down

Sir Ridley Scott has had a number of classic films on his record, so one would think he would be able to direct a better war film than this. I‚(TM)ll admit, Scott does wonderfully at making BLACK HAWK DOWN a realistic film. This picture is filled with unrestrained, graphic violence, complemented by shaky cinematography and fast-paced action, all in the name of being a film that represents war to the point at which it is both convincing and difficult for the viewer to watch. But after thirty minutes have passed, the plot seems to disappear. All it seems to be for a while is a festival of graphic violence, quick action, and shaky camerawork. Just a little simple reminding of the actual plot would have done a lot. Furthermore, BLACK HAWK is quite similar to what Michael Bay did with PEARL HARBOR, that same year: transforming what could be a thoughtful, saddening war movie, into a mindless, carelessly violent action fest. Not even the musical score makes the slightest leap to making this an emotionally agonizing portrayal of war. I wouldn‚(TM)t be surprised if those who fought in this mission were offended by the fact that Scott failed to represent any emotion in the events. It‚(TM)s all a matter of inferring that it was sad, which in and of itself‚¶is sad. No, the acting wasn‚(TM)t all that great, either. Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, and Josh Hartnett all must have been as bored performing in the film as I was watching it. But do you really need great performances to propel a carnage-happy celebration of ruthless action?

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The Muppets
The Muppets(2011)

It's interesting that 2011?s THE MUPPETS sets up with a plot about bringing the Muppets back to fame, whilst the film itself is also a marvelous attempt to do the same. Yes, Jim Henson was the creator of Sesame Street as well as The Muppet Show. There is certainly a difference between the two franchises. Sesame Street was his attempt to teach younger kids in an appealing way, with friendly monsters. You won't be finding anyone like Elmo or Big Bird in THE MUPPETS, for those who aren't familiar with that separate universe. Henson created the Muppet universe to entertain more, educate less, appeal to kids as well as adults. This is a nice throwback to the wholesome humor Jim Henson loved to deliver to us. There's a distinct divide between silly, frivolous quips that will make those under the age of seven giggle, as well as more poetic humor and pop culture references that only older kids and adults would get.

It's been quite a long time since I've seen such a joyous family movie. The songs, better yet, helped this film to succeed as a great musical. It even looked like a Broadway musical at many points (and believe me, it pokes fun at these qualities, as well), with ensembles breaking out singing the same thing for an unexplained reason; someone posing sprightly front and center, a bright light shining on them, whilst no one else in the room is paying any attention; et cetera. The Oscar-winning duo "Man or Muppet" between Jason Segel and Peter Linz is astonishing, if nothing else, and the initially obscure appearances of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (in barbershop quartet style) and Cee-Lo Green's "Forget You" (in chicken-clucked style) are both two I would go back and watch the film again for. What am I saying? I might go watch this film again just to feel like a nice, innocent little child for an hour and a half. A pleasant experience.

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Letters from Iwo Jima

Note: Letters from Iwo Jima has been billed and released as a motion picture of its own, but it essentially works in a one-film companionship with Flags of Our Fathers. Therefore, you may notice quite a few comparisons between the films in this review, but hopefully nothing that processes over-the-top.

I'd like to consider FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS and LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA as one cinematic fortification. I understand quite well that that combined piece would run longer than four and a half hours; that's why it works better as two, separate, more explained films. Clint Eastwood is an intelligent filmmaker. That's not to say he doesn't have a few flops on his record, but his decision to make both films was ingenious. Rarely do we see films that depict the journey taken by the defeated side of a war. It's clear that Clint Eastwood recognizes this. He shot FLAGS and LETTERS back-to-back in 2006, depicting both the victorious (U.S. Marines) and the defeated (Imperial Japan). It's easy to say neither one could work without the other as its companion piece.

Let me be clear that FLAGS was a very moving, well accomplished film. I actually opened up my review with the word "poignant" and awarded it an A-. LETTERS, however, is a greater achievement to its preceding work. Eastwood, as in that other film, uses mostly unknown names to make the film feel authentic. These Japanese actors and their performances-most pertinently Ken Watanabe as General Kuribayashi-blow those Americans in FLAGS away by a long shot. Another achievement that makes this film so great is the musical score by Michael Stevens and Kyle Eastwood. The simplistic theme played on the piano and trumpet, alternately, is so beautiful, yet it itself could narrate the story without the use of any dialogue (all of which is in Japanese) whatsoever.

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There Will Be Blood

Day-Lewis, in fact, was what made this film ultimately watchable. His performance started out quite mighty, and it only got better from there. I can‚(TM)t compare it to any of his other roles. Unfortunately, I haven‚(TM)t seen any of his other acclaimed performances in films such as GANGS OF NEW YORK, MY LEFT FOOT, and IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER. What I can say is he deserved the Oscar he got for his performance here. His delivery was one of the best I‚(TM)ve seen of the last decade.

THERE WILL BE BLOOD had a very interesting plot, taken loosely from Sinclair Lewis‚(TM)s‚"I mean Upton Sinclair‚(TM)s novel Oil!. The problem is the speed at which the story is told. Had the pacing not been so inconveniently dilatory, I would have given this a much higher grade. I‚(TM)m not saying films shouldn‚(TM)t take their time. They should in some cases, and this was certainly one. In other words, there‚(TM)s a difference between watching someone carefully paint, and watching the paint dry.


The cinema has reached an era in which just about every science fiction and horror movies are doing the exactly the same thing. For sci-fi, it's using brilliant special effects and claiming that's the film's plot. For horror, it's using tactics such as loud music and objects popping out of nowhere, a clichťd leap of faith filmmakers take in hopes of getting a jump out of the audience. PROMETHEUS, though a combination of the two genres, is the polar opposite. Filmmaking giant Ridley Scott prefers to build up on our suspense, minute by minute, and then give us a nice jump so that we, as the audience, don't feel cheated. To say this doesn't have mind-blowing special effects would be like saying Whitney Houston doesn't have a voice. It's defined by its incredible visuals, but it's also even more deeply defined by its plot.

Say what you wish in the debate, but PROMETHEUS is a prequel to 1979?s ALIEN, if not a "quasi-prequel." The characters do not share the same names between the two films, but they all represent each other. The classic example of a strong female character Sigourney Weaver gave thirty-three years ago is echoed by Noomi Rapace (who deserves an Oscar for her work), for instance. The facts that the film directly leads up to the original work, the pacing of the two works are exactly the same, and the sci-fi and horror genres are blended in the same fashion, cannot be missed either. PROMETHEUS also acts in the likes of 1968?s influential 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. 2001 raised questions about the future and left the questions unanswered. This much more recent picture raises questions that are slightly more philosophical, related to life itself and humanity's origins. The plot hints at it, but you wouldn't expect the film to go so thematically deep and mesmerizing, which is one of the many things that set it apart from a conventional sci-fi/horror film.

This Is Spinal Tap

The best part of THIS IS SPINAL TAP is the music. Listen to the instrumental music and it sounds great (with a notable exception being "Stonehenge"). The music channels that of bands such as Poison and Metallica, with rough guitar riffs and fast solos. What provides the comedic effect are the lyrics to these songs. It's like listening to Weird Al Yankovic in a hard rock group. What else provides a great comedic effect is how inept this band is. They have had a history of band members dying from very, very bizarre circumstances, such as "spontaneous human combustion" and choking on an unknown other person's vomit. But there's one scene, in particular, that defines this description of them. This scene involves the band in attempt to emerge from blue, cocoon-like enclosures, one after the other, for their stage performance. The guitarist and lead vocalist emerge successfully, and they perform the entire song without knowing that behind them, their manager is struggling to get the bassist out of his cocoon, by even trying to burn and hammer it open.

THIS IS SPINAL TAP uses a documentary-like structure to poke fun at the wild behavior of such musicians, but it is in no way a documentary. Strangely enough, it feels every bit like one, and clearly it was made to look essentially like one. The film was shot on a $2.5 million budget by Rob Reiner at initially well over five hours (before being cut down to less than eighty minutes), which often happens with many factual cinematic works. Somehow, it feels even more like a comedy, which it is, without a doubt. I wouldn't even dare to say this is a comedy meant for those who would categorize themselves in the strictly music demographic; this doesn't require a heavy musical vocabulary. Turn it up to 11; watch it.

Driving Miss Daisy

It‚(TM)s easy to admit that during the course of this film, we never see character Daisy in either one of her car‚(TM)s front seats. Contrarily, all actor Jessica Tandy does in her role IS take the front seat. I love Morgan Freeman. In fact, if you asked me to name any one of his roles that his disappointed me thus far, all I could do to respond is stare into space and evoke continuous filler words. But the one who really delivers here is Tandy. When we first meet her character, we‚(TM)d want to kill her. She wants nothing of Hoke, and she even seems to shun her son upon his hiring him. Yet she claims to never have had an ounce of prejudice in her heart. Tandy gradually turns her character from someone so despicable into someone who enjoys having the company of Hoke. Her character actually, believe it or not, becomes a bit enjoyable; it‚(TM)s difficult to even imagine someone other than Tandy taking on such a drastic change of character.

DRIVING MISS DAISY was an interesting film. It‚(TM)s not totally implausible that an elderly 1960s white woman would befriend a black man, so it‚(TM)s quite realistic. Add the fact that she‚(TM)s Jewish in and somehow it seems a bit more authentic. Other than the flaws of the script, this was a solidly decent movie. It has its time for light humor, and it has the power to even share with us the laughter Hoke and Miss Daisy enjoy as their friendship solidifies. Furthermore, this is a heartfelt drama that can blend those sweet moments with more sentimental moments. For anyone remotely intrigued by the story, it‚(TM)s well worth a watch.

Good Will Hunting

There‚(TM)s something suspicious about the story here. It‚(TM)s quite ironic that the film itself is easily comparable to its lead character. Its script often seems to keep running on and on, similar to how Damon‚(TM)s character speaks quickly in his sentences of interminable length; it doesn‚(TM)t seem to care what its own outcome is; and, worst of all, it doesn‚(TM)t seem to be moving in any specific direction. For quite a long time, the film consists of talky, in-depth explanations of the characters it details. Each character seemed to be studied to a certain depth, with Williams‚(TM)s and Damon‚(TM)s characters being expounded upon greatly. It takes at least forty-five minutes for the premise to be officially established, where we first see Dr. Maguire start to work with Will. After that, the film spends its precious time trying to explain upon this premise, but the pacing is so slow that it ends up going a very short distance.

Perhaps the greatest relief GOOD WILL HUNTING had to offer was Williams‚(TM)s performance. Watching him break away from his comedic comfort zone is like listening to Afrika Bambaataa try to yodel. What‚(TM)s even more odd (and impressive), he succeeds enormously. If there is one performance that makes this film watchable, it‚(TM)s that from Robin Williams. I‚(TM)ll include mention that this opened up the careers of other recognizable names such as Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Those two are impressive in their acting roles, but Williams is the one that seems to shine.

Flags of Our Fathers

As FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS is one of Clint Eastwood‚(TM)s more recent films, I was a bit worried about what I would think of it. Ever since his 2002 film BLOOD WORK, Eastwood has been collaborating with cinematographer Tom Stern. Stern has a fascination for shooting Eastwood‚(TM)s films in bleak, washed-out hues of grey and blue. The tactic often becomes aggravating when we have to sit through it for two hours plus. I‚(TM)ve consistently tried to ignore it when watching films such as HEREAFTER, MILLION DOLLAR BABY, and J. EDGAR. In this film, however, the cinematography simply cannot be ignored, because it actually works quite well. This isn‚(TM)t a documentary: it can‚(TM)t look perfectly accurate in and of itself, but if there‚(TM)s one thing that can do a fine job to strengthen the bleak tone it possesses, that‚(TM)s Tom Stern‚(TM)s cinematography. The melancholy colors go so far with a war film that they even do a better job with making the soldiers blend in with the rocky Mount Suribachi. You could also look at it another way, though, and say these tactics can tend to fail a bit. Combine this purposefully lifeless coloration with the frequent over-the-shoulder and point-of-view shots, and it feels like you‚(TM)re watching someone play Call of Duty.

FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS was a neat film. Sure, it could have been a bit more transitional (okay, a lot) between the heavy during-Iwo Jima scenes and the bright post-Iwo Jima scenes, and it could have had a better script. War films aren‚(TM)t like most other films. The war genre is comparable to the biopic genre in a sense that they should be judged not only on how well such films perform in general, but also on the historical value and factual intrigue. With that said, the historical value certainly weighs out most of the minute flaws imposed on it as a film, making it both an entertaining and factually intriguing film to watch.

Dark Shadows
Dark Shadows(2012)

Possibly the most disappointing and ultimately dysfunctional quality possessed by DARK SHADOWS, usually-impressive filmmaker Tim Burton‚(TM)s latest piece, is that neither of its two main genres work. Anyone who has gone to the movies in the past three months has likely seen at least one of the trailers for this film. Every single one of those previews promises the same exact thing: a neat, ri-Drac-ulous, upbeat twist on the classic vampire tale. What we get at the theater when we go to see this is face value, with the best bits also included in the trailers. Rather than a fun laugh-fest, we get a fish-out-of-water comedy that can be appreciated best by those under the age of twelve who believe that the premise of an 18th century vampire appearing two centuries later to be met with rock music, paved roads, modern dialogue, and automobiles, can not only make them break out into agonizing laughter, but can also carry a nearly two-hour movie. Then there‚(TM)s the horror genre. Director Tim Burton uses old, clich√ (C)d tactics to try and make us jump, or even just cause a minute chill to run through our spines. We sometimes have to wonder if he‚(TM)s the (offscreen) vampire who needs to get used to modern society. I‚(TM)ve gotten so tired of people appearing behind other people, random objects popping out around corners, and ‚ominous‚? lines of dialogue, all of which are highlighted by spontaneous violin music, that my jumps and shakes are being replaced by sighs and unintended laughter. The end is the biggest failure with this cooperative genre. Within the last twenty to thirty minutes, the film becomes a loud, chaotic chain of ‚deus ex machina‚? galore. There is even an unexplained twist with embellished upon one of the film‚(TM)s better characters that isn‚(TM)t once explained. Granted, these final sequences may work effectively with the under-twelve age group, as the comedy part did, but I can‚(TM)t imagine any adult or teenager losing sleep or even getting a few jumps from them.

Though we have a few nice names that co-star in this film, the cast is generally hit-and-miss. Chlo√ę Grace Moretz, as usual, is great in her role. She is used to portraying more kind, patient characters in her past roles. Just look at her characters in (500) DAYS OF SUMMER or last year‚(TM)s HUGO. In this role, she is a carefree, disrespectful teenager with a biting attitude. Then there are the less memorable roles, such as Johnny Depp‚(TM)s. It‚(TM)s a surprise someone who has claimed to have wanted to be Barnabas Collins, from the soap opera on which this is based, ever since he was a child, could perform so stiffly. His 1770s ‚lingo‚? is funny at first: you probably saw, in the trailer, a bit of the scene when Moretz asks him, ‚Are you stoned or something?‚?, leading him to matter-of-factly reply, ‚They tried stoning me, my dear. It did not work.‚? It takes not very long for his lines to grow tiresome and utterly forgettable. Furthermore, Depp fails to appear as a believable vampire from the start. Throughout the film, he looks like an everyday man wearing an excessive amount of makeup. I usually stick to my philosophy that actors shouldn‚(TM)t sing and singers shouldn‚(TM)t act, but I can honestly imagine someone like Alice Cooper (who incidentally makes an extended cameo in this film) looking and performing much better than Depp did.

Lost In Translation

LOST IN TRANSLATION is a unique picture. There aren‚(TM)t many films nowadays, nor have there been at all, that have remained so substantially quiet. Everything about this film seems solemn and peaceful: everything from the music choice of light rock and rhythm and blues; to the relaxed cinematography that doesn‚(TM)t rush to alter shots; to the stylistic fading of scenes; to the slow speed of this city-set film. When we see something subtly stunning like this come from writer-director Sofia Coppola, it‚(TM)s clear cinematic talent runs in the family. She is the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, legendary director of THE GODFATHER and APOCALYPSE NOW; the cousin of ADAPTATION and LEAVING LAS VEGAS star Nicolas Cage; the cousin of B-movie director Christopher Coppola. Her directing is impressive.

Bill Murray is also an inimitably high peak in this film. His seriocomic role may be the only touch of lightheartedness the film has to offer, and it‚(TM)s rewarding. It‚(TM)s possible the film gets its title from all those times Bill Murray interprets what the Japanese people are trying to say (in ‚Engrish‚?) differently than what they actually are saying. For instance, if one of the Japanese characters said ‚long,‚? he would interpret it ‚wrong,‚? no pun intended. The fashion in which Murray dissolves himself into his character is phenomenal. Sure, he has had outstanding performances prior to this, such as GROUNDHOG DAY and GHOSTBUSTERS, but this has to be the best of his career.

The Jerk
The Jerk(1979)

The story delivered in THE JERK is nothing short of absolutely ridiculous. It‚(TM)s like a mockery of a mockery of a poor man‚(TM)s FORREST GUMP. A man sits down on a bench (or in this case, in the middle of nowhere) with a story in mind. It doesn‚(TM)t matter if he has an actual audience; he tells his story anyway. Steve Martin is incredible in his performance as Navin. He gives a performance that would be impossible for even the most talented comedian to emulate. What‚(TM)s great is that his character doesn‚(TM)t play out as a comedian. He doesn‚(TM)t act as a bum looking to impress people with his humor, nor does he look like he‚(TM)s acting stupid to evoke laughter. Rather naturally, he acts like an imbecile who truly doesn‚(TM)t know what he is doing, someone we can have fun laughing at without the character‚(TM)s expressed consent. If you need a picture painted, watch DUMB & DUMBER (if you want gross) or last year‚(TM)s TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL (if you want violent), but think of one of those stupid troupes as one homeless numbskull.

The reason this film seems a little less funny than it should be (though it is a hoot) may just be that it seems to be missing someone. DUMB & DUMBER came fifteen years after this, and it proved to work out much better, because there were two ‚jerks‚? in the story. With only one ‚jerk,‚? the story seems to be a stand-up act. Like I said, Martin certainly doesn‚(TM)t try to act like a comedian‚"he certainly is one already‚"but the story seems as if broken into uneven segments. It‚(TM)s like going to a stand-up comedy performance and suddenly becoming part of a skit. The supporting characters appear only for so long, and they always look like a witnessing audience laughing at Martin‚(TM)s character as if he‚(TM)s trying to be funny. (Just look at the expression on the gas station worker‚(TM)s face, for example, upon seeing Nevin open up a bathroom stall, thinking it was the door to the kitchen!) The only characters that seem to recur are Nevin‚(TM)s ‚family,‚? who we see in the beginning, in the very end, and occasionally in between reading the postcards they receive from Nevin. Again, Martin is pervasively in character, convincing as a true imbecile, so much that the supporting cast/audience seem to be having a ball in his little situations. That said, THE JERK is certainly funny, but it would have made much more sense as a truncated series of television episodes or shorts.

Notes on a Scandal

The plot right there is most of what makes this film roll so well. NOTES ON A SCANDAL is quite easily comparable to Alfred Hitchcock‚(TM)s REAR WINDOW when analyzing the tactics used to produce such a film. The first half an hour is used to set up the characters; at the thirty-minutes mark, the plot starts with a bang and a sense of voyeurism, before taking its own unique route. Rather than expounding upon a murder mystery, writer Patrick Marber analyzes a shocking scandal, and it seems just as, if not more suspenseful than such a classic as REAR WINDOW did in 1954. The way the director makes us view the scandalous act is stunning. It would be a very easy accident to make if the film turned out as a voluptuous picture. Instead, such scenes are carefully worked out‚"music, cinematography, and all‚"so that we are rather shocked by the events that take place during the course of the film.

Raging Bull
Raging Bull(1980)

The decision to film RAGING BULL in black and white is utterly ingenious. This film is, quite frankly, one of the only films I have seen that I cannot imagine being anything the same in color. Something about this film makes it seem so much like something straight out of the time period in which it is set. That‚(TM)s impressive, because this film came nearly thirty years after the last point in the story. Even the fight sequences look beautiful under this visual effect. The final fight, though far more brutal than all the others combined, uses the embellishment well. Whereas in a colorization quite a few viewers would be shielding their eyes, the black and white cinematography allows us to focus more on the poignancy of the sequence rather than the violence.

Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci are the two key performing highlights of the film. De Niro portrays the furious Jake LaMotta, the film‚(TM)s primary subject, and Pesci portrays his stubborn brother Joey. Both are magnificently developed characters, and that‚(TM)s the least I can say. It‚(TM)s likely that every day, Jake goes to the ring and competes with a different rival every day. He never knows his opponent, but he‚(TM)s consistently obligated, let alone paid to beat the living daylights out of him. Ironically, the one Jake seems to truly wants to pummel is Joey, who he sees seemingly every time he comes home. We begin to feel Jake‚(TM)s life eventually, and as the heated arguments and tension build up in the film, we begin to feel our blood burning, as well. It‚(TM)s the definition of a tour de force performance.


Life Is Beautiful (La Vita Ť bella)

You know when you're about to watch a film with a title like that, you have to expect something optimistic. Optimism could be all right as a perspective to use for dealing with the Holocaust. The main struggle with LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL (or La vita Ť bella as it is known in its originating nation of Italy) is that it does not seem to care for taking itself seriously. What's worse, this is the case throughout the film. It's mostly fun and games in the film's first act. This entails Guido meeting his wife, falling in love with her, and eventually marrying her. Rarely is there a remark of antisemitism when the story unfolds, so we can laugh when the script doesn't want to take itself seriously. Then comes the second act, when Guido and his son go to the concentration camp. Ironically, that's where all the humor seems horrible. This humor would fit great in another, less heavy scenario, but when it's placed here, you laugh and feel like an antisemitic bigot. The script expects us to laugh during a mad party riot, where one misplaced man is frozen still in the position of a Nazi salute. It expects us to guffaw when a man tells his son that the concentration camp they are traveling to is a game, in which you win if you are the first to get to 1,000 points. It even expects us to find it cute when a man prances off camera while held at gunpoint. I'll admit, there were some genuinely heartfelt moments this film had to offer. But as they built up on some of the grief the film needed to convey, there was usually a point at which lighthearted humor ruined the impact that could have been done.


The Iron Lady

When I hear the word √Ęlady√ʬ?, the image of Kate Winslet√Ę(TM)s character in TITANIC comes to mind. You know, someone who is overall quite respectful, but also feels she deserves a high level of respect. Put the word √Ęiron√ʬ? in front of it, and my definition is undermined. The title made me curious about what the film would be like. Allow me to say that by some standards, Margaret Thatcher (or at least the way Meryl Streep portrayed her) was a lady, but she only meets half of the forenamed definition. In other words, she appears a niggardly woman who desires nothing but respect, whilst giving no respect to her people. Meryl is what makes this seriously underwhelming picture watchable. With the strong resemblance she bears to Thatcher, combined with the flawless performance and 100% transformation into her character, it√Ę(TM)s possible that one of her great, attention-demanding speeches here could pass for archive footage of the real Margaret Thatcher.

Had this film excluded Meryl, or used anyone but her, it would have failed miserably. I can√Ę(TM)t argue with the fashion here, because it is based on history, but I can argue with the fashion in which it was presented. We just don√Ę(TM)t get enough time seeing Thatcher as Prime Minister of Great Britain. So much time is spent on her old age and her state of dementia that the end seems sudden, even after an hour and forty-five minutes. Furthermore, the presentation of her dementia was a misfire. The intent was most likely to be effective, but instead these scenes went overboard. Often times, I thought I was watching a psychological horror movie, due to the odd lighting, subtle music, and audio editing. It√Ę(TM)s a figure of speech when people say an actor or actress √Ęcarried the movie√ʬ?, but here this is taken to a whole new level. In fact, I couldn√Ę(TM)t spot anything here other than Meryl that could make this film so engaging, beyond all the noticeable flaws.



