It's a shame that Clive Owen isn't out in good movies anymore. His role here in Croupier, as the existential card dealer, is magnificent.
Croupier is directed by Mike Hodges, who, like Guy Ritchie, typically stays in the same genre of film. There is some fine direction here, and the cinematography is marvelous. Such smooth camera movement like I've never seen before.
Certainly, Croupier is not a film for everyone. It is a lot like another English film, Intermission, where the plot doesn't really take off until about any hour in, and that plot disappears within fifteen minutes. What you have here is a fine, meandering character analysis. Normally, people would find that sort of film boring. Who wants to watch a person live for a good hour and a half? But luckily for us, Croupier has a great lead character named Jack, and he is played to perfection by Clive Owen. This character is so interesting. He's a lot like Ryan Gosling in Drive. He exists, and we're seeing him live his life, but he less of a person and more of a meaning. He stands for something; maybe the good in the world.
Such a disgrace that this film was disqualified for the Academy Awards. If not for that, I feel like Owen wouldn't been nominated. His performance practically makes this film.
Neo-noir is a genre that is rarely perfected, and while Croupier isn't quite perfect, it's definitely one of the best I've seen. It makes for an immensely interesting watch.
While watching Pontypool, I realized that Stephen McHattie sounds oddly similar to Kiefer Sutherland. He has a voice that rises barely above a growl; a voice that sounds like sandpaper and a week's worth of hangovers. His radio sequences (pretty much the first thirty minutes of the film) were extraordinary.
And really, Pontypool is an extraordinary film. It isn't incredibly original, but there are bits and pieces that you'll be pretty impressed with. It's an entirely effective horror film. At least, until the first hour or so is up. Then, not so much. Now, this film is scary. Not scary in the "Gotcha!" sense of the word, the kind of scary that Paranormal Activity has made famous. No, this is that genuine, skin-crawling kind of scary. The kind of scary that slowly builds in gut-wrenching tension instead of being abrupt and shocking. And here in Pontypool, that kind of scary is manufactured entirely by dialogue. Now, isn't that impressive?
But besides the scares and the performances (which were good, especially from McHattie), it's fairly familiar. It turns into your run-of-the-mill George A. Romero film. And let's not forget how preposterous everything gets. I mean, I can handle a certain amount of ridiculousness in a film, as long as that film doesn't take itself too seriously. But as funny as Pontypool could be sometimes, it sort of took the whole "infected by words" thing too far. I mean, come on, guys. That's not even close to being believable.
And by saying this, I'm not dissing Pontypool. I'm only pointing out a few flaws. I actually enjoyed it immensely and I recommend to any fan of the claustrophobic-horror genre.
Noir is such a provocative genre. There are so many likable characteristics about it. Each noir film has an underlying meaning, and they all deal with dark themes: greed, murder, corruption. It's impossible not to enjoy watching a mystery as it unfolds.
Arthur Penn's Night Moves is good example of noir, but it isn't a fantastic film. Why? The story is intriguing enough and it certainly holds many of the traits found in film noir, but it just doesn't have the "oomph" that it needs. You understand what I mean? Night Moves is a good film, but it needs to be a great film. With a story like this, it has to be.
I don't blame the cast or really even the direction. In fact, I'm not sure who to blame. Just know that the blame goes to someone, even if that someone doesn't have a face. This film is just a slight tick above average, when it should be powerful. It's a film about morals, family morals. The message is there, black and white. But Night Moves just doesn't have the... Well, I'm done trying to explain.
Gene Hackman continues to impress me with these younger roles. He is a fine actor and I see that now. His work nowadays doesn't really even being to compare with his 70's and 80's filmography. Here in Night Moves, his performance is one of the most attractive things. It's one of the best things that this film has to offer.
Just don't go into Night Moves with high expectations, like the critics will get you to believe with their 4/4 star ratings. This is not a fabulous picture. This is not even a great noir. It's a good noir, and watch it because of that. There's no real mystery to look for.
It's just all in the message. And that's what counts.
I really like Criminal. It's such a fun film, and those are awfully hard to come by nowadays. I honestly don't see why people give independent films such crap. Most of the ones that I've seen have been fairly good, with a couple even being fabulous. Criminal falls roughly in between the two.
What I liked the most (besides the wonderful cinematography) was the lead performance from John C. Reilly. What an actor! In my opinion, Reilly is one of the most underrated actors of his time and it's not entirely his fault. This generation of people see him as the "funny guy next to Will Ferrell". Because of this, his talent is grossly overlooked. I, for one, think that he is a fabulous actor and all of his performances have such depth. His performance is the most attractive part about this film. He plays the sleazebag Richard Gaddis, a man who is consumed by insatiable greed. He will do anything to get his hands on money. It's a character that I'm sure a lot of people can relate to.
The story unfolds nicely and not as predictably as one might think. There are some clever twists and turns, and while it's not the most original piece of work out there (it was adapted from an earlier French film), it sure manages to entertain. Hell, this one of the best films I've seen a long time. A film that can not only entertain, but make me appreciate the talent involved, is a true treasure, and Criminal is just that.
Red doesn't start off too promising, but slowly gains in intensity until its haunting finale. Trust me; this film is well worth the wait.
Brian Cox does a great job. He plays the character of Ludlow with such subtlety. It's such a wonder to watch as the loss of his dog transforms him into a different character, and all he wants is the truth. But there are some people out there that are so stubborn that they're willing to risk much more than it would cost if they would just give in and admit their wrongdoings. See, the thing about Red is that the real message isn't in the character's actions; it's in the things that they say or the things that they stand for.
It does sort of lose plausibility towards the end, but I guess I just liked it. I like the way independent films feel. Not indie films that are sappy and pathetic, but indie films like The Station Agent or Leaves of Grass.
One scene that I immensely enjoyed was the scene where Cox confesses to Kim Dickens about his past. The way the camera slowly zooms in on his face in that darkly-lit room---- It was just mesmerizing.
Don't let the plot synopsis fool you. This film is about much more than it seems.