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Rating History

Let Me In
Let Me In (2010)
4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Let Me In - A surprisingly great film for the fans of the original. And it would probably be a bloody masterpiece for those who haven't seen it.

Let Me In is a Hollywood remake of the Swedish version of the film Let the Right One In, that is based on the book. A lot of reviews consist of the audience comparing the remake to the original having seen both. Barely anything has been changed from the original story, but the cinematography, some dialogue, different actors and adjusted characters make for a new movie.

If your not familiar with the original's story, which is kept essentially as the exact same thing in Let Me In, tells the story of a lonely pre- pubescent boy whom is an extreme outsider of anything relatively well, that has to do with life. This connection he can't make is due to the hindrance from the lonely home life being endured from a divorce mother and bullies at school. The boy evokes every attribute of innocence, something that is trying to be corrupted against his will thus the loneliness. All is cold and somewhat hopeless until a mysterious young girl who is the same age as Owen moves into the same apartment complex. After nights of awkward mingling on the freezing, iced over playground belonging to the apartment complex, Owen and the mysterious Abby who only comes out at night barefoot, finally make an immediate intimate connection. Oh yes, did I forget to mention that Abby is a vampire? From there the film spirals into the emotions of lost childhood, innocence, beauty, regretful violence, and every intimate emotion that has been dealt with in life.

The remake seemed to take a greater interest in the horrific violence, the original had the perfect blend of genres (thriller, romance, horror, fantasy). Both films had many beautiful contrasts: coldness vs warmth, chaos vs peace, guilt vs innocence, darkness vs delicacy, and despair vs hope.

If there are any problems with the film, its with the Richard Jenkins character which is Abby's caretaker who drains his victim's blood for Abby to feed off. The problem I had with this version of the character juxtapose to the original's is that the character's back story is kept completely ambiguous in the original. In Let Me In there is sort of a hint as to who he was at one time. This felt as if the filmmakers were depriving the audience of letting us use our imagination. This isn't to say Richard Jenkins gave a bad performance though. He is actually quite good as this character.

I must also mention that I preferred the sense of ambiguity presented in the original. Very few questions were answered, and the whole film was more of a mystery left to interpretation. In contrast, Matt Reeves was more clear and direct in his screenplay with the mystery surrounding his characters. It's all a matter of personal preference, though. I believe that most people will prefer what Matt did, since the original has a certain style that less people can appreciate.

Kodi Smit-McPhee was spot on in his interpretation of Owen/Oskar, being vulnerable when it calls for it, when he's bully fodder, or when the feeling of isolation just overwhelms from discovering the truth about his new squeeze and a mom who gradually finds solace from the bottle to numb the pain of an impending divorce, his false bravado in role play reversal of standing up against his physical and mental tormentors, and the child like innocence he fills the screen with when he plays Romeo to a Juliet that can never inhibit the same waking hours as him.

Chloe Moretz saw her stock rise with her profanity-spewing Hit Girl in Kick-Ass, and here she's in a totally muted role as the 12 year old, more of less, young girl who's more than meets the eye. Moretz brought out her apprehension of being discovered and found out, her helplessness at the sight of plasma, and the start of yet another budding romance, although she was quite unmistakably replaced by a CG equivalent for her character's most violent action scenes, an effect that drew unnecessary attention to itself, whether be it scaling walls, or pouncing on the pack of her prey and making a rag doll out of them.

If anyone deserves the most limelight for such a fantastic remake Reeves should be bestowed that honor. His scripting and artful direction doesn't feel the need to go full Hollywood (which was also his method for Cloverfield) and glamorize every little blip of action - for example the shot inside the car crashing. It's this faithfulness not to stray too far from the original's rigorous control but take risks that don't push the boundaries, which make this masterpiece as being every bit impressive to the original.

Technically, the film is absolutely outstanding. The production design is homely/quaint, making it calm, peaceful, yet very moody when it needs to be. The editing crisply paces the film at a steady pace without it being too fast nor too slow, it moves along very nicely; you won't feel rushed watching the film. The cinematography is eye-poppingly, beautifully, and serenely framed. Lastly, Michael Giacchino's hauntingly melancholic score proves him as one of the best, most promising and versatile film composers as of late.