Mel Gibson seems to work best when in the realm of historical epics. If you need proof of this, seek out his leading role in 2000?s THE PATRIOT, set during the American Revolution, or his grossly underrated 2004 project THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, chronicling the last twelve hours of the life of Jesus Christ. He only acted in the former instance, and he produced, wrote, and directed the latter, which proves that as long as he has some involvement with such films, he performs quite well. Gibson combines his quality effort of producing, directing, and acting for BRAVEHEART, the film that ran home triumphantly carrying the 1995 Academy Award for Best Picture. His performance as William Wallace, the 13th century Scottish commoner who dedicated his life to overthrowing English rule, is absolutely stellar. Everything from his flawless accent to his overt display of courage, makes him disappear as an actor and rather transform into his character.


Marvel's The Avengers

I've been hearing so much critical applause and rave for THE AVENGERS, Marvel's new 800-pound (or should I say $220 million budget) gorilla, but upon seeing it, I found it little more than a mixed bag. The special effects and action were dazzling and well-accomplished, but honestly, that's what you have to expect when you watch an action movie that cost so much to produce. What really ruins the ultra-fun time that could have been experienced from watching this film, is the humor. I'm well aware that in IRON MAN, Robert Downey Jr. loved his one liners, and THOR was an odd twist on a fish-out-of-water comedy, but THE AVENGERS goes to far with this. If I had brought an audio recorder with me and used it to pick up on the sound that came from the theater, it would sound like I had just watched a comedy, or perhaps an action comedy. The people in the theater (particularly the Marvel fan boys and comic book nerds that gave it an eager watch) were guffawing like crazy. I'd say there was about as much humor as there was action, which is disappointing, because you don't watch a Marvel adaptation expecting RUSH HOUR, do you?

The film may have been a bit overlong, but it doesn't matter. The script, albeit overly silly at certain times, is what carries it along. Joss Whedon wrote this. He has had experience writing films such as SERENITY, ALIEN RESURRECTION, and THE CABIN IN THE WOODS from just a month ago, as well as television's BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and its spin-off ANGEL. The man has had so much experience with science fiction; maybe not as much as a prose writer like Ray Bradbury or Philip K. Dick, but the genre composes his entire career. Clearly, he knows how to write (and direct) a science fiction story, something interesting beyond merely explosions and shooting. That said, THE AVENGERS isn't something inventive, genuine, and anomalous like THE DARK KNIGHT, but all things considered, it's a lot of fun.


The Ides of March

Performances is the first of many great things this drama has to offer. Aside from the impressive performances by Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Evan Rachel Wood, Ryan Gosling has the main role in this film, as he did in two other films of last year, DRIVE and CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE. Even though the role he had assumed wasn‚(TM)t terribly difficult, I‚(TM)d have to say he does a fine job, and quite believable, as well. I may be over-analyzing a bit in saying so, but the slang he uses in his dialogue, and the sense of informality he presents, helps his character gain his overall strength. If we had a man who was a straightforward, serious personality, it would be hard to believe him as someone to deal with dirty politics at all. With someone who isn‚(TM)t over the top, but noticeably a bit laid back and sarcastic, it‚(TM)s completely plausible. George Clooney was also great here, but I must mention that I was disappointed with him for various reasons. One, he wasn‚(TM)t nearly as great here as he was in his tour-de-force leading role in last year‚(TM)s THE DESCENDANTS. But that‚(TM)s definitely acceptable, because that last role he took on was utterly flawless, so (seeing from an actor‚(TM)s perspective) it would be quite difficult to meet those standards within the same twelve months‚(TM) time frame. Two, his character was far too small. Sure, Mike Morris, his character, was mentioned a lot in this film. In fact, he was the film‚(TM)s pivotal subject. Clooney just didn‚(TM)t get enough screen time. We‚(TM)re so used to seeing this actor (who in my opinion, is one of the greatest performers still famous in the twenty-first century) in leading roles, or at least major ones. Here, he gets five, maybe ten minutes of time on the screen.


Jumping the Broom

Virtually, if you‚(TM)ve seen any wedding comedy‚"be it FATHER OF THE BRIDE, MY BEST FRIEND‚(TM)S WEDDING, MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING, BRIDESMAIDS, AMERICAN WEDDING, MEET THE PARENTS, or anything along those lines‚"you‚(TM)ve seen JUMPING THE BROOM. The script follows the same structure that has made such films clich√ (C)d, unless they are workshopped beyond predictability. Woman meets man, man meets woman. Relationship doesn‚(TM)t work out. Subtitle rolls in: ‚Five seconds later‚¶‚? Cue man surprising woman, and all of a sudden relationship works out. Man proposes to woman. Wedding is planned. Families meet. One family member makes an attempt to screw up wedding. Tension builds up. Woman calls off wedding, but deep down, we know from similar experiences that it will eventually happen (without giving any actual spoilers). Insert intermittent sighs and groans. Okay, and a few genuine intermittent laughs. I admit to emitting sophisticated chuckles twice during this film: when a member of Jason‚(TM)s family interpreted Sabrina‚(TM)s mother‚(TM)s line, ‚Va jouer avec ta putain,‚? as, ‚I gon‚(TM) hit‚(TM)chu onna head wit‚(TM) a computer;‚? and when a member of Jason‚(TM)s family called the Cupid Shuffle ‚the hokey pokey for black people.‚? Those were about the only two bright, clever spots in this otherwise typical film.


La Vie en Rose (La Mome)

LA VIE EN ROSE may translate as ‚Life in Pink‚?, but don‚(TM)t be deceived. This is, at times, a very depressing film, and rarely is it as upbeat as its title promises. Had the title not been a reference to Piaf‚(TM)s best-recognized work, it probably would have been titled La Vie en noir‚"‚?Life in Black‚?. The film opens with ‚Non, je ne regrette rien‚? (No, I have no regrets), an soulful ballad, and then immediately takes off to narrate the life of a girl whose life is dangling by the thread of her wonderful voice. Marion Cotillard (INCEPTION, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS) is utterly mind-blowing here in her tour-de-force portrayal of the main character. She is 100% convincing as both a young adult and a middle-aged woman. The makeup used to manipulate her beyond Cotillard actual age is a bit flawed, but looking at other life stories that have given this mistake a new definition (i.e. J. EDGAR, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON), it seems all right. More pertinently, she succeeds greatly at lip-synching to the songs of √dith Piaf. Perfect in almost every possible respect, this is an absolute must-see. Non, je ne regrette rien for seeing this.


The King of Comedy

The plot here seems a bit far-fetched, I know, but in a world that has turned so celebrity-obsessed (and, no, it‚(TM)s not just dumb little girls acting as if Justin Bieber is somehow the Beatles; most of us have actually been guilty of this, though usually at a much lower level), it seems (for the most part) absolutely plausible. Like Peter Weir‚(TM)s THE TRUMAN SHOW, the film is a comedic gem, medicated with the highest possible dose of political satire; ironically, any comedy mastermind would ruin it. Had Woody Allen done it, he would have delved into the characters‚(TM) persona too far, quite possibly so much that we could see some unintended and unsubtle hypocrisy. Had Mel Brooks directed it, it would have become a nonsensical joke-fest with all too much emphasis on the stand-up comedy and not nearly enough on the underlying theme of mania. Martin Scorsese tackles it perfectly. You can‚(TM)t expect a film from him without some sort of violence (except last year‚(TM)s family movie HUGO), even if it‚(TM)s a comedy. The first person to bring obsession to crime would certainly be him. I especially love the scene in which Langford is confined to a chair, held at gunpoint, a phone in front of him, and Pupkin is raising up cue cards (some of which are upside-down or blank) for Langford to read to tell someone in his office to make Pupkin the ‚King of Comedy‚? on the upcoming show.


The Ghost Writer

THE GHOST WRITER was very engaging. Rescan those points above, intertwine them with the spellbinding score by Alexandre Desplat (this is the kind of film he should be scoring), and you probably understand what I refer to. It also seemed a bit uneven. Seeing it as your average movie fan, I loved it, but when I tried to look at it from a political standpoint, I got a bit confused. On top of that, the word ‚ghost‚? is taken a bit too far. It starts out with the proper employment, in the fashion of describing someone who writes the memoirs of a familiar figure, but when the film grows more tense and McGregor begins to shorten, ‚I‚(TM)m his ghostwriter,‚? to simply, ‚I‚(TM)m his ghost,‚? the word seemed to have a whole different meaning. Thankfully, I feel more than compelled to watch more of Roman Polanski‚¶


The Three Stooges

At this point in time, the slapstick genre is nearly dead. We had TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL last year, and that is The Three Stooges gone insanely violent, but that was the first feature film we've had in quite a while. THE THREE STOOGES resurrects the sub-genre quite well. Especially when comparing with most modern comedies, rarely is this film scatological (though there is one notably gross scene glorifying baby urine), and rarely is it actually as dumb as people are making it seem.Think of the what could be the Farrellys' best-known work, DUMB & DUMBER. It's similar to that, because the characters are dumb, but the film and script are overall quite clever. For example, there is a scene when all the Stooges meet up with the cast of Jersey Shore (finally that show gets a good mocking), on which Moe is being featured. One of the Stooges points to Snooki's hat, which reads "Guinness", and remarks, "Just because you're wearin' a hat that says 'Genius' doesn't mean you are one!"

You could look at this as a comedic gem injured a bit by its flaws, or an error-fest uplifted by the massive laughs it offers. Me, I prefer to view it as the former. Contrary to what you would expect, it's not a film only Stooges fans would like.


The Adjustment Bureau

If a premise was all there was to a film, I would have scored this one with a perfect grade. But a premise is only the muscles to the cinematic body: they hold up and support the film as much as possible. If they‚(TM)re strong, great, but there has to be some skin, blood, and bones to this cinematic body, and really, the muscles can‚(TM)t support anything other than themselves and the body. We could have, for example, a chick flick with the most hackneyed plot ever, but if there‚(TM)s great acting and visuals, the film itself is somewhat good. It‚(TM)s the same thing‚"or, rather, the opposite‚"with THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU. The plot line is what makes it engaging, and that‚(TM)s about it. Other than this, I‚(TM)ve seen Damon in CONTAGION, HEREAFTER, TRUE GRIT, INVICTUS, the BOURNE and OCEAN‚(TM)S trilogies, and THE DEPARTED; if I still need to watch further than those eleven films of his to understand that he‚(TM)s a great actor, then I‚(TM)ll gladly watch something of the GOOD WILL HUNTING or TALENTED MR. RIPLEY variety. Because I love the man. Of the actors that are still alive today, he ranks among Nicholson, Harris, and DiCaprio as one of my favorites. I just didn‚(TM)t care for him here. It seems like forever since he ran from country to country as assassin Jason Bourne, and the word ‚forever‚? gets a new, more emphasized definition here with his portrayal as a politician. His character here seems too unambitious, unadventurous, and too much so to be the lead in an action movie. The script was also heavily flawed. It was written by George Nolfi, who has co-written two other Damon films‚"THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM and OCEAN‚(TM)S TWELVE‚"as well as two others‚"THE SENTINEL and TIMELINE. Seeing that he has had some good experience with action films, one would expect a straightforward instance of the genre. Instead, we have a movie scripted with neat action, but killed at times by the poor, unrealistic dialogue. I give this points for being quite entertaining, if not the slightest bit more. Hey, let‚(TM)s look at the glass half full: it could have been another OCEAN‚(TM)S TWELVE.



