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The Ruins (2008)
Heartattack and Vine
Well, let me tell you... I had a feeling this movie was going to be good. I did not expect it to be as good as it turned out to be. This movie has it all and has it in spades.
You want gore? Check.
Suspense? Oh yeah.
Scary? Let me put it to you simply: this is a movie that will make you think twice about going to Mexico and doing a little sightseeing in the forest.
It's a very grim movie and not for the squeamish but still it doesn't stop this from being one of the most entertaining times I've had at the movies this year so far. The acting though, is what makes this one head and shoulders above most other fright flicks I've seen in years. There was not one bad performance in this and it really helps to sell a premise that could've crashed under its own weight at any second. The idea of it might sound a little silly but I was totally engrossed in it from the moment the crap hits the fan in the film. You feel the despair of the characters in this story and you really, really want to see them make it out of this in one piece.
In the end, you know how I know this movie was really good? What kind of proved it in a weird way? The audience's reaction. I saw it in a packed theater tonight, filled with dozens of teenagers and none of them, not one, had any smart ass comments during the film. You know how a character in a film will deliver a heartfelt line of dialogue only to be received by the audience with snorts and yells of disgust? It didn't happen once. When I glanced at the audience behind me, all of them were grabbing their dates or the armrests of their seats. This is one to see in a dark theater with a crowd.
You may have noticed I was a little light on story details with this review. Trust me, the less you know going into it, the more you'll dig it. Oh yeah, think hard on whether you want to do dinner BEFORE you see the movie because there is some rough stuff in this and while I know I can handle it...
RATING: **** out of *****.
The Car Crash You Can't Turn Away From
It's stunning to see how success or more accurately, potential success, can turn someone into even more of a buffoon than they may already be. This documentary revolving around the explosive rise and equally explosive fall of director Troy Duffy ("Boondock Saints") who hit it big with the sale of the Boondock Saints screenplay to Miramax is easily one of the most stomach turning examples of vanity eating its host and rearing its head like some karmic Godzilla. It's really disgusting to see Duffy literally squander the opportunities that came his way, opportunities that many on this planet don't even come close to breathing on as they drive past. This fool had the kind of deal you read about in a fantasy story where devils are involved, except this guy didn't have to trade in his soul. I've met this kind of guy in film school, the type that believe that they're more creative than anyone else around them and it's just as enjoyable to watch this guy crash and burn just as it was with the big-talkers and egomaniacs back at school.
Though the question remains as to whether or not this was really just a big smear piece by the film's co-directors (I mean let's face it, it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility when you take into considering the verbal lashings and mental abuse administered to them by Mr. Duffy himself), the fact that Troy Duffy is nothing but a complete jackass still lays bare for you on the screen for you to stare at in wonder. No matter how this film may have been cut, no matter what may have been left out as opposed to what was left in, the fact remains that Duffy sank his own ship with his caustic persona and idiotic decisions and didn't even bother to get out the life preservers for him or his crew. This was a very enjoyable and well done documentary even though it was kind of tough to watch in a way. It's a perfect cautionary tale for filmmakers and artists alike.
RATING: ***1/2 out of *****.
P.S. And in the end, Boondock Saints wasn't even worth all the fuss.
And the award for movie most resembling a video game is...
If you want to see an unbelievable amount of violence in an R-rated film, then look no further. The story is spectacularly simple and wastes no time in splashing gore everywhere. Rambo gets to team up with some mercs who enjoy murdering people as much as he does, it seems. There's little more to say than that but really, it takes a lot to shock me and this movie had me laughing out loud in complete surprise at the mayhem. Entire villages are massacred. Heads explode, limbs are hacked off, heads are lopped off, people are turned to strawberry jam, bodies soar through the air... man, even children aren't safe in this film. And yet, in the end it's just not that serious. Stallone easily mows down like 300 enemies in this. One guy gets the top half of his head blown off by a .50 caliber sniper rifle. If you've never seen anyone cut in half by machine gun fire, now's your chance. Ends like there might be another one where it all began. The cinematic equivalent of a can of Red Bull.
