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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
Review - 3.5 out of 4
Let me start off by saying what will most likely p*ss off a lot of people: I never liked the original. Yes, tell me to burn in hell for saying it, but only a few things worked for me in the original (the girl shoved up on the hook while Leatherface killed her boyfriend in front of her and the dinner scene). I won't deny the influence the film had on the genre - this was a very different style made with a small budget. It looked good, had a descent cast and a director that was fully capable - but when it comes down to it, I never could understand how easily these characters got themselves into the situation they did. Because of that I could never really care for them at all. Sorry, but I've given the film two chances now and I still don't like it at all.
On to the remake, it was what I always wanted out of the original. It was very shocking and jump out of your seat at parts - but the characters were well developed enough this time for me to actually care what happened to me. The visuals in this one worked so much better - not just the cinematography (which is top notch) but the look of everything and the characters especially. They even added dimension to Leatherface that was mostly taken from serial killer Ed Gein (the original touched upon this, but didn't establish it as much as done here), and the second mask he wears would scare the living s**t out of me if I were in that girls position.
If you want to find a slasher film that is actually jolting, chilling, and disturbing as all hell, check it out. This is a lot bloodier than most movies though, so be warned.
House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
Well made but otherwise dull movie
Well Rob Zombie finally got this off the ground and good for him - I'm surprised after seeing it that someone actually picked it up. Yes this is the film that was released to the MPAA 4 times before it got an R rating and you got everything you'd want here - blood, guts, torture, etc. To my surprise, I have to give Zombie credit behind the camera - this is actually a pretty well made film. Sadly, however, I never understood this kind of genre. I'm a fan of the more psychological horror film and not the torture horror film. The problem I have with this kind of movie are the fans of them that like it because they are unsettling and very disturbing. Many say "this is what horror should be." I guess that works for some but not for me. Why? Because I don't like films that make me feel very uncomfortable and disturbed? No, if the film is well done and is saying something like society (A Clockwork Orange comes to mind) then I'm all for it. But the problem I have for horror films like this is plain and simple - it takes no talent whatsoever to release this kind of product. What's so hard about finding an actress that can scream her lungs out and beg not to be tortured to death in front of our eyes for an uncountable amount of time? Showing sharp objects rip through skin with blood pouring out constantly? Then showing the left overs? None whatsoever. Any kid with an understanding on how make-up works can go ahead and make his version of Texas Chainsaw Massacre after saving up his allowence for a year. Like this kind of thing or not, just don't consider it brilliant cinema when any deranged mind out there can do the same thing without any hesitation. Zombie does indeed show talent beyond this - the film is well shot and the look of it is quite impressive. But when you're just going to result to the same kind of thing at the end of the film - why bother?
Pieces of April (2003)
Pieces of April is a fine piece of cinema
I wanted to write this review as fast as possible to be the one with the first slice on Pieces of April. Judging by the reaction from it's premiere, this may very well be one film you will hear more and more about as the year rolls along, or being one of the big winners this year. In short, Pieces of April is quite fantastic.
April (Katie Holmes) is the oldest daughter in her family, living with her boyfriend Bobby (Derek Luke) in a horrible district of New York. She can barely wake up on Thanksgiving morning even though her family is making the drive up to her apartment for dinner. As the day starts, she begins to cook and decorate for people she is not even sure will show since the family seems to despise her with only bad memories. But her mother Joy (Patricia Clarkson) is dying and would like to spend the holiday with the entire family, no matter how she feels or what the rest of the family thinks. As the day continues, the family is well on their way and April faces the trouble of an unworkable kitchen and mostly unwelcoming neighbors in hopes to make the day meaningful for all of them.
Peter Hedges wrote and directed this film with the goal of making one of the most beautiful and heartful films for his mother, and he mostly succeeds. Hedges is known very well for his outstanding screenplays (What's Eating Gilbert Grape, About A Boy) and this one is just as good as his work in the past. As a director, he makes a few mistakes along the way by giving the audience a few misunderstood vibes and scenes that don't flow as well as others. Being shot on DV, some could be turned off by the look or camerawork (which wasn't a problem for myself) as it doesn't look nearly as good as it would on film. But in the end, Hedges has made such an emotionally accomplished film that creeps up on you until the very end when you realize how great the movie truly is.
The entire cast is great here. Oliver Platt and Patricia Clarkson are the perfect choice for the father and mother, and the chemistry between them is very believable and moving. Derek Luke is a rising star with Antwone Fisher and he is every bit as important to this film as he is there. The scene when he meets April's family for the first time is just priceless. Then there is Katie Holmes. This could be one of the best performances people may see in all the films at Sundance. Katie has proven herself as a talented actress in the past in films that aren't even that good. Here, Peter Hedges has given her wonderful material that can really show off her talent, and her talent is well above most actresses at her age. Many critics have already stated that her possibilities in her acting career are endless and, after seeing her perform this well, I hope that remains true.