MOON isn't anything anyone has seen before. It's a sci-fi movie, but it relies more on dialogue than action to build up its suspense. And it succeeds. There have been a handful of other films that have relied on a more talkative, dramatic atmosphere. None of those others seem to work as well as this one does. Take Steven Soderbergh's 2002 remake SOLARIS as an example. That film had a neat premise, especially with the gentle blend of lust and space, but even at a mere ninety minutes of length, it would be a cinematic lullaby to anyone who just doesn't care all too much for science fiction. MOON is different. Like SOLARIS, it clearly shies away from any special effects or action sequences that have become popular in today's sci-fi movies (the $5 million budget, which was seemingly devoted to making the film look incredibly futuristic, seems to agree with me on that one); contrarily, it runs close to ten minutes longer than Soderbergh's film, yet an audience would have to absolutely abhor sci-fi to have the nerve to miss an entire minute of it.

The script provided most of the intrigue for MOON. This was written by Duncan Jones and Nathan Parker, two names that aren't really the most recognizable, though the former we could possibly point to for his work on last year's sci-fi flick SOURCE CODE. The two provide some of the most interesting characters in recent science fiction history (behind Jar-Jar Binks, for whom I would always reserve a spot, just because he-sa makes me-sa laugh at he-sa's utter stupidity). Honestly, the list of characters is quite small. There is only one real main character, unless you count GERTY, and every other character appears for no more than a minute. I could watch Sam Bell for hours, not because he shares a name with the actor who portrays him (though that does make it a bit more authentic, I'd say), but because his split personality is so unsettling. I honestly haven't seen a split personality done so profoundly well since Nicolas Cage's character(s) in ADAPTATION. GERTY is even better. He starts off as a bit of a comic relief to the story, and continues that way, but sometimes he seems to give us the effect that clowns do to young children. (Well, on a slightly lesser level.) His voice barely has any emotion to it, and it's really the screen covering his motherboard that provides a smile. He uses "emoticons" to convey his feelings: When he greets Sam, he gives off a giant smiley. When he is angry, he furrows his pixel-brows. When he wants to commiserate, he squeezes his eyes shut tight, puts on a forlorn face, and drips tears. You get the picture.


Hell's Angels

I'll give you all a memory of Martin Scorsese's THE AVIATOR, for those sane souls who have seen it. Think back to the first forty minutes, in which Howard Hughes, the biographical subject portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, was going crazy over his 1930 production, HELL'S ANGELS: hand painting the completed film, ordering Air Force planes down to the precise bolt he preferred, hiring and firing...you get the picture. I was hesitant to watch this film after being informed of how insane this guy was. I knew I couldn't expect much, as this was Hughes's first feature film as director, and he had to have been caught up in some of his other careers, such as entrepreneurism and aviation. How wrong I was. It all goes to prove that as long as you don't go over the top, obsessing over a film production has to lead to a mighty outcome. Okay, there was one thing that this billionaire DID go a bit far with: hand painting the film here and there, an effect that only worked in one or two scenes of this early use of color. Other than that, I couldn't name one flaw to you if it depended on my life. The plot, premise, acting, and characters are all so well-done.

Maybe the historical value also makes HELL'S ANGELS worth a watch. It remained for quite a while the most expensive film production. The budget would approximate to almost $100 million in today's currency. Contrary to popular belief, even GONE WITH THE WIND, from nine years later, failed to exceed this whale of an amount of money. If we adjust for inflation, we'd see this would be one of the better ways to put money to use. Lots of today's big-budget pieces have been strictly visual action hounds such as TRANSFORMERS, JOHN CARTER, and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. In so many ways, it makes us long for a time 80 years ago when even madmen like Howard Hughes had some sense.


The Abyss
The Abyss(1989)

The plot is actually quite simple. Essentially, it‚(TM)s a combination of Cameron‚(TM)s sea passion and his sci-fi passion. Think TITANIC meets ALIENS. Or, if you aren‚(TM)t quite familiar with either of those classics, for whatever reason, think of THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, then elongate it to the point at which the (fewer) people aboard begin exploring the depths of the abyss, with some dazzling alien sequences evenly intertwined.

I hadn‚(TM)t ever seen THE ABYSS before now. In fact, it and PIRANHA TWO: THE SPAWNING remained for a long while the only two Cameron-directed feature films I hadn‚(TM)t seen. After deciding to rattle off the last two, I immediately jumped to renting the extension. I know Cameron can‚(TM)t let me down, as my absolute favorite director (in a tie with Hitchcock and Allen), and I always want to watch as much as possible of a film, so I thought it to be a great idea. For the first forty minutes or so, it wasn‚(TM)t. The ‚shallowness‚? (pun fully intended) of the exposition seemed overlong, and I‚(TM)d assume it was because of the addition of new material. The informal language, as well, got to me. Then, I started to realize something odd. As the tension started building up, I felt that nearly every minute of the opening was necessary, and the casualty and sarcasm the characters were using pervasively was continuing, but strengthening the believability.


Apollo 18
Apollo 18(2011)

It was in 1979 that the talented Mr. Ridley Scott struck cinematic gold with a science-fiction horror masterpiece. (If you are a living, breathing, human being, I'd expect you to know what film I'm referring to, so I won't bother to mention the title.) His message was in the tagline ("In space no one can hear you scream"), but it was more effective from watching the film. It would be downright plagiarism to use the same tagline as director Ridley Scott did in 1979, so the message of the movie is clear throughout: In space, no one can hear you scream. No one can help you, and if something happens, oh well. Even though there haven't been all too many horror films that take place in space, APOLLO 18 makes us feel as if we've been bombarded with that theme countless times. It seems so clichťd, and the use of the "found footage" technique doesn't help. This technique was used in other horror and science fiction films such as PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, THE LAST EXORCISM, [REC], and CLOVERFIELD to enhance the believability of the story and increase the level of fear and tension. It worked in those films quite effectively, but not in this one at all. Had this been a more psychological horror film about three men who got stuck on the moon, it probably would have worked great. When the obstacle in the plot is extra-terrestrial life, the laughing factor is enhanced for anyone over twelve years old.

I have to give points to APOLLO 18 for being watchable, at the least. The story wasn't at all convincing; nor were the titles at the beginning informing us that this was truncated footage from thirty-seven years before, just found and leaked to the web. It even negates the entire story it conveyed in the end by giving us the official reports of the Apollo 18 mission. Somehow, there was a "so bad, it's good" type of entertainment that isn't usual for a film made as poorly and carelessly as this. That said, it was entertaining enough for its seventy-minute length, but the mistakes are so manifest that inadvertently works better as a comedy than a horror movie.


Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Had there not been a few impressively unique aspects to this film, which is more like a lengthened cross between a sitcom and a soap opera, it would be your conventional rom-com and nothing more. Maybe the greatest it has to offer is how the script addresses the routine of films of the genre, at times. Take, as an example, the scene in which Cal and his wife have just come back from a parent-teacher-conference-turned-heated-argument. We always see attempted humor in rom-coms when men make blunders and say things they don't mean in front of their wives. In this sequence, it's taken to a whole new level. Cal is trying to explain to his wife that before their marriage, she is the only one he has made love with, but at that point the number has increased. He accidentally tells her that he has now had one night stands with eight women, excluding his 25-year-long marriage. It gets better, less subtle. As his wife leaves, it begins raining heavily. We don't have time to complain about how typical it is for a rom-com, because Carell's character takes care of it for us: "What a clich√ (C)."

Something else that sets this apart from the standard, spat-out rom-com that has become ridiculously common in today's day in age, is the number of pleasing performances it holds. Carell has his usual, straightforward character (I don't know why, but I was reminded of his character in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE when he jumped out of a moving automobile in the beginning); and Gosling has an amusing, sometimes even parodical performance as a seductive womanizer. The mother of all performances must be that from Marisa Tomei. She is happily one of the (8) women involved in a one-night stand with Cal...until he and she both discover that his son is in her eighth grade English class. Then she goes into a crazy (stupid) rant that is the perfect blend of funny and intimidating. It makes us wish she had a larger role, but she holds up the movie pretty well.


Air Force One

By now, we know Wolfgang Petersen as someone who has a fondness for making motion pictures about danger at sea. His directorial credits have included DAS BOOT, a German war epic about the crew of a U-96 boat; THE PERFECT STORM, a disaster movie about the Andrea Gail fishing vessel struck by a hurricane; and POSEIDON, a tedious remake of 1972?s THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE. Looking at the almost-fifteen-year-old AIR FORCE ONE, he should stick to plane mayhem instead. I have yet to see DAS BOOT, but I was disappointed with THE PERFECT STORM, and I try not to talk about how big the question mark hanging over my head was when I watched POSEIDON. The level to which his thrills elevate in AIR FORCE ONE is insurmountable. We could give this nod to Harrison Ford, as well. The best of his career has consisted of nothing but pure excitement: WITNESS, STAR WARS, BLADE RUNNER, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, to name a few. Even in the worst of his movies, his performances have always been strong and brave. Of any actor famous from the '70s onward, he would be the absolute first pick as a role for the President of the United States.



ABDUCTION isn't a total bomb, but there are two key areas that proved enough as misfires to bring it pretty close. The first of these was the characters. Putting aside the fact that even by the end of the film, we still can't differentiate the trustworthy characters from the cunning criminals, I'll state the main headache plain as day: we don't really care about Taylor Lautner's character (self-proclaimed "Team Jacob", I won't try to argue with you). Had we a more likable character with a same situation, rather than one who started the movie off by passing out on a friend's lawn, the story would have been more interesting. His character got uneven as the film went on: what kind of "cool kid" cries five times in the course of less than two hours? We would think that someone who was taught to be a great fighter by his father (the one who raised him) would have enough emotional strength to hold back tears, but it often doesn't happen. And that's probably the only point at which the story (misfire number two) isn't predictable. Believe it or not, I watched this because I wanted to see how awful it actually was. I had not heard one good thing about it at all. Once I heard from someone that every action was predictable, I tried to rent this as soon as possible to detect how much of an exaggeration that was. I was shocked by the infinitesimal amount of stretching imposed upon the truth with that statement. I wouldn't say I predicted 100% of the film, but it's somewhere around 80%. Which is a bummer, because I'm terrible at predicting even the most broad points of movies. The premise was so open and familiar that the twist on which the film ended became obvious to me a good amount of time before it actually occurred. That said, followers of "Team Jacob" (*cough, cough* the main part of what's wrong with the world today) will love this film, but that's because they'll be looking over everything except Taylor. I'll admit to turning off my mind for a few minutes to try and enjoy the action sequences, but after a few minutes or so, I got bored.


The Adventures of Tintin

It‚(TM)s clear that his concentration on this fabulous project outweighed his stability with WAR HORSE last December; he directed both films, which hit theaters only four days apart from one another. I wouldn‚(TM)t say TINTIN was flawless, but it was highly entertaining. There weren‚(TM)t many flaws that I did notice because I was so intrigued by the plot and so mesmerized by the beauty of this realistically animated motion capture piece. Maybe the only misstep that truly provided an impact on the film was the characters. The captain, especially, is annoying when he‚(TM)s drunk, and even more when he is sober. His fantasies and hallucinations are ridiculous and hard to follow. I must give him a bit of applause, though, for the scene in which he starts a fire on a boat and tries to use whiskey to extinguish it. The scene, as with at least 75% of the film, had me smiling and chuckling. That said, this isn‚(TM)t a must-see, but it‚(TM)s fresh and fun for all ages. Similar to Indy in more than a few ways.


Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

The first few minutes of EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE, a title I won't dare to abbreviate because it entails grand only in its entirety, are bound to cause wonder as to why it was nominated for Best Picture, but once those first few minutes have passed, it's quite clear: the writer, cast, and director have all taken the subject matter into their hands together and handled it very seriously as it should be. Granted, their are quite a few flaws that are almost impossible to not pick up on, such as that there is humor placed where it shouldn't be (i.e. the "lie-counting" Oskar does); Oskar goes a bit over the top with his rambling (rather than commiserating, we start to plead for the moment when he closes his mouth); and it sometimes doesn't seem all too realistic (i.e. Oskar is always skipping school without consequence or warning). Other than that, this is a nice film that should leave you thinking. (It's not every day we see a movie about a kid's experience with 9/11, is it?)


