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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 *****.
Inside Man (2006)
4 is the magic number
When you put Denzel Washington together with Spike Lee, the sparks are pretty much guaranteed to fly. Even with their weakest collaboration, "He Got Game", Denzel still gives one of his best performances ever. With "Inside Man", their fourth collaboration together, you get the satisfaction of both Denzel's solid acting and a genuinely exciting, well told and well acted thriller.
I'm hesitant to discuss the plot but I can definitely say that this movie had my attention all the way through. I, like many others, am pleasantly surprised at Lee's handling of the material, which is a change from his usual fare. With this film and the 25th Hour under his belt, I guess it can be said that Lee can indeed direct a mainstream film.
Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Willem Dafoe and Christopher Plummer were all excellent. The film's pace never lets up and maybe I'm just misinformed or didn't notice any logistical inaccuracies but I thought that the bank robbery itself was ingenious. The last few minutes of the movie are pretty cool also. When everything becomes clear in the end, you probably won't see it coming and that's probably the biggest reason for me liking this film.
The story is very surprising and very entertaining. It reminded me of those gritty cop drams from the 70's. I strongly recommend this film to all of those looking for an exciting little flick with a good story and great acting.
RATING: **** out of *****.
Miami Vice (2006)
Moody cops meet cranky drug dealers
It took me a few days after watching it to realize that I actually did like the movie. Here's a breakdown of the good and the bad:
GOOD: - Mann's direction - Very realistic and authentic feel to it - HD film gives film an almost cinema verite quality - Farrell and Foxx as the moody cops - Ciaran Hands as the frustrated CIA man - Overall solid acting - Fantastic, hyperreal shootouts
BAD: - Too technical; I understood it was going for the whole realism thing but it really felt at times like I had been on a stakeout for half a day - Bit talky - Weird pacing - Could've used a little more action - Hard to follow; demands full attention
I thought the film was a logical and well done update to the original show. People whine and complain about it not being enough like the show and all I can say is, had they replicated the 80's feel of the movie, right down to the pastel colored suits and sockless loafers look, this movie would have been a joke. Mann was going for serious and he achieved it by making the necessary deletions and additions. It reminded me of his earlier Heat, in how it examines the intricacies of life in the cops and crooks game. The film had a voyeuristic feel to it and I think a big part of that was due to the use of HD to film this.
I'm recommending the film but reservedly. It may be too heavy for some. People looking for nostalgia will most likely be disappointed and it's a bit slow in spots. There's not really a lot of action but what's there is showstopping. I know this review is kind of up in the air but like I said, it took me a couple of days after watching it to realize that I actually did like it. I think it's worthy of a look and shouldn't be dismissed too readily.
RATING: ***1/2 out of *****.
Blade: Trinity (2004)
Blade: Staked to death by his own writer!
Wow, this movie bites. It's very bad and in all honesty, very tough to enjoy. This one got so many things wrong that it's hard to know where to begin. It has a few things going for it but not enough to save it from being the painful stake through the heart of a pretty decent series that it is. Compared to the first two, this movie is just flat-out, grade-A garbage.
(NOTE: Looking over my review of Blade 2, I realize that I trashed the film upon my initial viewing but have since grown to appreciate it greatly. Hopefully my words won't come off as hypocritical.) For starters, the villains in this piece are completely uninteresting. I do like Parker Posey but she could've been handled a little better. Dracula as the villain could have been an interesting thing but it just doesn't work here. He wasn't really threatening and in comparison to the villains from the first two films, he just doesn't cut it. And Triple H? Excuse me while I go to the bathroom.
Wesley Snipes is clearly bored and phones in his performance with all the zeal of a guy serving time in prison. He does dispatch a couple of people in particularly brutal ways, like when he interrogates a guy by dangling him over a rooftop and then lets him drop but in the end, Blade just looks like he'd rather be somewhere else.
To add insult to injury, they wipe Whistler off the map in a pretty unceremonious manner to make room for the Nightstalkers, who get ripped apart themselves two thirds into the film. Why Whistler would want to hide this wonderful squad of geniuses from Blade is beyond me but that's just one plot hole among many. There are moments of sheer stupidity in this film that will leave you staring at the screen in awe. Awe of how ridiculous it all is and at how easy the thought of slitting your wrists can come to you. My favorite moment is when Blade and his rescuers (who I'll get to in a moment) are surrounded in front of the police precinct by a good number of cops with guns drawn and one of the Nightstalkers drives up nonchalantly in a station wagon and they jump in and manage to escape.
I mentioned Blade's rescuers and it's here that I think the biggest problem with the movie lies. Abigail Whistler, Whistler's illegitimate daughter and her buddy Hannibal King show up as Blade's new partners and I'm sorry to say it but they are the ones jumping up and down on the grave of this film. You get the sense that the future of the series lies with these two and you know what? They won't be getting my ten bucks, that's for sure.
Jessica Biel is nice to look at but a ridiculous character to have in this film. You need an example? I mean, product placement not withstanding, the girl listens to her iPod while kicking vampire ass. Think about it for a moment. Thank you, I rest my case.