Despite the comparison, I believe that they are both great movies that can be enjoyed by everyone. Both Let the Right One in and Let Me In are both masterful bites on the vampire genre and cinema alone. With both films I felt the exact same sensation. It was a mixture of every adolescent feeling I had endured throughout my life. For me its beyond a movie going experience, it's being absorbed into a thing of beauty and art. This is when you know you are being wrapped up into something that will forever leave an impression on you.

Review Number: 31

Shutter Island
4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Shutter Island - Very gripping and clever, with an ending that really makes you think. It is not what I consider a perfect film, but the direction and acting makes up for any misgivings.

Aboard a ship in the 1950's, a Federal Marshal named Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) are heading towards Ashecliffe Hospital, a mental institution on Shutter Island. Ashecliffe holds some of the most criminally insane patients and it is reluctance then that Teddy must had over his pistol before entering. Teddy holds little remorse for the inmates. He is haunted by the memories of his wife Dolores (Michelle Williams) who was killed by a firebug. When they reach the mainland, Teddy and Chuck are briefed by the ambiguous Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), who describes how a murderer named Rachel Salon escaped from her cell and has now gone missing. Beyond this disappearance though, Teddy suspects that there is something far more sinister occurring on the island and seeks to find evidence of it.

Shutter Island represents exactly what one should hope for when seeing a novel being interpreted to film. While it certainly does the source material justice, it also adds small changes that make for a distinctive experience. Even if you've read the novel multiple times, you'll feel like you're reading the book for the first time again while watching. Scorsese perfectly recreates the menacing atmosphere of the island on film. Every location is foreboding and drenched with hints of unseen danger in dark corners. The lighthouse, the caves, the civil war fort housing "the most dangerous patients," and the island itself--every locale seems large yet claustrophobic and isolated at the same time.

Scorsese takes what he has learned from the great films of the past and puts it into his. The master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock's influence is everywhere you look in this film. And it is no wonder, considering Scorsese even showed one of his greatest works to the crew: Vertigo. And many of those ideas are present in Shutter Island; the cliff scenes scream Hitchcock. This is a film that creeps and crawls, and is filled with dark corners. And it is all heightened by the coming storm that looms over the island.

Like his 1976 film Taxi Driver, Scorsese is more than apt at distilling the reality of a lead's world through his own broken subconscious; that is to say, constructing a view of a place (or person, as was evident in The King of Comedy) so intensified that we are propelled into seeing the same object in the same fashion as we're launched into this lead's life and mind. There is about enough substance to keep this effort grounded throughout, the deft touches implemented during the course of the film allowing a continuous flow of cause, effect and reveal which adds to a burning sense of horror and things seemingly become clearer.

The fault of either Learne's novel or the script written by Laeta Kalogridis, this is overall a rather obvious, which does not stand up to scrutiny. At the beginning on board the boat, Teddy states to Chuck that he is his new partner and then begins to explain how his wife died in the fire. It is a rather odd start that so thickly describes what is happening. If the expository dialogue was limited to just this scene it would remain a minor fault. However, the film is so heavily laden with lines of dialogue that telegraph what is to come that the surprises and power of some of the biggest revelations are diminished. The writing is set well on and truly on the wall at the end, or more specifically Dr. Cawley's whiteboard, when everything is so neatly explained. There are more obscure dream sequences that distract and make one question what is going on but regardless, the twist is largely foreseeable and makes little sense in relation to the rest of the film. People will discuss this film for its own implausibility, rather than for a mature examination of mental illness.

With a body of work so impressive, Shutter Island is among captivating company. The good news is that Shutter Island carves out a place of its own in his resume. While no Goodfellas or Raging Bull or Taxi Driver, I have no problem placing Shutter side by side The Last Temptation of Christ and Bringing Out the Dead. The cinematography is bright and gorgeous. Scorsese doesn't rely on the over-grainy, ugly presentation that most modern horror or suspense-riddled thrillers rely on. He uses lush, bright color during daytime and dream sequences to flush out a distinct feeling of terror.