Pieces of April is a fine piece of cinema and one of those gems at the Sundance Film Festival that is worth waiting in line for hours to see.
Great great film
It's surprising to see so many poor reviews of this film, I'd think the average IMDb reader/writer would know better than to expect a "sequel" to Silence of the Lambs (it takes place 10 years from those events people!!). Lets not also forget that this film is call 'Hannibal' not 'Clarice" so obviously HANNIBAL IS GOING TO BE THE MAIN CHARACTER. If you want to compare it to Silence of the Lambs understand first that this is not a pyschological thriller, nor a race against time thriller, nor a character study, in fact other than Anthony Hopkins and a few other minor simularities Hannibal is a film all on it's own. Ridley Scott was very smart and making it as far different from Silence of the Lambs as possible so *cough cough* morons wouldn't keep on comparing it to Silence of the Lambs but a film completely different. The characters have changed over the decade, just like we all do; so don't expect Clarice to be doing the same things as she did in Silence and don't expect Hannibal to still be sitting behind bars. This is a devilishly good film and those of you who won't accept it because of it's change of pace nor read the Thomas Harris novel that came out a year ago (Hah! And you call yourselves Silence of the Lambs fans!) than perhaps you should stay away from this one. For those that want to have a good time at a great movie, from a great director, with great acting, and great cinematography will have a blast with this. 9/10
Hung faan keoi (1995)
Great introduction to Chan's work
This was the first film I saw of Jackie's (first one released in the US that I can remember despite The Protector and The Big Brawl in the 80s) and I have to say it's a great introduction to Chan's work. The fighting is great and well shot while the stunts are amazing. The humor (a Jackie trademark) is also hilarious. People from the US really don't know what a good martial arts film is. Some have grown up with Bruce Lee and it's appreciated but many of them are constantly renting Van Damme and Steven Segal films (working at a video store, I see it all the time). Seeing someone who really is impressive at martial arts, dosen't need fast cuts and choppy editing, and does his own stunts puts all the Van Damme's and Segal's to shame. Take the warehouse fight for example and compare it to any American martial arts film and you will see the difference.
For those who haven't seen this film yet and love martial arts films - rent this movie. For those who have seen it and want to see more Jackie - I recommend Drunken Master I and II (II is very hard to find in the US), The Young Master (great final fight), Who Am I? (unbelieveable stunts), Police Story I, II, and III (all around Jackie Chan films, III is known in the US as just Supercop), Operation Condor (tons of martial arts), and Project A I and II (II is another hard to find one in the US). You may also want to check out Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon - they aren't as good as the ones listed above but they are entertaining and Jackie Chan films nonetheless. As for Rumble In The Bronx, make it your first Chan film.
Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)
This film has a lot going for it although it feels as if it were a bit rushed. After a rather pointless action sequence at the beginning that serves nothing to the story other than to inform us that a few babies are on the way (an Entertainment Tonight "Where Are They Now?" segment would have been more appropriate than this). The film soon begins to take off after about 15 minutes or so when the plot begins to develop. I must say, slavery is a very different subject for the LW series but it works well. But if there's anything about the series we love most, it's the action and comedy.
The action on one hand is very good this time around, however it dosen't live up to the top notch sequences in the 3rd installment. The previous films always had a little bit of martial arts in them, this one has a lot. This is where the film shines because it introduces the outstanding Jet Li to Hollywood. They did such a good job with these fight sequences that many many many American have instantly became a Jet Li fan and looked for tons of his previous work from Hong Kong (may I suggest Fist of Legend and Once Upon A Time In China for starters). The car chase is also a highlight of the film and it shows how lively Gibson's and Glover's chemistry is.
The comedy is at it's best here, this is the funniest of the series. Joe Pesci still has his character down great, he uses the F word an extra 100 times in this one. Chris Rock also brings a whole lot of his talent into the film with parts he obviously wrote. When Pesci and Rock are together it's hilarious. Two great moments are the conversation about cell phones and the dentist office.
This is better than the 2nd installment but not as good as the 3rd, nor does it come close to par with the original. Still though, they did a good job with this one.
American Movie (1999)
Most entertaining documentary ever
I just recently saw this film when a friend of mine let me borrow his copy of the DVD. I didn't know what to expect but being a person who's always wanted to become a filmmaker, I began to watch it the second I got home. Words can't describe how many great moments this film has. It's truly hilarious, inspirational, and extremely entertaining. The one thing I was worried about while watching this film was "what if I ended up like this 10 years from now?" But as the film went on I have to say I liked Mark's enthusiasm towards making films. Some may find him pathetic to look at, which in some cases this is understandable, but he's without a doubt one interesting person to base a film around. Lucky for DVD owners, the DVD also has Mark's film Coven on it as well which you'll be destined to watch after seeing this documentary. For those who haven't seen it, rent it. And if you can't find any place to rent it, buy it. **** out of ****
What Lies Beneath (2000)
*** out of ****
What Lies Beneath is one of those films that is very inspired by Alfred Hitchcock. This has been done recently rather well in Shallow Grave. However, it has also been done horribly in In Dreams and Eye of the Beholder (destined nominees to appear on IMDB's Bottom 100, they really are THAT bad). But What Lies Beneath is directed by Robert Zemeckis, and the man can deliver. So if the film is meant to fall in the Hitchcock genre, it can easily happen if it's in Zemeckis' hands.