As for Ryan Reynolds, I think he can be pretty funny. In this movie as Hannibal King, he is just annoying. Not fun annoying but more painful annoying. About 99% of what comes out of his mouth are smart ass remarks and there are moments where Snipes looks like he's going to slap the guy for real. I'll give Reynolds props for getting in shape for the role because he certainly looks the part but really, after a while, I was just hoping someone would execute him.
In the end, I guess I'm a bit sad to say that David Goyer, who wrote all three and directed this dreck, is the one responsible for the outcome. His direction is pretty flat, the action scenes aren't particularly exciting (the best part in the entire film is when Blade chases Dracula in a scene similar to the Keanu Reeves/ Patrick Swayze chase in "Point Break") and giving the Nightstalkers that much screen time was just a bad, bad move. A Blade movie where Blade feels like a secondary character is pretty corny.
This should've been a good entry in the series and is just little more than the death bell.
RATING * and a 1/2 out of *****
The Blob (1988)
Slowly Dissolve with the Blob!
This movie is a guilty pleasure of mine. I mean, come on, what more do you want from a movie that has a slimy pink blob oozing around, slowly digesting the people it consumes? I'm completely at ease with this offering and few things make me feel as good as watching people getting slapped to the ground by giant tentacles or policeman getting folded the wrong way round while trying to set up a barricade. I like seeing people getting sucked through a drainpipe and I also like seeing people slowly dissolve while trying to scream from inside the pulsing, pink mess. People who deserve it get theirs, as well as innocent people. Even kids aren't safe! I love the fact that people you think are gonna pull through don't. I think Chuck Russell did a solid, respectable job with this film, a remake of the cult classic from the 50's. The gore is just right and the Blob itself is pretty nasty. Shawnee Smith and Kevin Dillon do their jobs well and I thought Del Close and Joe Seneca were both fantastic in this.
Bottom line: Want entertaining, B-movie fare? Want to see what a movie theater looks like when you have people running for their lives screaming from the giant piece of chewed up gum that decided to show up? Want to see people slowly dissolve? (Forgive me, but the words, "slowly dissolve" have a strange appeal to me) Then go ahead and check this flick out.
RATING: ***1/2 out of *****. (more out of appreciation for cheesy horror flicks)
The Descent (2005)
I think I'll scratch caves off of my list of places to explore now, thanks girls
As a horror fan, this movie gets me excited because it seems like we're finally heading in the right direction again with horror films. I found this movie to be very creepy and I definitely enjoyed this one quite a bit. I'll tell you one thing, before this movie even introduces the monsters, it shows you just how terrifying and dangerous cave exploring can be and it does it effectively enough that I swore I would never lower myself into some unknown darkness via rope.
The story involves a young woman who loses her husband and daughter in a horrific car accident and after taking some time to get her head together, decides to go cave exploring with her girlfriends (I have to add here that I've never met women who are this adventurous in real life... to have six of them together in a film like this gives me hope). Things go wrong as you can already imagine and you end up with a movie that in lesser hands, could have been a total piece but ends up being a genuinely scary movie. It's not the scariest movie in the world but it's better than a lot of what's been coming out as of late.
I thought the actresses (I fell in love with Ms. Mendoza who plays Juno..... I love you!) were really good and I loved the way that they were able to use the most subtle expressions to communicate. Looks are traded and you can basically fill in the blanks. I thought they interacted very well with each other and unlike other horror films, I didn't want them to get butchered as I began to sympathize with them. But guess what? You can't have a horror movie without people getting decimated and decimated they get. I wouldn't recommend this movie to the squeamish and people who are claustrophobic because while I'm not claustrophobic myself, there were several moments where I began to feel short of breath.
I loved the story and the tragedy that enfolds it. The way things turn out are understandable in a way but still makes you say, that's just not right. I won't ruin it for you but if you see it, you'll see what I mean. The gore effects are pretty good and I thought the monsters were okay as well. In all honesty, I enjoyed the movie's first half a little better than the monster fest of the latter half because the scares were rooted in reality. There was a moment where one of the girls gets stuck in a tunnel that was just cringe inducing.
I'll end the review by recommending this film highly. One of the better horror films I've seen in a while.
RATING: **** out of *****.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
One of the few films that you can actually say is perfect
Raiders of the Lost Ark is, without a doubt, a perfect film. Thrills, chills, romance, solid acting, fantastic and instantly memorable music, sure handed direction, a great story, great production values, great special effects that don't get in the way of the story, awesome villains, cool heroes and heroines, awesome action set pieces... what more can you ask for? I love this movie to death and it's one of those films that I can watch over and over. There's really not much more that I can say about the film other than it really is one of the greatest films ever. Putting Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan, John Williams and Harrison Ford together has produced one of the greatest screen adventures of all time and really, we should all be thankful. It makes me wonder if we'll ever see films like this again, that are just pure magic. One can only hope.
I guess the only thing I can really say is, if you haven't seen this yet, stop reading this and make it a point to get your hands on a copy as soon as possible.
And really, if you haven't seen this at all, shame on you. May a giant, rolling boulder crush you on the way out of your home.
RATING: ***** out of *****.