DiCaprio gives a vivid portrayal of a vulnerable, haunted and ultimately terrified man. Apart from DiCaprio there's really not much I can say about the supporting cast, because they are all also terrific. Williams is also very refreshing in her scenes in the film, although she doesn't have as much to do. Ruffalo is also very strong and works well with DiCaprio. Veterans Kingsley and Max von Sydow are wonderful as well as Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Haley and Ted Levine. The performances mixed with everything else really makes this a complete film from start to finish.

Without Scorsese's deft hand, the film may very well have broken down into farce long before the end credits and one fantastic example of his ability to just move and weave things along is evident when one of the island's chief wardens picks the lead up whilst he was out and about by himself in the forests of the locale following a string of 'reveals' which apparently tell of a greater, darker secret the place holds. Upon picking him up, we are suddenly aware of just how akin to a Nazi Gestapo uniform this warden's clothing actually looks and we think back to if it had always looked like that or whether the film is just toying with us in the immediate present. The film is not the great character study, nor extended piece of narrative film-making, that pieces like 1995's Casino or 1980's Raging Bull were; films playing out across this exasperated amount of time as tensions and distrust boil over between people we never particularly liked. Moreover, it is a genre piece feeding off twists.

Review Number: 30

I Am Legend
I Am Legend (2007)
4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

I Am Legend - It's not really a film that does the book justice , nor is it one that will really appeal to fans of the post apocalyptic genre. There's also a distinct lack of action and tension and dare I say much entertainment.

I've been a fan of Richard Matheson almost since I learned how to read. Besides Rod Serling, he is the man behind many of the classic Twilight Zone stories (second only to Serling himself), and has penned other novel-to-film classics like What Dreams May Come; A Stir of Echoes; The Legend of Hell House (paralleled, if not plagiarized, by Stephen King with his Rose Red); and countless screenplays. Where American Sci-Fi fiction is concerned, he is right up there with Isaac Asimov, Michael Crichton and Ray Bradbury. Stephen King and Dean Koontz are great too and I enjoy their work, but they write pulp. Unlike Matheson, Crichton, Bradbury and Asimov, there are no lessons or morals from King and Koontz.

For the second time in film (The Omega Man being the first), Robert Neville is portrayed as US Army medical officer who is intimately familiar with and is partially the cause of the virulent disease that has turned the world into bloodthirsty homicidal maniacs. In Matheson's book, as well as in The Omega Man, there is a biological warfare element. In the current film, the virus has more benign origins, but that's all I'll say. Matheson's literary Neville is just a blue-collar guy who is smart enough to try and find an answer to the catastrophe. That theme is what made the book so compelling. No state of the art laboratory, no heavy credentials. Neville was an ordinary guy who was caught up in extraordinary circumstances.

There are a number of key elements from the book that this film virtually ignores: The overall vampire legend itself, Neville's personal struggle to save his little family from the dust-borne plague; his undead wife returning to him; the daily vampire hunt; his former carpool buddy and neighbor, Ben Cortman, who has become his nightly nemesis; and most importantly, the near fatal "stopped watch" incident, which even The Omega Man indirectly paid homage to. All of these items would have required the screenwriter and producer to do some actual writing.

The setting of a barren desolate New York is eerily staggering, overgrown with foliage and stalked by lions searching for food, it really is a big screen must to embrace the scope of it. The mutants themselves are scary enough, but they honestly would have been better served being played by human actors rather than the CGI used that brings very mixed results.

There are some legitimate scares (the bit with the girl on the operating table that jets up after what looks like death is a good one), especially in the old-fashioned "dont-go-there" kind where things crawl in the unknown spaces. But the design of the infected is never very compelling, they look like monsters and despite the difference from a 28 Days kind of movie the lack of a recognizable human feature (past the obvious fact that as mutants they're meant to look a little skewed) it's never too compelling an example.

The tension building is pitch perfect, the makers manage to have you on the edge of your seat gasping for a solution to this cracking story unfolding, but then...............

