Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
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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.
In the Electric Mist isn't exactly spectacular, but it has a certain quality to it that you won't find in most movies. It's interesting in its own way; weird and very unlike other police-related thrillers.
It relies heavily on Tommy Lee Jones, who has a strong, central performance here that makes the film all the more watchable. He plays the typical Tommy Lee Jones character; smooth-talking, always right, and ready to kick some ass whenever a good ass-kicking is in demand. He plays a detective with a long and hard past that includes witnessing the murder of a negro some while ago. Also, his character is an alcoholic. I never quite understood the alcoholic angle. It never really came up in the story at all, yet the beginning of the film seems to almost stress the fact that he is one. The supporting performances are also pretty delightful, especially from John Goodman. He's not around a whole lot, but when he is, it's typical John Goodman as well. He's such a skilled actor.
The cinematography was a fine aspect of In the Electric Mist. The picture was wonderfully crisp and there was a fine coloration to it all. The rural parts of New Orleans have always fascinated me, especially Lake Charles. Actually, it was the location of the story that attracted me to this film. The idea of a murder in the bayou just sounds so entertaining.
I didn't quite care for the ending. It was such a sad way to end things. Really, the whole film is unorthodox about the way that it carries on, and then, with about twenty minutes left, it turns into your everyday thriller. That just disappointed me.
Like Gus Van Sant's earlier artistic effort Elephant, Paranoid Park also stars a long-haired high-schooler that views the world a little bit differently than the Average Joe. Unlike his skateboarder companions, he has emotional depth and gives thought to things most kids his age wouldn't. But none of that detracts from the inventiveness that is Paranoid Park; it only adds.
Granted, if you were to take all of the unnecessary scenes out, you'd be left with a good 45 minutes of actual movie. Most of what you see in Paranoid Park are extended shots of people walking and old stock footage of skateboarders. It does a lot of the same things that Elephant does. Now, a lot of people hate this about Van Sant (I know a guy who claims that Gerry is the worst movie ever created). But to tell you the truth, I don't. That's not saying that I enjoy it and absolutely love it; I just don't mind it. If you asked me what I think, I'd just say that Van Sant likes the world we live in. He likes paying close attention to detail. It fascinates him. Problem is that it doesn't exactly fascinate everybody else.
But it fascinates me, sort of. When the camera tracks young Alex from behind for a good deal of time as he walks forth, it gives me time to soak the entire image in. It's not a cut every second. I actually get to think about what I'm seeing. And because of this, the movie feels thirty minutes longer than it is, and that kills some people.
Now, the story isn't really anything special. Alex, a teenager, spends the entire film feeling guilty over accidentally killing a security guard. That's pretty much it. Most of everything else involves him living his life. I didn't have a problem with any of that. The ending was obscure and abrupt, and all questions went unanswered, but, you know, it's fine.
So, am I recommending Paranoid Park? On a strong note, no. But if you liked Elephant, chances are you'll this film. It's nothing special, but far from ordinary.
For quite some time now I've been baffled by why so many think of Stanley Kubrick as a god among filmmakers. By saying that I am not saying that I think he is untalented; I happen to quite enjoy his films. I think that he is given too much credit for creating some of the best films ever made, when in reality, they aren't really as good as every says they are. I never like to use the term overrated because I don't think that it makes much sense, but it's one of the best words that I can think of to describe the work of Stanley Kubrick.
That being said, his The Killing is a great little noir. It's short and sweet and somewhat to the point, but it's entertaining and well-acted. Also, it's got some great cinematography. It's really enjoyable. A lot of people complain about older films because they aren't as believable or interesting as the films nowadays. Well, The Killing is surprisingly very modern for our time. And it's also very thrilling. From about twenty minutes in to that final, memorable shot, you're hooked and tense and waiting for every minute to pass by, wondering what will happen next. Also, these are some very true-to-life characters.