Rating: *** out of *****.
The Mist (2007)
Someone give Frank Darabont exclusive license, please
Frank Darabont aims for the nosebleed seats and achieves it with resounding success. He has managed to take a Stephen King story that could have easily been nothing but a B-movie schlock film and translated it into a rich, engrossing film that is right up there with the best of the King adaptations.
The acting in this film was superb on all counts. I've always liked Thomas Jane and I think he makes a great leading man. You'll see a couple of Darabont regulars here like Bill Sadler and Jeffrey DeMunn and they deliver as usual. Toby Jones isn't the Ollie Weeks that I pictured from the story but he's one of the best things about the film. Laurie Holden is great also and Frances Sternhagen excels in a role that seems tailor made for her. Marcia Gay Harden's turn as Mrs. Carmody is the kind of performance that is of Oscar quality. Most likely it won't happen but I'd love to see an acting nomination spring up come Oscar time.
The special effects aren't so great but they're not so bad either. The movie is pretty gruesome at times and several people get shredded to bits quite nicely.
What I love most about this film is that Darabont pretty much does the same thing he did with Shawshank: he takes the original source and expands upon it without ruining the integrity of the original story. There are small additions here and there with the ending fleshed out into a logical and more definitive denouement. None of what is added ruins the story in anyway, it enhances it. The man is an actor's director and again, I have to praise the acting in this film for keeping me rooted in the sense of dread and despair that weighs down on you from the very beginning and is so essential to the story.
Go see this movie but be warned for it's a rough ride. It's really tense for pretty much the entire runtime and it's a very dark film.
RATING: ****1/2 out of *****.
3D the way it was meant to be!
Look, if you want to see a film that will literally put you into a world of dragons and fantasy, look no further. Watching this movie in IMAX 3D will go down as one of the most memorable movie-going experiences of my life (at least up until now anyway).
The acting is great, the CGI is absolutely unreal and more lifelike than Zemeckis's Polar Express which suffered from Dead Eyes Syndrome in its characters. The 3D puts you in the action like no other film up until now. All of the main action scenes are fantastic, especially Beowulf's battle against a dragon. The movie is pretty funny (even a bit silly at points) and very enjoyable. Some parts were a little weak but nothing so bad that it detracts from the whole. Alan Silvestri's score is top notch with a great main theme.
Oh and Angelina Jolie is rendered to look absolutely stunning in this film. The last shot of her in the film is an image burned into my eyes.
The film itself is a solid 3 1/2 but the experience makes it a solid 4 out of 5.
RATING: **** out of *****
Smokin' Aces (2006)
Victim of great marketing
It's hard to write a negative review that sounds original when almost everyone else is trashing this flick. I figure I'll just tell you that it's pretty bad. The cast is pretty much wasted here, though I actually did like Alicia Keys and Common as I thought they came off as pretty natural for two amateur actors. All these characters who are all image with no depth.... crying shame. The marketing blitz for the film was pretty nifty, to the point that there was no way the film could've lived up to it. It's violent but they show you pretty much what to expect in the commercials. If you want to see a better film that is more along the lines of what the director was going for only better, see 2006's "Running Scared" with Paul Walker.
By the end of this film, I felt drained. I was pretty disappointed, in case you couldn't tell. I think even watching it a second time won't help in its favor.
RATING: * and a 1/2 out of *****.
Casino Royale (2006)
Daniel Craig's here and brought the can of whoop ass
All I can think of is how ridiculous that whole "Ban Daniel Craig as Bond" craze was from a few months back. Bunch of fools, you'd think people would at least give the guy a chance but you know what? Craig doesn't need the support of those parasitic mongrels because he not only does justice to the Bond character, he has officially become (well, at least to me) the second best 007 after Connery.