Blade Runner
Blade Runner(1982)

Harrison Ford is never a failure. He has both saved movies from disaster (EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES, COWBOYS & ALIENS), and he has also done his fair share of topping off movies to becoming their very best (RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, WITNESS, STAR WARS, AMERICAN GRAFFITI). His performance here is exceptional. We wouldn‚(TM)t even be wondering if this film was a nod to classic film-noir, had his performance not been so steady, tense, and well-done. Then there‚(TM)s the directing alongside. Other than this, the only Ridley Scott film I have seen was ALIEN (yes, I‚(TM)m prepared to be yelled at tremendously for not having seen GLADIATOR and THELMA & LOUISE). Though this isn‚(TM)t the same kind of science fiction as ALIEN, and certainly not a horror film, we can see some similar blood, especially with the cinematography, the phobia-inducing sequences (though more acrophobic than claustrophobic), the distinct feeling of tension we get.



TAKEN wasn't as great a thriller as I seem to be hearing. Without a few missteps, it would have been a flawless action movie. The major step it takes in the wrong direction is the fact that the script and one of the central characters (Kim) seemed a little too out of line. Maggie Grace portrays Kim as if she were celebrating her twelfth birthday, not her seventeenth. It's also the fault of the script for making her a character who has aspired to be a singer since she was five years old. Honestly, how many people wish to pursue the same dream in their teen years as they did in their early childhoods? It also brought me into somewhat explosive laughter when her cell phone was ringing in her purse, and the contact name showed up as "Daddy". She seems to below her age in this movie that I can't imagine her eventuating as a prostitute.



TITANIC may be over three hours long, but it does not at all feel like it. The plot, visuals, and acting leads to a feeling of it being half as long. If I were to compile the most engaging movies over three hours in length, this would easily rank number one. It's also great seeing TITANIC in 3-D, on the big screen. It's nice seeing the film on video and when they air it on TV till your eyes bleed, but seeing it this way is a much, much different experience. It's James Cameron (who also used 3-D technology splendidly with 2009's AVATAR) accomplishing what he couldn't at the time of the film's 1997 release, using modern technology. It cost approximately $18 million just to convert this masterpiece into 3-D, and more often than not, it's well worth the cost. Especially in the final scenes of shipwreck, when there is water flooding, sparks flying, and distress signals shooting off into the air, the technique is incredibly effective. Though from a glance the re-release may seem like a headache, ever could there ever be a more vivid and thoughtful way to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the best-known shipwreck.

Seeing this in theaters again, we are also reminded of what we have forgotten from this cinematic grandeur. The best of these are the performances, especially of DiCaprio as Jack, Winslet as Rose, and Zane as her possessive fianc√ (C). DiCaprio has too many memorable quotes for me to list; among his best are the unforgettable, "I'm the king of the world!!", and, "That's one of the good things about Paris. Lots of girls willing to take their clothes off." His and Winslet's performances both grow stronger and more endearing toward the end. I always tear up whenever I hear either one of them deliver the line, "Never let go." Billy Zane has such an aggravated, impatient character it's hard to see him as the charmer he looks like. The scene in which he overturns a table and demands his fianc√ (C)e's respect is so shocking it hurts.


Lady in the Water

All I keep hearing about director M. Night Shyamalan is that he was phenomenal with his debut, THE SIXTH SENSE, but after that his films began to plunge down an endless slope. I loved THE SIXTH SENSE so much that I couldn't bring myself to believe it. It's one of those times when seeing actually is believing. I fully agree with that statement I've heard all too many times after seeing LADY IN THE WATER, a total disaster.

The first problem with LADY IN THE WATER is the script. It's hard to tell if this was intended to be funny, but I laughed very hard in some parts. Let me give you an example of one of the worst scenes. It's when one of the characters is faced with the dog-like creature. The character is a film critic (is that Shyamalan trying to earn some critical respect?), and he states that it's like a moment out of a horror movie. (Seriously, are you M. Night Shyamalan or Mel Brooks?) He rambles on and on about how it's the moment when the side character is about to be attacked, and that he's going to run through the door behind him and the dog will barely miss him. He has rambled on so much that not only is it incredibly predictable when the dog slaughters him, it's excruciatingly funny.


War Horse
War Horse(2011)

Despite the grandeur it may appear to possess, WAR HORSE is merely a mixed bag. If the Academy had ever optioned an award for the Best Achievement in Cinematic Beauty (fat chance), this would have been an automatic win. The fashion in which plains, prairies, fields, and even horses are depicted is downright beautiful. There's also John Williams's typical effort in a musical score here. He's worked on every feature-length Spielberg picture except 1985's THE COLOR PURPLE, and his music kept me barely awake There should have been no reason, though, for WAR HORSE to have been nominated for Best Picture. It's great in every technical aspect, but it fails at an even plot. The film starts out as a wholesome, sweet animal picture, and it takes little time when it eventually chooses to elevate drastically into a violent, intense war movie. After that, it continues to meander almost mindlessly between the two.


Planes, Trains and Automobiles

John Candy (R.I.P.) is great in PLANES. His character is a reminder of any nuisance we've come across (and we all have); somehow, he does so well that rather than groaning, we are left laughing. I love the scene when he rambles on about people who can't shut up. Steve Martin, though maybe not as much a comic relief, has his moments, as well. His character is composed of anger and frustration because of his hilariously unfortunate situation. It'd be hard to forget his tirade against a car rental agent, a celebration of a whopping eighteen F-bombs in less than a minute.

PLANES isn't what we'd expect of John Hughes (R.I.P.). We know him mostly for teen comedies such as SIXTEEN CANDLES (still on my list), THE BREAKFAST CLUB, and WEIRD SCIENCE. He surely doesn't go out of his comical spectrum here, but it's not a movie about teen angst, teen pressure, teen love, or teen anything. It's a movie about an adult man who wants to get home on a nice, paved road, and the nature of coincidence as well as a childish adult man come put rocks on his path. The theme is not in any way similar to anything else Hughes has done, but he does fabulously well as writer-producer-director.



SELENA isn't the best music biopic, in general (though it did remind me of LA BAMBA with Lou Diamond Phillips), but the performances you'll find here are absolutely stellar. We have J.Lo in her breakthrough performance as the titular singer known best by that one name. Now she may not be the greatest actress today (that's a mere assumption from what I see in critical reaction to films like THE BACK-UP PLAN and MONSTER-IN-LAW), but her delivery here is wonderful. Even her oral movements match up perfectly to the recordings of the actual Selena, whose recordings were chosen for soundtrack purposes less than two years prior to Lopez's pursuit in a musical career. Jon Seda is great, as well. He channels musicians like Metallica's Kirk Hammett and Guns 'n' Roses' Slash; we hear the latter band's "Welcome to the Jungle" a few times to enhance his character: a wild, heavy metal animal with too much hair.



I find it sad the original story the character was told with in 1992's BATMAN RETURNS (unless you go all the way back to 1966's TV spinoff BATMAN: THE MOVIE) is absolutely shot down for this 2004 litter box of a movie. Instead, we have a premise like the one you would find watching ultra-violent superhero flick THE CROW: protagonist is murdered by antagonist, protagonist is revived by animal, protagonist seeks disguise with an identity named after that animal, protagonist goes out and makes every attempt to kill antagonist. The idea was great in that film, and it could have been here, had there not been a few major failures.

The music, for one, is excruciating. From this movie, we can draw a lesson that should have already been obvious: never use modern R&B music as a soundtrack for an action movie. It seems sometimes these people forget what kind of a genre they're working with. In the love scenes, we hear the naturally slow R&B music. At least it gets faster and heavier when the action sequences come, but there's no way I can give credit to such a distraction. Another quality that ruins the action sequences is the dialogue. We have the classic "you thought that was a purrrrr-fect idea" quote that has been around since the character's creation, but Halle Berry looks like an impersonator rather than the actual character when she delivers the line. Furthermore, you know you've been cinematically screwed when you hear this: "Game over." "Guess what? It's overtime!"


500 Days of Summer

We know, I assume, before the film even begins that Summer remains a part of Tom's life for an incredibly precise 500 days. (I would have lost count before a week had passed, truthfully.) The most uneven part of the film is how it jumps around. The sequence of events is very nonlinear. Don't be surprised if you see it skipping from day 290, to day 5, to day 6, to day 7, to day 8, to day 343, to day 11, etc. It is bound to confuse a viewer, and it makes the story seem even more unrealistic than it already is. The plot curve would be hard to draw out if I were neurotic enough to analyze it that far; not quite what you would expect for a movie that begins with a narration that promises it won't be a love story. The nonlinear sequencing was a good idea, but a failed attempt to make a clich√ (C)d story seem new.

(500) DAYS was quite an entertaining film, on the other hand. The performance of Zooey Deschanel provides enough chutzpah and energy to hold up an entire film on its own. Tom, as well, is an interesting character to watch. His performance gets a rise out of an audience with the most minute effort. In one scene, there is an off camera person interviewing Tom and his three friends about what love means to each of them. Both of Tom's two friends say similar, odd things; when we see Tom himself, he struggles to respond. In another scene, Tom is invited to Summer's rooftop party. We are provided a split-screen view; one side is devoted to Tom's expectations of the party's outcome, while the other side is for the actual outcome.



Don't get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE Woody Allen. This is the eighth or ninth film I've seen from him. Everything from the fact that he has not directed a film without writing it as well (and vice versa) to his uniquely wry humor makes me always look for more of him. I've always thought every one of his films was a hoot. But, of course, every great filmmaker has to have at least one disappointment. For Spielberg, that was HOOK. For Soderbergh, that was OCEAN'S TWELVE. For Oliver Stone, that was W. And for Mr. Woody Allen, he fails in his classic triple-threat role (writer-actor-director) with SCOOP. It's the writing that fails SCOOP, for the most part. Sure, there's the shoddy lead performance by Johansson, but the writing makes us wonder if Woody was in a narcissistic state of mind when he wrote this script. His character is the only one that delivers jokes, and there's a quote within the first fifteen minutes to prove it. It feels bad enough to give Woody a bad grade on a humor test, when he is usually a near-perfect student. It feels even worse to talk badly about his writing.


Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Before I saw ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE, I had seen four films directed by Martin Scorsese: SHINE A LIGHT, his 2008 documentary of a Rolling Stones concert; THE DEPARTED, one of his many crime flicks; THE AVIATOR, his biographical picture about multi-millionaire Howard Hughes; and HUGO, his charming family fantasy movie from just last year. Only one of them I had given less than a solid A (HUGO), so I was excited to see ALICE, the film many consider his best. It's not his usual, dark, ultra-violent type of movie (and I'd guess it's his only PG rated film until HUGO), but it's a classic with no hesitation, and the best I've seen of him thus far.

ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE is just about as unusual as its own title. It's a fantastic film, and it's (in a way) a family drama, but there's something extra added on to make it more likeable. We've had so many movies about family problems, too many for me to name. They're all either pass or fail, with nothing in the middle. A "fail" would be Jim Carrey's LIAR LIAR. A "pass" would be Robert Redford's ORDINARY PEOPLE. For me, this passes just as much as ORDINARY PEOPLE, if not a tad more.


The Passion of the Christ

It's hard to call THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST a film, per se. Just about every film is watched for entertainment purposes. Unless you enjoy seeing the Lord of the Christian faith whipped and beaten to a pulp (and if that applies, I can't help but to ask what is wrong with you), THE PASSION is in no way a good source for entertainment. It's even bloodier than SAW, and more disturbing for any Christian. Also, if you are someone of a different religion, or just not really much of a Christian, do not watch this. You will more than likely hate it and possibly find it to be a blasphemous excuse for torture porn. (It's not.) From the thorough speaking of Aramaic (with English subtitles, of course), to the stellar performance by Jim Caviazel, to the wonderfully accurate Oscar-nominated musical score by John Debney, it's an A+ movie for anyone who appreciates the religion deeply.