Yes, I've heard the rumors about how Tarantino adapted his Reservoir Dogs from The Killing. Yes, I've watched the 'making of' footage of Reservoir Dogs and all those clips on YouTube. Tarantino has even come out and said it. But I just don't see it. The only similarity between the two is that they plan a heist and it goes wrong. That's it. There's literally no other similarity, unless you want to count the fact that there's a big bald guy reminiscent of Lawrence Tierney. But he's playing an entirely different character. You wanna see the real influence behind Reservoir Dogs? Go watch City on Fire.
Also, this movie gives me a new reason to hate dogs.
The concept for In Time is interesting, but the way it is delivered is dreadful. This is one of those movies that you watch more for style than substance, but it rarely has any style and virtually no substance at all. You never about one thing these characters say or do. The editing and special effects are sloppy and the story is cliched as hell.
Honestly, I've never laughed as hard in any other movie as I did during In Time. It was just so bad. Tears began to form at the corners of my eyes during final (awful) chase sequence.
Try to count how many time-related puns there are. The list is endless.
Session 9 is effectively creepy, using its haunting atmosphere as the source for most of its scares. It doesn't terrify the viewer, but rather gets under their skin, and it does this very well.
I was very absorbed in this movie. It never really takes off like it should, but it's so utterly watchable that you can't help but keep your eyes on the screen. If you take them off, you might miss something, and that something could be a game-changer.
My favorite scene was when Jeff was running down that hallway and the lights begin to turn off and he starts screaming. How terrifying!
I really admire William Hurt. I think that he is one of the best actors of his generation, and his performance is Body Heat is wonderful. It's one of my main reasons for liking this film.
But that is not the greatest thing about this film. To me, it is. But to you, who knows? You could say that you liked the performances from the supporting cast or the smooth Altman-like cinematography or even the dense and intelligent writing from Lawrence Kasdan, and all of these wood be good answers.
Especially the writing. The writing here is fantastic. The dialogue is so perfect and meaningful, and it fits so perfectly with these characters. When they say it, you believe it because it's the kinds of things people talk about.
AFI has this film listed on their "100 Thrills" list, yet I didn't find it all that thrilling. It was dramatic and some scenes were tense, but this, to me, is what a romantic picture is, or rather should be.
And whaddaya know. Body Heat is on AFI's "100 Passions" list. Ha.
You won't find many movies as bad as The Love Guru. It is a movie that relies soley on its incredibly unlikable protagonist for jokes and rarely delivers. You may smirk a couple times, but, for the most part, you will be taken aback by the sheer and abysmal awfulness that you see before you. It's a terrible excuse for a comedy and, at times, can even be unintentionally racially offensive.
Wes Craven's fourth installment in the Scream franchise is exceptionally well-made. There's no doubt about that. But it's too cliched and repetitive to really spark any sort of enjoyment in me, and I didn't like any of the characters at all. I haven't seen any of the other Scream movies, but this sure doesn't encourage me to.
Angelina Jolie is really good in this movie. I mean, really good. The cinematography is brilliant and perfectly smooth. Clint Eastwood, as usual, has some fabulous direction. The costume design, the set design, both are spot-on and highly reminiscent of the '20s. Then why is Changeling not as good as it should be?
I fault the script. The storytelling here is bland and somewhat predictable, and while there be room for some tender moments, Changeling as a whole feels too hurried. It feels everything has just been squeezed in for the sake of being "in". Also, there was not much character development.
But in the end, it looks great and is real treat for your eyes. Plus, you get to see Jeffrey Donovan in something other than Burn Notice.
There are so many things that are admirable about Glengarry Glen Ross---- Mainly the fact that most of the action takes place in one room.
First and foremost, the writing. Sweet Jesus, the writing. I had heard that Mamet had quite the ear for dialogue (this being my first Mamet picture) and let me just say that I was in awe. It's just perfect. Usually, films that are dialogue-ridden are boring (not including Quentin Tarantino), but Mamet just makes it so interesting. It's interesting to hear these characters talk.