They throw it all away by a rushed ending that had me positively seething, a quick turn of events should be a prelude to a fully fleshed out finale but instead we get a quick wham bam, oh The End. It leaves a bitter taste in the mouth and frankly the audience deserves better.

Will Smith is simply brilliant as the sole survivor, Robert Neville. Will delivers movingly and convincingly on a script that really focuses on giving us a picture of "what it would be like" ... to be the last man on earth, living off the land in NYC. This is the real strength of this movie: there's really not a lot of blood or gore or zombie scenes at all. Yet I was riveted as Robert goes through his "typical days" in NYC. Every moment was full of pathos and full of menace, too. And occasionally we got some relief from Smith's trademark humor that blended seamlessly with the rest of his performance to give us "what it would be like" with a powerful delivery.

I Am Legend is a near impossible story to adapt but the producers should have at least tried to focus on what type of audience the film was produced for . Here we have a film that had huge potential, given over to a mediocre screenwriter/producer and a relatively unknown director whose only experience was with music videos and the forgettable bomb, "Constantine." I think that the egos, greed, and arrogant laziness of the producers and screenwriters have a lot to do with the dumbing down of great original fiction.

Review Number: 29

Footloose (1984)
4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Footloose - The movie is laborious mostly, only mildly (and embarrassingly) entertaining in some sequences. The story is downright silly and unnecessarily convoluted.

Back in 1984, when 'Footloose' came out, dance movies were very popular. After the success of 1970's productions, like 'Saturday Night Fever', everyone was trying to get some in the 1980's. That's where the problem began. Every dance movie that came out, you already knew what was going to happen, what is it about, etc. And with 'Footloose', is no different.

The opening credits of "Footloose" are a blast. The camera shoots the feet of several people doing different dance steps while a catchy music plays on the back. There's a chance you miss the credits because the movement of the feet may distract you; I think that's effective. I also think the first ten minutes of the film are effective: with the camera showing different views of what's clearly a small town.

This movie tells the story of Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon), a boy from Chicago that moves to a small town. There, while falling in love with the Reverend's daughter (Lori Singer), he finds out that there is a law against dancing in this town, now he tries to organize a dancing ball for his class and fights against his law. From this, you already know what's going to happen, and it's really boring. The plot is really absurd, if it was set in the 1950's, it would be believable. At least the movie has a few sub-plots, but none of them is interesting or gets your attention, they are all cliché and predictable.

The script's greatest fault is failing in the development of the one character we should at least relate to. If you think about an instant reason for Ren and his mother to be in a new town, you won't find it. And the movie provides reasons for this situation and many others, but it does it during the wrong moments. Every time an honest confession comes out of a character's mouth, we're not ready for it and we're not able to fully digest it.

The story is unlikely yet it is perfectly suitable for the teenaged audience at which it is pitched. The script takes some time to explore its simple theme - dancing and rock music, and what they symbolize for young people. Three scenes help to lay this out. The first sees Ren dancing by himself in a barn; the town meeting where Ren presents his case to the townspeople and explains to them the meaning of the dance; and the final prom sequence in which the teens of Bomont revel in their new found liberation.

I couldn't empathize with Bacon's character at all. His elusive behavior- a stroke of genius or simply amateurish writing and acting? I incline towards the latter. In the beginning, he looks like a new kid on the block, shy, taciturn. Then he plays loud music and is apprehended by the police. Every factor in town sort of militates his obscure passion for dancing, his happiness and acceptance into the society - like Karate Kid sans much sense. It felt more like a musical, except for an instance where Kevin trapezes around the factory like "Welder Tarzan"! That makes it a sports movie.

As we wait for a new song to start playing, director Herbet Ross struggles to keep our attention and cover the big holes in Dean Pitchford's script (there are moments where this is impossible and we're stuck with excessive minutes of background music). Take any conversation, any situation; only one is enough to see how narrow-minded Pitchford's writing is. And it's not narrow-minded because the characters inhabit a narrow-minded little town: it's narrow-minded in its nature, and it makes it impossible to us to connect with any of the characters or even remember their names (try to remember the name of Ren's mother by the end of the movie).