Despite it being an artistic film, MANHATTAN is not in black-and-white to look like a pre-1960s film. I won't try to say that there haven't been these kinds of films; we've had YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK, and PLEASANTVILLE as crystal clear proof. The reason this 1979 comedy is in black-and-white is to illustrate the beauty of Manhattan, the most populous borough in New York City. The film opens humorously with a voice-over of our main character: "Chapter One. He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion. Eh uh, no, make that he, he romanticized it all out of proportion. Better. To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black-and-white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin. Uh, no, let me start over." While Woody Allen is delivering this opening narration, we actually hear George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" in the background. In fact, the entire soundtrack to MANHATTAN consists of performances of 20th century jazz musician George Gershwin by both the New York Philharmonic and the Buffalo Philharmonic. The film is practically a love letter to Manhattan, the area in which it is set, and George Gershwin, Allen's inspiration for the film. It's by far the most artistically-fueled Allen work yet.

There's so many things that make MANHATTAN a great movie, but it's a mystery to me why it's so lovable. Anyone who has seen two or three of Woody Allen's films is probably used to his wry humor. Maybe it's because of his subtle, sarcastic admittances, such as in one scene, when he confesses to his struggling teenage girlfriend about his "wry sense of humor." Or that other scene: "Bergman? Bergman's the only genius in cinema today." Yeah, right.


Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre(2011)

Let‚(TM)s start out with the most noticeable quality of JANE EYRE. It‚(TM)s not quite vividly colorful, but especially for a period piece, the visual aspect is very well-done. Whenever filmmakers create a period piece, one of the most paramount points to work on is the coloration. When this is over- or underworked, the result is along the lines of THE HELP, a film that I would have viewed as flawless, had it not been ruined by it‚(TM)s bright, cheesy visuals. An on-target example would be JANE EYRE. The lighting and contrast heavily expound upon the dreary, bleak tone of the film itself.

The performances may be the next best thing. In most cases, I would say, ‚We have Judi Dench; ‚(TM)nuff said.‚? But we have a talented Jane Eyre from beginning to end. Mia Wasikowska develops her role robustly as the titular character, an in-depth, odd personality. Just look at one of the production stills and you‚(TM)ll agree.


The Beaver
The Beaver(2011)

Aside from being incredibly boring, THE BEAVER is an uneven motion picture. Though intended to perform as a look at one man's dreadful state of depression, we often end up getting a completely unrelated view of that man's son's hassle over trying to write his girlfriend's graduation speech. Also, the film flies by in a matter of 90 minutes (thank God), but that amount of time didn't seem to be quite enough to propel it much further than the point at which it started. Not to mention, the ending is quite predictable.

THE BEAVER does not work well as a comedy, nor does it meet up to the sufficiency of a drama. The humor here is quite commonplace and along the lines of what we would expect for a movie about a disturbed family man (i.e. "Today at school, a bully threw me into a dumpster." "What did your teacher do about it?" "She got me out of the dumpster."), and if that's your kind of humor, go right ahead with this one. THE BEAVER strives to be poignant, but can you really expect to be moved by a movie about a crazy guy who talks by using a puppet? Think about it and decide.

Ranked #5 worst of 2011.

The Rite
The Rite(2011)

Welcome to the twenty-first century. Or the cinematic era when nearly every horror film HAS to revolve around either "found footage", blood and guts, ghosts, or exorcisms. THE RITE falls under the fourth category, and there is hardly anything new or inventive.

This film, I must say, was terribly scripted. Scenes depicting a man standing in front of a McDonald's smiling, and a cell phone ringing in the midst of an exorcism, I do not know whether to say they are intentionally or unintentionally funny. I'll just say I'll expect those two scenes to appear in the next SCARY MOVIE.

Ranked #4 worst of 2011.

Full Review: http://wp.me/p1Urcx-vK

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1

Forget the fact that THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN - PART 1 (wow, that's a long title) finally makes the whole "vampire romance" genre look as dumb as it sounds. The thing that truly makes this a bad film is that it starts off as a sappy romantic drama, and it takes over half the film to evolve back into a supernatural/romantic thriller like the rest of the saga.

That is certainly not to say that "Twi-hards" will not enjoy this fourth and thankfully penultimate entry into the Twilight Saga. Even the novel Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer was a huge drop from the previous three, but how could someone who would give anything and everything for this series care? (Not to mention, the drop from the novels Eclipse to Breaking Dawn was not nearly as large as the one we see from the films.)

Ranked #3 worst of 2011.

Full Review: http://wp.me/p1Urcx-uR

Shark Night 3D

The plot in SHARK NIGHT is oversimplified at best. The only differences between this and the oft-ripped-off (particularly in this film) JAWS, honestly, are the fact that this revolves around seven arrogant, asinine college undergraduates, rather than three grown men who are aware that they are dealing with a shark (come on, you idiots!! Your friend just got slaughtered like an ant!!! Are you going to get out of the water and save yourselves!?!); the fact that the musical brilliance of John Williams was replaced by a confusingly-placed, oddly upbeat rock soundtrack; the lack of a good, suspenseful plot; the addition of new technology; and the fact that this film is just plain stupid. Not to mention, SHARK NIGHT won√Ę(TM)t get your heart beating, but it√Ę(TM)ll give your eyes a workout from all the rolling they√Ę(TM)ll be doing.

It would be extremely generous to say anything truly nice about SHARK NIGHT. It sure does love to prove itself the next one to spit on the face of JAWS. That horror masterpiece used the occasional perspective shots, so that we saw from a lower aquatic view what the humans looked like to the shark. They try that in SHARK NIGHT. In fact, they try it too often, and with a shaky camera that isn√Ę(TM)t far enough away from the victim, the effect never works. It grows borings through the excruciating overuse. In almost every respect, this movie is utterly terrible. Never does it succeed at scaring an audience, but it always works with boring us to tears and drawing massive, unintentional laughter.

Ranked #2 worst of 2011.

Read the full review at http://themoviefreakblog.wordpress.com

Green Lantern


So for all we know, Hal can control the entire universe. But after five minutes, it doesn√Ę(TM)t matter. GREEN LANTERN is possibly the biggest misfire of 2011. I√Ę(TM)ve never walked out of a movie theater before, but I wouldn√Ę(TM)t be saying that if I√Ę(TM)d seen it in theaters. I√Ę(TM)ve been to bad movies (and bad theaters√Ę"you know who you are), and I have wanted to ask for my money back, but I always remind myself I√Ę(TM)m better than that. I can imagine my experience going to see GREEN LANTERN in theaters: I sit down for five minutes, and one of two things happen. A) I fall asleep for ninety minutes. (Hey, at least I√Ę(TM)m sleeping somewhere cozy.) B) I walk out of the theater. If value B is true, the next thing is I ask for my money back at the ticket booth. The person there obviously hasn√Ę(TM)t seen the movie (and probably avoided it for his life), so he says, √ĘImpossible.√Ę? I don√Ę(TM)t want to imagine what happens next.

Ranked #1 worst of 2011.


Puss in Boots

The animation in PUSS is superb. The scene when the three protagonists plant the magical beans, the scene involving the √Ęcloud-ball fight,√Ę? the first five minutes, and just about every action sequence stand out the most. With the intricate designs of the animal characters, the lifelike (yes, lifelike) embellishments, and the countless carefully-animated objects (i.e. rain on a beanstalk up in the sky), it was meant for a 3-D theatrical release. Even on home video, it still looks stunning.

We can√Ę(TM)t expect this much of a SHREK movie anymore, nor does any entry have the right to be this excellent. Somehow, this works when it tries to convince us out of thinking that it qualifies as a SHREK movie, with a soundtrack consisting of catchy Latin tunes, an entirely new cast for entirely new characters (with one obvious exception), and not one reference to Donkey, Shrek, or Fiona. That said, I guarantee you√Ę(TM)ll love it, regardless of you having seen any of the original SHREK movies.

Ranked #10 of 2011.

Super 8
Super 8(2011)

SUPER 8 is truly an intense sci-fi film about a film. The action and plot twists never cease, and it never fails to thrill you.

Ranked #9 of 2011.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

What makes TUCKER & DALE such an entertaining film is the manner in which it ties a clean knot between the horror and comedy genres. The movie is so bloody, but at the same time massively funny. In one scene, Tucker has just chainsawed through a bee's nest in a log. He runs around wildly, chainsaw in the air, trying to escape the bees. Though we know it within forty-five seconds of the scene, it takes him another visit into the woods to realize he has offed one of the college students on his property.

Forgetting Curly, if Larry and Moe were characterized as stooges with sharp objects, TUCKER & DALE would be the automatic outcome. The few great scenes that make this a definitive slasher comedy are those that depict people acting asinine around objects we have always known to treat with caution (I didn't need this film to learn my lesson that if someone is standing next to a woodchipper, you don't charge at him/her with a screwdriver). Somehow, the stupidity of the characters is equal to the genius of the director. Not the best title, but a one-of-a-kind horror-comedy.

Ranked #8 of 2011.

The Help
The Help(2011)

Based on the book by Kathryn Stockett, THE HELP is a poignant, moving film, peppered with light-hearted humor every now and then to spice up the otherwise sad plot, which ultimately reaches the point of being somewhat depressing.

Emma Stone, who we know from EASY A and ZOMBIELAND, plays a great Skeeter Phelan, changing her accent to that of an aspiring Mississippian author for a two-hour-and-seventeen-minute long production; and Bryce Dallas Howard, who we can slightly recognize from THE VILLAGE and TERMINATOR SALVATION, portrays an even better Hilly Holbrook, a racist antagonist of the story.

Compared to Kathryn Stockett's debut novel from only two years before, this film is very, very close to being as good. It portrays the author's view on racism in just the perfect light, and it is powered by great acting and cinematography that the author couldn't create, making THE HELP a near-flawless production. Truly, it is the best way we can see what the rights of African-Americans were in 1962.

Ranked #7 of 2011.

Midnight in Paris

To say the very least, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is by far one of the best films made in 2011. It takes a certain knowledge and appreciation of Woody Allen to understand the poetic humor put on display, but one who can appreciate that different type of humor will surely find this to be more than just an enjoyable romantic comedy. One who has that sense of humor will understand how utterly hilarious this truly is.

Ranked #5 of 2011.

Full Review: http://wp.me/p1Urcx-zE

The Descendants

Mature cross between tearjerking drama and biting comedy follows the narration of Matt King (George Clooney), a workaholic living in Hawaii. We are told early on that his wife has fallen into a coma from a boating accident, and later that she will not survive. Devastated, Matt makes an attempt to connect with his two daughters, 10 and 17. Only to bring him further shock, he is told by his teenage daughter that before her boating accident, his wife was having an affair.

Most movies have one or two tearjerking scenes, but THE DESCENDANTS tugs at heartstrings from beginning to end. From the moment we hear Matt mention his wife's tragic situation, we have our hearts sinking and become sympathetic. If you're looking for a movie that goes to a superlative level of both the comedy and drama genres, THE DESCENDANTS is for you. If not, I pity you.

Ranked #4 of 2011.


To say that WARRIOR is just another fight film is a preposterous understatement. Whether or not it goes down in history as one of the greatest films of the 21st century (which is likely to begin with), it will certainly be nominated for a few Academy Awards for its next grand competition at the forthcoming Oscar ceremony. A cinematic champion.

Ranked #3 of 2011.

Full Review: http://wp.me/p1Urcx-zQ

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2

I'm positive on predicting that DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART II will rack up some Academy Awards this year. Probably not for Best Picture, but certainly for Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects, and Best Original Score (yes, for once, I enjoyed the score of Alexandre Desplat much more than those of John Williams, Patrick Doyle, and Nicholas Hooper combined).

Even with two parts to make an ending, I must say: why does Harry Potter have to end so soon? The legacy remains, all right, but it feels like I just saw SORCERER'S STONE yesterday for my first time.