The only real complaint I have about the film was that it was a bit too long. It was about two and a half hours but with all the endings, it felt like three. Never mind all that as this Bond is dark, brutal and everything else you've been hearing. The action scenes are awesome, especially the chase at the beginning where he chases a guy who's more like a cross between a flying squirrel and a rubber band. The fights in this movie are like watching bar fights. Even the card games were intense. There's a nice little torture scene that will make you wince, especially if you're a guy. Hell, even the girls in the audience were squirming.
They really went for realism this time out and it was without a doubt, the right move. Gone are the ridiculous gadgets and the one liners. This is a film about a ruthless government killer and is probably the closest to what Ian Fleming intended with the character. The villain is memorable and Eva Green as Vesper Lynd was a knockout.
If this is the way that Bond is gonna be from here on out, then count me in for the ride. Daniel Craig, my hat off to you. You did a hell of a job and proved the petitioners wrong.
RATING: ****1/2 out of *****.
Inland Empire (2006)
Well..... here goes....
I saw this movie this past Monday morning at the NYFF (New York Film Festival but I'm sure you probably knew that already) and I have to tell you, I'm at a loss at how to even begin writing this review. I gave it a little time to sink in and I'll just try my best to give you something.
For one, as you probably already know, the movie is three hours long. It's one of those three hour movies where you really start to feel it about an hour and a half in. Now, I'm all for a movie of that length and sometimes even longer than that but really now, this movie should get cut down at least by a half hour. It's something that Lynch should consider but it doesn't sound like it's going to happen at the time of this writing. I don't mind watching a film where the director refuses to hold my hand and lets me work the details out for myself but watching this and trying to make any sense of it at all was like walking around in a dark forest with a blindfold on. After three hours of watching something like this, it does get tedious I'm sorry to say.
I read a review somewhere describing the film as "impenetrable". I can't think of a better word to describe it myself. If you were to ask me what this movie was about, I really wouldn't be able to tell you. Now, that's to be expected from a Lynch movie usually but this movie is probably the most abstract thing he's done, Eraserhead notwithstanding. The movie seems to be more about the feeling itself you get from watching it, rather than having any kind of real story to speak of. This feels very experimental, especially considering the fact that it was shot on DV.
I personally hope that Lynch doesn't give up on film completely because I think that while DV proved as an interesting choice in making this film, I think that very few people can give you beauty on film like Lynch does.
The movie is loaded with those signature Lynch moments of menace that seem to treasure slowly approaching the corners of long hallways where something horrible may be waiting. Lots of tense, dark scenes with eerie music that suddenly becomes an assault on the senses. If you think of the diner scene near the beginning of Mulholland Drive, you'll know what I'm getting at. Now that I think about it, the film reminded me of Mulholland Drive in that it seemed to have it in for the falsity of Hollywood at times. I got that out of it, at least.
The acting was superb. Laura Dern plays what feels like four or five different roles and her range is simply astounding. I've grown to appreciate Justin Theroux over the years and his character in this film is somewhat similar to the one he played in Mulholland, the cocky ladies man type but I really liked him in this. Also, this movie contains many of Lynch's old cast members and it was always fun to see who would pop out next.
What I really liked about the film was the soundtrack. It's full of Angelo Badalamenti's dark work and there's a couple of great songs in there as well. I downloaded Beck's "Black Tambourine" after hearing it played in the film. I will definitely pick up the soundtrack for this one if it is ever released.
There were surreal, beautiful moments that I should at least mention. There was a scene near the end involving a lighter that was really moving for some reason. There was also a kind of spiral, time warp, loop thing similar to when Bill Pullman answered himself on his house intercom (in Lost Highway). You'll see what I mean when you watch the film but it was definitely one of the better moments.