Second, the performances. Great acting all-around. It's all real emotional, all so true-to-life. I've never worked in the real-estate field (I'm 16!) but from what I saw, it's not pretty. The cast really captures the desperation of their characters. It's so fascinating to watch them turn on each other when something doesn't go their way.
Another great thing is that Glengarry Glen Ross just whizzes right on by. That's how you can tell that you enjoyed a movie---- when it ends and you can't believe that it's already over.
I'll admit that my expectations for Dr. Strangelove were not great. I gathered, from other sources, that it was a great movie and was filled with some great performances, but I never expected it to be so funny.
Like its titular character, Dr. Strangelove is both mad-crazy and delightfully brilliant at the same time. There are no limits to the levels of absurdity that it reaches. Yet it maintains a somewhat serious tone while doing all of this. To me, that's what makes it so funny. To me, that is a fine example of satire.
Though Dr. Strangelove derives most of its laughs from slapstick, there is also a plethora of funny dialogue. These characters are always arguing with each other and never really seem to be fully aware of what's going on. There is a scene where the President is talking to the Russian Ambassador on the phone. He's resorted to talking in an almost childish manner. I found it to be the funniest scene of the entire movie.
But behind all of this hilarity, there is a provocative message. I'm not exactly sure what that message is, but I've got a pretty good idea. I might just have to give it another watch.
Is this a masterpiece? Is this as great a movie as everyone says it is? I don't think it quite lives up to its reputation, but it comes pretty close. I will say that this is a fine satire, and certainly an influence on what came after it. I respect it for that.
Mike Judge has my sense of humor -- subtle and dark. It's almost like the kind of humor you'd find in a Wes Anderson movie.
Extract is a funny film, and it gets funnier as it progresses. What Judge does is he builds off of each joke until that joke is three times funnier by the end. You won't find yourself doubling over in laughter, but you will smirk or chuckle a time or two. Actually, more times than that.
So why is it not such a good movie? Well, as unorthodox is Extract is, it's somehow too predictable. There are a couple of nice twists here and there, but for the most part, everythong unfolds as if it was forced to unfold that way. And not much happens besides that. It kind of lingers from time to time. Also, some of the acting is a little so-so.
A lot of people hate Jason Bateman. I think he's funny.
William Friedkin is a fantastic director. He sets up the entire scene like a painter, adding detail to every single inch. You can always find something new in each shot. It's artistry like that that mesmerizes the hell out of me.
I was also deeply impressed by the pure complexity of To Live and Die in L.A. At the beginning of the famous car chase scene, there's this shot that rises from Chance's car, up along the highway, meets up with the red car in pursuit of Chance, then moves back to Chance's car. And all of this is going on while the cars are going at top speeds.
Maybe I'm just biased towards crime films. Crime is a genre that typically impresses me. The characters are always easy to get involved with, the storyline is typically riveting, and all of the technical aspects are usually right on par with everything else.
William Friedkin is a director that has mastered this genre, and I've only seen two of his films. I think I might add him to my "Favorite Directors" list.
Despite some rough editing (which can make the film a bit incomprehensible at times), Wonderland is a riveting look at the sleazy LA drug underworld. There are so many temptations that famed people endure that it eventually gets to them and their lives just spiral out of control, straight downwards, and Wonderland captures it very realistically. At times, it can even get a little scary. I often found myself lingering on the very edge of my seat.
Besides a great story, Wonderland is riddled with good performances from an ensemble cast and good-enough direction from James Cox to make it an entertaining and interesting watch.
Intermission follows in the footsteps of many comedies before its time. It presents to us a handful of characters and their tales, and then proceeds to connect them together through a string of seemingly unrelated events.
It's clever in its own way, though. The characters are likable enough to catch our attention, the situations they are involved in are realistic and relatable, and on top of all of that, it's funny.
What I liked the most about Intermission is that it doesn't try to convince me that it was a great film. It did what I did and even though I may not have liked a particular scene or two, I enjoyed the film for its pure absurdity.
I also liked how honest it was. How honest its characters and the words they spoke were.