Now, we look at the series and see that the students are so much older (ten years!); new characters have come, gone (Helena Bonham Carter's Bellatrix Lestrange, and gone with a well-said quote by char. Molly Weasley; Gary Oldman's Sirius Black); and, as we know it, the saga has evolved from a family-family series into a worldwide phenomenon. And for ending the series on a stronger, much better note than the first half, I applaud David Yates. Well done!

Ranked #2 of 2011.

The Artist
The Artist(2011)

I would like to call THE ARTIST the best film of 2011, but in all honesty, it√Ę(TM)s so convincing as a film from 80 years before that I have to wonder if it actually was released last year. Every so often we have a modern black-and-white film, such as SCHINDLER√Ę(TM)S LIST or PLEASANTVILLE, and it√Ę(TM)s always for an artistic purpose. With the most infinitesimal exaggeration, we never have a modern silent film come our way, and if we did, none of them would be as grand as THE ARTIST. It√Ę(TM)s the most exquisitely delivered, beautifully captured film I have ever seen, and the best theatrical experience I have ever had.

If you were considering going to see THE ARTIST, consider no longer, get out, and see it. This is a film that is in no way common and in every way unique; an automatic classic. That said, if this doesn√Ę(TM)t win the Academy Award for Best Picture of 2011 (and Best Original Score for Ludovic Bource√Ę(TM)s ingeniously-crafted, well-done musical compositions), there will be some serious hell to pay.

Ranked #1 of 2011.

The Hunger Games

As a huge fan of the book series this takes a basis from, I expected a great deal from the movie. In the first twenty minutes or so, I was slightly disappointed. Rather than opening with a grand bang, THE HUNGER GAMES took on a very slow, paced introduction. It√Ę(TM)s once the preparation for the games began that the excitement came, building up heavily to the excitement of the actual games themselves, which began around an hour in. Once the games have begun, we feel as if we√Ę(TM)re watching THE TRUMAN SHOW, but much more violent, suspenseful, and much less secretive. Possibly the best part is that THE HUNGER GAMES can provide us with a break from TWILIGHT, seemingly the most unfortunately popular teen saga. I√Ę(TM)d love to see audiences cheering for Katniss and Peeta rather than Edward and Bella.

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CASABLANCA, unfortunately, suffers from the same two things that plague almost every movie released prior to the 1960s. It tends to be slow and trashy. Somehow, I actually teared up a bit within the last twenty minutes of the film. It's not often I'm as interested in a film so dated as I was here, nor is it often for ANY film to move me. The best part of CASABLANCA may have been the performances of Bogart and Bergman. The two of them are powerful enough in their roles to make for what would pass for a film of today's era, with a few necessary touches. Like I said, CASABLANCA enjoys all the honor it deserves.


Tcm Presents Casablanca 70th Anniversary Event

Bad pre show, but a good movie. I saw this yesterday.

Slumdog Millionaire

The plot revolves around an Indian man, Jamal Malik (played fabulously by Dev Patel, from the upcoming movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), dreadfully poor since the beginning of his childhood. For all his life, the caste system has forbidden him from taking part in any type of interaction with higher social classes. The film opens with a scene involving our protagonist being brutally tortured. He has been accused of cheating on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Throughout the entire film, Jamal recounts the questions he was asked during the session of the game show, along with every significantly eventful occurrence in his life that led him to the correct answers. We see more than just glimpses of Jamal‚(TM)s lifelong struggles with his elder brother, Salim (played in adulthood by Madhur Mittal), and his love for Latika (Freida Pinto), a girl Jamal met early on in his life and the main reason he decided to play Millionaire.

It takes little research to discover that Slumdog is a romantic drama. Much of the film‚(TM)s latter half is, in fact, devoted to elaborating upon Jamal‚(TM)s love life, and he actually phones Latika, the woman he loves, upon choosing the ‚~phone a friend‚(TM) option on Millionaire. (It‚(TM)s not much of a spoiler, as that is actually the image featured and artistically rendered on almost every promotional poster for the film, as well as on the DVD art.) It would be extremely incorrect, though, to categorise such a film as a ‚(TM)chick flick‚(TM). Slumdog is just about the most reverently told romantic drama story I have ever witnessed. It‚(TM)s one of the very few films I wanted to go out and buy right away. Shocking, unsettling, moving, and drastically changing, this is one intensely enjoyable and thoroughly captivating film, regardless of who you are. I‚(TM)ve only seen it twice, but I would guess that it endures many viewings.

The full review was republished by SBS Film as their monthly "My Favourite Film" entry. Please visit the link below and feel free to leave a comment.


It's pretty easy to tell that HANNA was written by two different people, because both writers had polar opposite interpretations of the mood. The fact that the film begins in the wilderness with the same tone as it does when it ends on an amusement park ride should immediately tell you something about it. HANNA is thrilling altogether, but there seems to be hidden jumps between the more ingenious points and the silly points that are intended to get your heart racing.

It seems, slowly but surely, we may officially have a new subgenre for spy movies. These are the ones that feature female secret agents. Two years ago, we had SALT, this year, HAYWIRE, and last year, we had HANNA. Let's hope that when women become cinematic spies more often, they model after Ronan's character here. Though the film may bear the certificate from the MPAA, let me warn you this is NOT a real PG-13 movie. The intensely, carefully, quickly assembled violence Saoirse Ronan puts on is quite brutal. Tied in with her vengeful attitude, it works out well--her character as well as the film in general.

A Better Life

The performance given by DemiŠn Bichir is the absolute definitive highlight of A BETTER LIFE. I wouldn't say he quite deserved to win the Oscar for Best Actor (there were better performances this past year by George Clooney and Jean Dujardin), but he most certainly deserved the nomination that he did get. Bichir may be the only actual cast member who manages to deliver a convincing and authentic role in this entire film, especially when compared to the performance of Josť JuliŠn as his character's son. It is quite easy to find Galindo as a likeable character and even an agreeable one; this factor seems oddlyenhanced (rather than the opposite) by the fact that he is an illegal immigrant. Had the story been the same, except not about illegal immigrants, and Bichir replaced by another actor, the film would have been a mess.


Dr Seuss' The Lorax

The most entertaining parts of THE LORAX were the scenes featuring the animal characters. Unless you count the Lorax himself, none of the animals actually speak (which I find quite unusual for an animated family film), but they grab more attention (even for the average four-year-old, who probably has the attention span of a shrimp) than any other character can hope to grab. The little bears are always making a display of their cute bulging eyes, and there is a trio of fish that pops onscreen when it is least expected and begin singing. Their best number is the theme from MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, but it‚(TM)s quite likely the intended audience won‚(TM)t get the joke. When anyone other than the fish break into joyful song, it‚(TM)s another thing for sure. The songs sung by the town of Thneedville, or even by merely Ted himself, are childish and instantly forgettable. If these filmmakers wanted that many songs, they would have done better going for the gold and adapting Seussical.

If you decide to see THE LORAX, I advise you strongly not to see it in 2-D. Almost every shot of this film was meant for 3-D and 3-D only; this becomes obvious with the frequent use of slow motion, the enlarging of objects, the perspective shots, and (as usual for a 3-D film) objects flying directly at you. In 2-D, it would just look silly (not Dr. Seuss silly, but rather pointless silly). I wouldn‚(TM)t recommend this for everyone, as it is quite uneven. There is a constant shift between jokes that only young kids would care to laugh at and jokes that only older kids and adults would actually understand. Thankfully, it is clear that this wasn‚(TM)t simply spat out in time for Dr. Seuss‚(TM)s birthday. This was carefully worked, entertaining, and overall, a good amount of fun.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

With the exception of the unintentional humor the apes bring, the entertainment level for RISE is just fine. It's the low fidelity this heeds to its original from 43 years before that makes it such a confusing movie. Yes, believe it or not, it has been that many years, and this is an attempt to provide a backstory to the original from that long ago. With the strictly urban setting, the overflow of action sequences and special effects, and the overwhelming sense of futurism, RISE is 110% 2011, and it bears not the slightest bit of possibility that it could have been made similarly just shortly after the original film. Okay, maybe the film's decency rose when HARRY POTTER's Tom Felton delivered possibly the most memorable line in all animal movie history, that has been featured in just about every APES movie since the very first. Had that line not been delivered and the title not included the series' name, it'd be very hard to tell that this had any relation to the classic it precedes. (Where is Charlton Heston when we need him???)

Note: The title is RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Why not just add another "of the" statement and make yourselves sound completely unprofessional?


Aside from a few missteps, HUGO was a good movie. With a high entertainment quality as well as high sound and visual qualities, it‚(TM)s no wonder this was the winner for most of the technical Oscars. As a period piece, it works well, too, with abundant nods to Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Georges M√ (C)li√®s. If you‚(TM)re looking to see this merely because it was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, skip it. The nomination is proof that the Academy will jump to nominating any film that praises Hollywood.

HUGO was clearly a hard movie to make. The book on which it is based was only half of what we usually find in books, with the other half made up of art. Though this source medium is about 500 pages in length, 60% of that consists of pictures to tell the story. Having read the book only over this weekend, I was able to point out a good amount of discrepancies between the two works, but someone who read the book a while ago would not be able to point put one. As this was directed by Martin Scorsese, who had probably never directed anything that would pass with a modern PG rating before this, I expected a few scenes here that would give the average child nightmares, none of which appeared at all in the book. Not only do I realize that Scorsese actually DOES understand what a family movie is, I‚(TM)m aware that he also can direct a faithful, non-violent adaptation.


SAW is in no way your average serial killer horror movie. In a certain sense, it is a unique blend of the crime and horror genres, with an added pinch of what could easily pass for a twisted reality TV program. This film may be grisly more often than not, but it should never be considered a mere slasher. (There is a decent plot here, after all.)

What brings SAW down to being just fine is the fact that it can‚(TM)t help but to unintentionally elicit laughter from its audience. Hmm, that looks like a spooky place they woke up in. Wait a moment‚"why did Adam just plunge his hand into the toilet? Why‚(TM)s there a toilet there to begin with? And that puppet‚¶why‚(TM)s he riding a tricycle? Some scenes just leave no question as to why the people behind the SCARY MOVIE series decided to spoof this.

The Producers

I watched THE PRODUCERS because it marked the directorial debut of Mel Brooks (up there with Woody Allen when it comes to great comedic directing), and what I got was so plentifully more. Brooks not only directed this film; he wrote both the Oscar-winning screenplay and the songs for it. The best scenes occur when both script and sound come together. We see the entire opening number for the character duo's "Springtime for Hitler", in which we get to witness possibly the most morbidly hysterical concepts put into Brooks's career: women in military uniforms, a disco Hitler, white poles that somehow become firearms, etc. Not to mention the lyrics this scene is set against. Everything will be prancing around in your mind long after you finish watching.


The first of a few of the largest great things ADAPTATION. has to offer is the acting, in such a sense that Meryl Streep may easily be categorized as the worst performer of the three leads. Nicolas Cage may not be the best here, but he's the most deserving of applause. He doesn't just portray the main character, but also his fictional twin brother, who is in every aspect a polar opposite. Maybe the most outstanding is Chris Cooper as the carefree Southerner interviewed by Orlean about orchids. It just makes someone as experienced and phenomenal as Meryl Streep look like a newly discovered and uninspired actress.

Something I find laughably ironic about ADAPTATION. is that it was written by Charles Kaufman, the character of focus, and there's something that inexplicably makes it thirty times more authentic of a motion picture. There is a scene or two in which Charles (onscreen) is deeply questioning his ego, as he neurotically writes himself as a character into his screenplay. We have to wonder if that's another irony: Kaufman (off screen) questioning his ego with THIS one. Truly brilliant; a film that will leave you thinking.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

If you've seen a wedding movie, regardless of whether it is a comedy, a drama, or something else, you've seen MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING. I could give away the ending, to refresh the memories of those who saw it when it came out ten years ago, but it's so predictable; take an honest guess and you'll probably be right on. The same goes with all the humor here: unoriginal and thoroughly predictable. I'll give credit to the Windex joke for its initial sense of originality, but it occurs in dialogue so pervasively that it seems to lose its spark almost instantly. Highly overappreciated; a true letdown.