The soundtrack is pleasant to listen to. It's filled with great tunes from back in the day. Including the title song by Kenny Loggins. On the technical side, the film is well-shot and the gloriously Eighties soundtrack complements the proceedings very well, bringing the necessary exuberance and bounce to the whole movie.

Footloose is harmless because it doesn't offend anyone. No one will take anything to heart, except the fact I think this film is a case of "talked about too much, resulting in too little." There is enough here to sustain a movie, but everything is taken in such an awkward, one dimensional manor that it's hard to like.

Review Number: 28

Inglourious Basterds
4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Inglourious Basterds - As a multi-equilibrium and frequently non-linear piece, complete with an array of influences and film references within itself, Inglourius Basterds is a welcome addition to the Tarantino collection.

In a visionary re-imagining of World War II history, the film takes place in Nazi-occupied France, where a group of American undercover soldiers called the "Basterds" hunt out Nazis and kill them as brutally as they can, sending the Nazi leaders a message about the Jewish resistance and about their impending doom. These soldiers are led by LT. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt). While they go about their mission, the Nazis have appointed a merciless, cold-minded and calculating detective, Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) to hunt down Jews hidden across France. Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent) narrowly avoided being killed by him as he massacred her entire family, and a few years later she got a new identity as a movie theater owner. She meets a handsome war hero (Daniel Bruhl), who's also a Nazi, and the Germans made an important movie about his battle feats; he is attracted by Shosanna and wants to move the premier of his film over to her theater, which makes Col. Hans Landa get involved in security issues with the theater and which makes the Basterds start concocting a plan on how to bust the Nazi-populated event.

"Inglourious Basterds" may well be regarded as Tarantino's most brutal film, with detailed scenes of scalping, carving, clubbing etc. (though I personally still regard "Reservoir Dogs" as his most violent work). "Basterds" is a brutal film, at times, but personally, I also regard "Inglourious Basterds" as his funniest film. I almost died laughing at some points in the film - which includes a wide range of Tarantinoesque humor, some of it actually very subtle. A scene in which Aldo Raine claims to be Italian is just one example of many incredibly hilarious moments. I was amazed that primary Nazi villains such as Hitler and Goebbles were shown with a quite human side rather than one-dimensional monsters - which, of course makes them even more monstrous in any thinking person's mind. Hitler himself seems like a babbling and pathetic idiot. No doubt that some people will find this offensive.

I'm not sure if this is Tarantino's masterpiece as he himself claims to be, but it's surely his most meaningful work. The story presents us with an alternate WWII setting in which the war is fought by way of movies that established national identity. The main villain of the film, and also the best character QT has ever written, is Hans Landa, a.k.a. the Jew Hunter. Almost at the end of the film we find out that he's a double-crosser, and I think that's the element that sets him on a lower moral scale than the other characters. He's not proud of his lineage or country - he's a professional detective and merciless killer who fights only for himself.

Other levels of meaning relate to the way in which language works, either to communicate or to break communication. In the opening scene, which borrows shots literally from Lee Van Cleef's introduction in "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly", the Jew Hunter challenges our perception of language in Hollywood movies by specifically shifting gears halfway through the conversation in order to get to his objective. Later on, the culture clash and the ignorance of other people's languages become deadly important for our undercover heroes. QT seems to argue that it's that very same cultural racism (for lack of a better expression) that causes the atrocities of war in the very first place.

For a film so colorfully ostentatious, Basterds is a film imbued with great amounts of depth and subtlety. Essentially, this is a film about the audience. We see Hitler laugh hysterically at the Americans being slaughtered in the film-within-a-film Nation's Pride, and our natural instinct is repulsion - but it quickly dawns upon us that laughing at nasty, painful death is exactly how we've spent the last two hours. Having the twentieth century's ultimate figure of evil indulging in the same edgy delights as our good selves might send a ripple of unease over an audience which laughed heartily at the Bear Jew (a surprisingly accomplished Eli Roth) clobber a Nazi soldier to death whilst yelling baseball conventions. Just like Roth's own Hostel, we find ourselves forced to question why we find the violence so entertaining.