I love David Lynch, I love just about everything he's done but in all honesty, this isn't a movie I'm necessarily dying to see again. I really want to tell you that I loved the film but I honestly can't. I do appreciate the effort. This is a film unlike anything I've ever seen before, that much can be said. It's just as weird as anything else he's done and if you're looking for a good dose of Lynchian madness, believe me when I say that you don't need to look any further. There are many of those strange moments where characters say strange things or act strange in general and wouldn't you know it, even a musical number or two sneaks its way in. I appreciate the man and I appreciate the fact that he makes daring, original work. But this was borderline frustration.
I guess all I can say is that I liked a lot of it but at the same time, I really felt like I was wading through mental molasses trying to grasp what unfolded before me. There really is no sense in trying to make sense of this film but there's obviously some sort of story or message that Lynch is trying to get across that I couldn't get to and I think that's why I'm slightly put off. I didn't mind letting it engulf me in its strange universe but I think the length of it made it a little tough to appreciate fully.
I didn't even mention the family of bunny rabbits. Or the random visits to Poland. Or the Locomotion dance number. Or the screwdrivers. But you can see all of that for yourself and make of it what you will.
RATING: *** out of *****.
PS I really tried to write an honest review of the film. I sincerely hope that at the very least, I was able to give you an idea of what to expect.
The Departed (2006)
Scorsese is back, dammit!
It's true. All the reviews talk about this film being his best since "Goodfellas". Every single one is right. I'd like to keep the review pretty short and to the point, so I'll say this much:
- All of the actors were great in their roles. The three principals plus the supporting players, Baldwin, Farmiga, O'Hara, Sheen, Wahlberg, among others) were a joy to watch. Gotta love those Boston accents!
- This movie is two and a half hours and not once did it drag. That's saying something.
- Things I didn't like? Maybe the only thing was that I think at some points, the acting wasn't as subtle as it should've been at times. It seemed to me that every time the word "rat" was said around Costigan or Sullivan, they looked like they were trying not to crap in their pants. Plus, Jack Nicholson came a little close to overdoing it but he was still a sight to see. Just a minor beef and nothing that came close to ruining the movie for me.
- Does it live up to the original? I think it does. I rewatched "Infernal Affairs" last night as well and I have to say that the original is probably a little bit tighter in spots but they're both great representations of what is essentially the same story.
Scorsese has returned to do what he does best. This is a damn good film and I'm recommending it whole heartedly. At this point, the man doesn't need an Oscar. We all know that he's one of the best out there, if not the best, and I don't think a crummy Oscar is going to matter. I just hope he continues to make films of this caliber from here on out.
I don't think I'd be exaggerating by giving this movie five stars. It was absolutely fantastic and the most enjoyable, entertaining film I've seen this year.
RATING: ***** out of *****.
Salem's Lot (1979)
A case of the blues...
See, what this movie has is one of the scariest looking villains I've ever seen. That alone makes this film worth watching. When he shows up for the first time, it's enough to scare the cheese and crackers out of any poor unsuspecting sap watching this for the first time. He's modelled after Nosferatu from the original black and white classic and while this isn't necessarily how the character is set up in the original Stephen King novel, it doesn't matter. This blue skinned nightmare means business. Scary business.
Okay, so blue guy aside, what you have here is a somewhat faithful adaptation of one of King's best works. It works more often than not. The bad parts come about only because of the usual problems with translating works to the small screen. I thought David Soul and Bonnie Bedelia deserved a special mention as they were both really good and believable. This movie has a pretty good cast other than those two, with James Mason, Lance Kerwin, Fred Willard, George Dzunda, Geoffrey Lewis and Kenneth MacMillan turning in solid performances.
I think this is a pretty good King adaptation and it's definitely chilling. The scenes with the vampire children floating outside of the bedroom windows, clicking their nails on the glass and beckoning to be let in are just downright creepy. Tobe Hooper does a good job directing and manages to preserve the menace from the novel intact.
So while the film isn't necessarily the best of the King TV movies (my personal favorite is "Storm of the Century"), it holds up pretty well, considering its age.
And remember, you'll have that blue bastard to keep you company in your nightmares after you see him, so at least you won't leave empty handed.
RATING: ***1/2 out of *****.