Ordinary People

Of all films that must be seen from the very beginning, ORDINARY PEOPLE is the most crucial example. The film starts out with a simplistic title sequence, with plain white lettering against a black backdrop. Think of a Woody Allen title sequence, except silent, slow, and dramatic. Gradually, the black backdrop begins to fade into a brighter introduction to the setting, a typical neighborhood. We hear Pachelbel's "Canon" as our background music, and we understand the mood immediately without even a hint of plot being yet provided. If those two starting minutes cannot feed you the pure solemnity of this film, nothing else will.

What is most "extraordinary" about ORDINARY PEOPLE is what an achievement this was. Robert Redford made his directorial debut with this film in 1980, after working as an actor, and he managed to clean up with the Academy Award for Best Achievement in Directing. Timothy Hutton cannot be forgotten either: his performance as the lead teen may have only earned him the statuette for Best Supporting Actor (he really had a main role), but he is what makes this feel like a more dramatic John Hughes flick. His character is foul-mouthed, disrespectful, but given his situation, agreeable. If a performer can carry an entire film as an adult, plus a well-experienced filmmaker, that's one thing. If an actor portraying a teen can portray a film alongside someone who is brand-new behind the camera, that is something thirty times more authentic. A true must-see for anyone and everyone.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Just saw this for the second time the other day. Liked it a lot more then the first time.

Best Scene:
When Ricky's finds that his groupie wife had left him for his best friend.

Memorable Quote:
"Shake and bake!"

Dumb humor at its peak, if a mere gathering of every redneck joke in the book.

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

An overly-long, often slow and boring start to the saga. It could be better.


Though BANANAS is funny, it couldn't be made today. From the very opening scene in which a Central American television reporter informs us that we are about to see their president publicly assassinated, it is clear that it would be considered mocking toward Latin American nations. BANANAS isn't your typical Woody Allen comedy, either. This being a very early film for Allen as director, we can use this film to see reason as to why Allen uses little music and simplistic black-and-white title sequences in most of his movies. The odd placements of pieces such as Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" make it seem more like a Mel Brooks film; and the colorful, cartoon-y title sequence looks like it came from an kids' movie.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

The main problem I have with CROUCHING TIGER is the dubbing. As usual when dubbing between languages, the voice actors' words don't at all match up with the actors' lip movements. But there's an even bigger issue here that I have never seen in a foreign film before: the voice acting is terrible! Some characters such as Yu Shu Lien are utterly boring to watch because the English dubbing voice was most likely computer-generated; and other warriors make you wonder why the film is so praised because their dialogue is so frivolously delivered.

What brought CROUCHING TIGER out of its hole were the combat sequences. Unlike in other martial arts flicks, the slow-mo shots aren't put to an aggravating overuse, but rather used sparingly and just when we least expect. Not to mention Tan Dun's music, which works well just as well for dramatic scenes (ocarina music) as it does with such intense scenes (full orchestral music).

Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot

If this isn't the worst movie ever made, I'd be THRILLED to know what film is. Every little action is merely predictable, at best. This film is so poorly scripted that you only laugh when it is not intended. The mom-com genre isn't very big, nor do I know if it actually exists, so I can't offer up a similar alternative. So unrealistic and painful. Maybe getting shot by your mom would be a great alternative.

The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!

THE NAKED GUN starts off as a real schlock. For a while, it seems like a generic slapstick cop farce, and only after about fifteen minutes does it become a work of ingenuity. There are so many scenes to love from this movie: Weird Al Yankovic's cameo; the student driver scene; the baseball scene when EVERYBODY is expectorating; the scene when the obese woman falls off the baseball stadium. Though none of the humor is predictable or forgettable, the baseball scenes that occupy the last thirty minutes may be by far the most classic. Not to mention the comically dark placement of "Louie, Louie".

Russian Ark
Russian Ark(2002)

Strangely captivating Russian fantasy-drama begins with an unknown man regaining consciousness without knowledge of his location. It is revealed that nobody can see him except a man dressed in black, who in turn doesn't know where he is, either. It's not long before the two men learn they are in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, through which the former man must move and regain his knowledge of present day Europe and Russia.

The film, intially released at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, is made up of one continuous, 90-minute shot. Aside from its taste of pure originality and concentration, RUSSIAN ARK has to offer some of the most beautiful moments ever. The combination of gracious cinematography, glorious classical music, and colorful costume designs will dazzle without a doubt.

Even if you don't know a word of Russian, you'd get the same experience from watching without enabling subtitles. RUSSIAN ARK may certainly have a plot, but after the first ten minutes or so, it is barely propelled by its story, and rather by its avant-garde style for capturing art, beauty, history, and music. It's possible to grow intermittently bored with such an unusual film, but it's captivating from the very start, and therefore hard to permanently give up on.

RUSSIAN ARK was an endlessly interesting film, in its plot and style. The fact that a cinematic project of such ingenuity was actually accomplished is unbelievable, and any true film fanatic would love it from beginning to end. Looking from both sides, it was not enough otherwise, making it useless for everyone else.

Die Hard 2
Die Hard 2(1990)

The original DIE HARD is one of the best movies I have ever seen. With both explosive thrills and a sturdy plot (not to mention the strongly accessible character created by Bruce Willis), it instantly became a cinematic breakthrough. In no way is DIE HARD 2 a breakthrough of any kind. Here, we have almost the same thing as the first entry in the series: explosions, terrorists taking over a building (this time an airport rather than an office building), a Christmas placement, and a "yippee-ki-yay" or two.

Someone who hasn't seen the original DIE HARD may love this sequel, just as someone who has seen it will likely be disappointed with the sequel. Move the setting from an office building to an airport, and change Alan Rickman to Bill Sadler. Broadly, those are the only two changes to be made for DIE HARD to become DIE HARD 2.

Die Hard
Die Hard(1988)

Tense action thriller is the reason Bruce Willis is such a well-recognized name. It sets up when New York police officer John McClane (Bruce Willis) is visiting L.A. with his wife. During a party on the thirtieth floor of the Nakatomi Corporation building, a terrorist group headed by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) take partygoers hostage. McClane must then take on the villains, even though he may be "no match for [them]".

The whole holiday twist of this film threw me off a little. I had expected it, but I did not expect it to be so massive and noticeable. I would not say this is the best holiday film, but a good Christmas, I have now learned, should include a viewing of DIE HARD.

That's not at all to say this is a cheerful Christmas film. It starts out cheerful, and then begins to evolve into a heart-pounding, thrilling, bloody actioner.

I'd have to say that DIE HARD is now one of my very favorite action films. It has been considered both a classic and a cult classic, something I strongly agree with. Anyone into action films should be dying to see this if they have not yet; thrilling, gripping, violent fun.

A Beautiful Mind

It seems the Academy makes a good effort to award the Best Actor to whoever can withstand and endure the pain of portraying someone who suffers from an everyday disability. The first of these examples, excluding Crowe's performance here, that come to mind are Colin Firth in THE KING'S SPEECH, Tom Hanks in FORREST GUMP, and Dustin Hoffman in RAIN MAN. Of the three examples, Dustin Hoffman would be the only one who truly deserved an Oscar for his performance. His performance was made iconic by not only his perseverance, but the endless number of quotes and scenes that remain in our minds. Russell Crowe would be near the bottom of the barrel for his performance as John Nash. Not once did he say or do anything that would stick with us forever, nor did he deliver an overly convincing performance. The ones who held the film up from becoming a dull debacle were Jennifer Connelly and Ed Harris.

A BEAUTIFUL MIND was a huge disappointment. For me, it goes with MILLION DOLLAR BABY, TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, and DANCES WITH WOLVES as films that should have under no circumstance won Best Picture. Come on, Academy, there had to be better films for you to honor in 2001. Oh, that's right. I forgot. It's your duty to honor the film about the disabled person.

To Kill A Mockingbird

Although I didn‚(TM)t really care for Harper Lee‚(TM)s 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird, I really enjoyed this film adaptation of a mere two years later. Peck‚(TM)s Oscar-winning delivery of Atticus Finch was (for once) almost exactly like I imagined him while reading the book: a brave, strong lawyer who seemed to accept the stereotype about African-Americans, but also disregarded it. We see him, much more in the film than in the book, growing to befriend and have a certain sense of love for the man accused of raping a white woman.

Needless to say, I‚(TM)m glad I watched TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, but it seems to be getting a lot of undeserved acclaim. It‚(TM)s a good movie, definitely, but it‚(TM)s not one of the best of all-time, in my opinion. Somewhat contrarily, this should have easily won the Oscar for Best Picture, especially since the book won a Pulitzer Prize. A movie that can outdo its source material for sure deserves more honor than Best Actor, Best Art Direction, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Happy 50th anniversary, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

Un Chien Andalou

Brief, silent surrealism known infamously for only one image: a razor slicing open an eye. Though questionable and disturbing, this is one of the only enjoyable silent films I have seen. Salvador Dali's artistic ability makes the film great, if only 16 minutes long.

The Aviator
The Aviator(2004)

Leonardo DiCaprio seems to work well in any film, as long as there is a well-recognized director attached. He does great with directors such as Baz Luhrmann, Clint Eastwood, James Cameron, and Christopher Nolan, but when it comes to working with Martin Scorsese, he casts a brighter light than ever imaginable. Like in THE DEPARTED, a slightly more recent collaboration, he takes on a thoroughly-convincing accent, though this time Southern rather than Bostonian. His personality given into portraying such a man‚"a man who lives the former half of his life as one of the most successful ever, and the latter half suffering increasingly from chronic pain and OCD‚"is grand, heartbreaking, and riveting. Maybe his performance as Hughes doesn‚(TM)t begin to match his effort as cop Billy Costigan in THE DEPARTED, but it‚(TM)s the number one highlight of the film.

Often, with THE AVIATOR, it is hard not to see the screenplay intertwined with the resulting images and audio of the film. That is to say, the acting, cinematography, and directing is so carefully, beautifully, robustly concentrated that we can imagine how they originated as the text in John Logan‚(TM)s script. The cinematography, of the three forenamed, may be the very best. Combine the split-screen tactics used by Martin Scorsese with Howard Shore‚(TM)s jazzy, nostalgic score, and you begin to sit wondering whether you are watching a colorized version of a 1930s film. It‚(TM)s just that utterly convincing.

Le Voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon)

There are two possible lenses to see LE VOYAGE DANS LA LUNE (in English: A Trip to the Moon through. The first is that it is merely an extremely uneventful, silly, and boring film, even though it doesn't reach a mere ten minutes (yes, apparently that was considered feature-length upon its 1902 release). Contrarily, you could view it as a French film that could have easily served as the inspiration for today's cinematic science fiction of greater lengths, such as APOLLO 13 or even WALL-E, if you may.

Though I struggled a bit when trying to fixate myself into the latter position, I can't quite agree with the former opinion, either. Based on two novels (From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne and The First Men in the Moon by H.G. Wells), this is one of the few films that strike me as downright questionable. For the first two minutes, it's as if the same three or four shots are repeated over and over, just to take up some time: we see a group of people together and another man pacing below them. Creativity? I think not.

I can't exactly say that I hate silent films, but I certainly am not into them. LE VOYAGE is a film that probably should have been waited on until sound was available, so that a hundred and ten years later, we aren't staring at the screen wondering what on Earth is going on. No, there aren't any title cards here, either. Maybe for its 110th anniversary, this film should have audio added into it, and earn itself another release. It's just so excruciating wondering what's going on and why such a film is so beloved.

Goodbye, Children (Au Revoir Les Enfants)

AU REVOIR LES ENFANTS (or Goodbye, Children, as it translates in English) is quite a terse film, and even more when it is considered that this has been known as the semi-autobiographical story of Louis