I'm not going to get into the plot at all. I'd like to mention Michelle Phieffer's great performance which is definatly a very complex character that she handles greatly. Harrison Ford is as good as always and is starting to make a slow comeback after a few disappointments (Random Hearts, Six Days Seven Nights, and the good but over-rated Air Force One). The film is done with great style and has a much slower pace than what most people are used to.
My one and only complaint is the marketing for this picture. This was a good movie, but could have been great if it wasn't for the trailer. Whoever made the theatrical trailer for this film deserves to be shot. Robert Zemeckis must of looked at it and said "It's O.K." with complete sarcasm. For those of you that have seen the very overplayed theatrical trailer to the film, I'm sorry to say it but you know a whole lot more about the film than you should. If you have yet to see it, make sure if it ever comes on to cover your eyes and plug your ears. It really DOES give away that much (to prove my point - before the film started I took a guess about what would be discovered in the climax of the film and I was sad to admit I was correct).
But don't be misleaded, whether you knew as much as I did walking into the picture or not, this is a good film nonetheless. And it really does give you quite a few good jumps throughout. Many people might consider What Lies Beneath this years Sixth Sense, but I'd like to rate it as this years Stir Of Echoes - which I liked more than The Sixth Sense. Although long in length and has it's slow moments, the film does pack a punch and deserves an audience.
The Perfect Storm (2000)
**** out of ****
The Perfect Storm just may be the only 4 star film I have seen yet this year. It's tension builds well past that of M:I 2, and for over an hour you are kept with the storm and it's characters. Their isn't much you can say that's wrong with this film. This isn't a film where the characters are as complex as those in Magnolia. I mention this only because of the past comments on this site bashing it for it's bad character development and lacking script. If you are one of those people - pull your head out of your ass and look at the films title.
As for the characters the acting is superb. George Clooney and Mark Whalburg are together again and do an excellent job. We really believe that they are in a storm by all the moments of hesitation, faces of fear, and the tension of their verbal fights. Some may be surprised by the familiar faces surrounding the boat. John C. Reily - a highly praised actor from those familiar with Paul Thomas Anderson's brilliant work (myself included). Mary Elizabeth Mastriano (?) from Robin Hood and The Abyss. John Finchtner in another supporting role. There is even a brief performance from Michael Ironside. But one of the films very best performances is by Diane Lane as Bobby's wife.
The special effects might be the films most talked about moments. It spends well over an hour with the storm and it's so hard to believe that the actors are just standing behind blue screens for some of these scenes (tanks and wind blowers were also used to a large extent). In some gripping scenes such as when Billy (George Clooney) has to snap off the anchor we wonder how in hell this was filmed with so much going on (the crew watching their captain, the captain on the crane, the anchor flying around him left to right, and of course the waves behind him while some nearly knock him off the boat). These moments are done with skill from the ILM team, but also to the great stunt-men who nearly double the size of the cast.
Warner Bros. obviously wanted this film to hit big, which it will. But I find it rare for a film like this to be released over the 4th of July weekend. While it's big on special effects and budget, the film is more gripping and intense for most blockbusters that are released around this time (The Patriot included). It also has a tale of human struggle and very sad moments all around. This may be the film to see this summer, but hopefully it will remain one of the best films of the year.
The Virgin Suicides (1999)
***1/2 out of ****
I must say I am jealous of many people who have seen this movie long before me. When it was originally released in 1999, the local theatre has finally shown it at a much later date - June 23rd, 2000. I've heard about the film long ago the name was always catchy to me, and it had great strength behind it. For me, this will most likely be on my favorite films of 2000 list.
To describe the film is hard to explain. Picture a very dreamlike American Beauty told with sorrow and compassion to all it's characters. Although from the title it is rather obvious what will occur, you don't really know when the film will reach itself at it's climax. This is because the characters don't do anything incredible to make you like or dislike them, they stay very human to what reality is like. You have your own views on the characters and aren't given your handful of good and bad ones. This is how the film works so well.
Sofia Coppola has shown she has great strength behind the camera. Her script makes these complex characters very simple to follow and she obviously knows what she wants out of her actors. The visuals will appear very dreamlike at times (credit also needs given to the great editing throughout this picture) and will also give you haunting images that will stay with you for some time after you see the film. While her work may not equal up to a Paul Thomas Anderson film, she may very well give Sam Mendes a run for the Academy in years to come. I hope we see more of her.
I recommend this film to those who like to get away from mainstream material every now and then. This will not only bring you on a trip back to the 70s, but to a time where films like this where meant to be seen by everyone.