The movie is rich in characters, and boy are there a lot of them with quite a bit of screen time. Brad Pitt is definitely the main character of the Americans, and he gives an over the top, often times comedic performance. Diane Kruger plays a rather minor, but interesting role as a German movie star who is actually a spy for the Americans. Every role played is played well, but unlike as it would seem by the trailers, all these actors aren't wrapped around Brad Pitt's finger, but instead Christoph Waltz's.

Tarantino provides us with an absolutely menacing presence with Hans Landa, a German colonel who appears in the opening scenes in a manner akin to Angel Eyes in "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" (this is surely intentional, of course), only his evil is the smiling, chilling kind that reminds one of a William S. Buroughs line: the face of evil is the face of total need. Landa needs information, constantly, and asks so questioningly and with such cunning that we feel a sense of uncommon dread when he appears on screen, even when its just to eat a pastry with the (incognito) Shosanna. Take your eyes off this guy, I dare you. He's about as hypnotic and alluring and subtle as they come, and can floor you like Samuel L. Jackson reciting a Bible quote.

The film is magnificently shot and the settings are perfect. Apart from a magnificent intuition for general European and American cultural details, Tarantino once again pays tribute to countless cinematic idols. The film, which owes its title to Enzo Castellari's WW2-Exploitation classic "Quel Maldetto Treno Blindato" ("Inglorious Bastards", 1978) was originally said to be a sort of remake of Robert Aldrich's "The Dirty Dozen" (1967). It is not a remake of either film, but it alludes to both of them, Castellari even has a cameo as a Nazi. Apart from obvious referrals to German pre-war cinema, many cinema figures are alluded to. As a huge fan of Italian Horror films, I was delighted to hear Eli Roth use the pseudonym "Antonio Margheriti" (Like Antonio Margheriti, the magnificent Italian director of films such as "Castle of Blood", "The Virging of Nuremberg" and "And God Said To Cain"). The most obvious tribute for cult-cinema fans is the film's score: Tarantino re-uses large parts of Ennio Morricone's soundtrack to Sergio Sollima's brilliant Spaghetti Western "La Resa Dei Conti" ("The Big Gundown", 1966).

The phrase 'kosher porn' has been tossed around by some reviewers to describe the visceral, vengeful joy the film provides. These certainly aren't the Jewish characters you tend to see in more conventional war films. Their gleeful, effervescently comic brutality makes the Nazis the victims, inverting preconceptions of the place of Jewish figures in war films by making them figures of absolute power rather than desperate resisters. It's actually their Nazi victims that seem to elicit glimmers of sympathy rather than our heroes. We're given very little background on the Basterds themselves, whilst their scalped, carved and shot targets talk of defending their people, hugging their mothers and seeing their children grow up.

My two major quibble with the film is it's set-up. The way the movie is set up, it's only loosely thrown together until everything at the end brings the stories together. So for the first hour and a half (or around there), this movie felt like a constantly changing anthology. Once chapter five binds it together and gives us a typical great Tarantino ending, it makes the movie whole. But the looseness of the film towards the middle brought up questions as to what the purpose of different characters were. Luckily, the answers are all in the last chapter.

The other detail that didn't ring true for me was the fact that the German movie star, Zoller, suddenly became an asshole right before getting killed. For me, even in a movie that admits its manipulative techniques, that went over the line. Instead of showing a character which had been portrayed as kind and well-behaved getting randomly killed for getting in the way of vengeance, I suspect QT felt the need to suddenly darken the character so we wouldn't hold his death against the movie and I thought that was a cheap shot. Regardless, Shohana and Zoller's truncated love story is the emotional center of this epic film.

Quentin Tarantino has yet again made another movie masterpiece. This one is one of leisure, but at the same time a constantly changing story. By the end, this film has delivered the goods. The rest of the film sets up what will happen with typical rich Tarantino dialogue, and some bloody violence. Definitely it's a unique take on World War II.

Review Number: 27