Siu Lam juk kau (2001)
World Cup sized laughs!
Wow, the title of my review kinda bites. But enough of that, I'll keep it simple by saying that if you haven't seen this, you need to make it a point to! Stephen Chow has made a hilarious film that somehow manages to combine kung-fu, soccer, comedy and song and dance numbers together in a crazy mash up of a film. I've read comments on this film where people complain about the absurdity of it all but they're missing the point. This movie is absolutely absurd and if you can't just watch it and enjoy it, then you are also missing the point. I mean, I could go down the list of really silly jokes in this film but to do so would simply ruin the experience of watching it for the first time.
The only negative thing I have to say is that some of the special effects are kind of lousy at times and the humor gets really weird in that Chinese way (as I'm sure the humor of American film is strange to the Chinese on occasion), especially when watching the longer uncut version of the film. Still, this film is loaded with laughs and great kung fu scenes. There's this one scene in particular where Stephen Chow's character and one of his kung fu brothers attempt to mix kung fu and song at a local bar that kills me every time I watch it.
Stephen Chow is an incredible talent and my only real regret with this film is that I didn't see it in the theaters. If you've seen Kung Fu Hustle and liked it, chances are you'll like this as well.
RATING: **** out of *****.
"And when you're down here with us... you'll float too!"
As far as Stephen King adaptation goes, this one isn't bad. You have to realize before anything that the original novel was basically unfilmable. For one, it was 1000+ pages. I read this monster over a course of four sleepless nights and let me tell you, this book is scary as a mother f***er. There are scenes that give me the shivers just thinking about them. So, to condense this massive story into two parts totaling about three and a half hours and expect it to be a perfect adaptation is to kid yourself. Secondly, there were elements in the story that would not have been able to be presented on the screen in any way that would have made sense. The novel gets really out there in the last hundred or so pages. The teleplay has the It monster as being a physical spider but the book goes further to explain this.
As an avid King fan, there's quite a lot for me to gripe about, especially in regards to the changes made and what was left out. It's actually sad because there was some absolutely terrifying stuff in the book that if it had seen the light of day, would have made the film even better.
What I will say is that the casting in this movie is pitch perfect, especially the kids. That's one of the shining gems in this movie, the fact that they actually found a perfect bunch of actors (and actress) to fill the roles. I thought Seth Green was excellent as well as the late Jonathan Brandis. The adults not as much (though Richard Thomas made for a good lead) but they were all really good in it. Some of the scenes that made it intact from the book were translated really well, especially the beginning scene with Georgie and the newspaper sailboat.
Last but not least, you have Tim Curry as Pennywise the Dancing Clown and believe me, if you have any problems with clowns, you may want to avoid this as his performance creates the scariest clown in any film to date. The only clown I can think of that comes close is the puppet from "Poltergeist" but that was really just a quick scare. Pennywise is so menacing and frightening that he saves the entire picture by himself. I think this is the one thing about this film that makes it worth seeing. The first half of this two parter gave me nightmares in all seriousness, regardless of how faithful it was to the book.
The second half is where it all falls apart, most notably during the climactic battle with It. The special effects are horrible, the giant spider looks, for lack of a better word, ridiculous and it all just becomes really silly.
In the end, you're left with an okay adaptation of an epic horror novel that is actually pretty scary due in large part to Tim Curry but just falls apart in the end. Still, I definitely recommend this film if you want to get creeped out and if you hate clowns, I recommend this film even more.
RATING: ***1/2 out of *****.
P.S. They need to do another adaptation of this but pull out all the stops and give it more than two parts. I'm talking a full, twelve part miniseries on HBO or something.
Also, the music for this film deserves special mention. It may have won a Grammy if I'm not mistaken but regardless, the music is really composed well.
Saw II (2005)
Please don't tell me any of you thought this was good!
This movie was absolutely awful. For one, what the hell is up with movies nowadays that they need to have twenty to thirty cuts for every second of footage? Watching this movie reminds me of the time that I got electrocuted for a couple of seconds. I could barely concentrate watching this heap of poo. I blame MTV for this one.
What I really hate about this film is that the villain is just TOO goddamn smart. I'm sorry but in order to plan anything even halfway to the level that Jigsaw did in this film would require an IQ of at least alien proportions, not to mention an ability to see into the future and predict a person's every move. I can appreciate that this is a movie and all but come on, this was just ridiculous. You had this guy making schemes so complicated that even Leonard Nimoy would've been left scratching his head had he read the script. This movie has nothing on the dozens of other movies it has ripped off and frankly, I'm going to die happy knowing I never have to watch it again.
I will say that there are some good deaths but the movie is so bad that it just renders it all useless. Yeah there are some scenes that will freak people out but come on, this is far from good stuff. And before I forget, Franky G, (who plays Xavier the muscle bound retard whose role in the film seems to be to make Hispanics look bad... I'm Hispanic myself so I can say that) is absolutely horrendous in this. I found myself wanting to jam my thumbs in my eyes whenever he did so much as speak.
A few things save this from being a COMPLETE waste of time: some good murders, a semi interesting ending and Donnie Wahlberg who always surprises me with how bad he can be when he wants to be.
No more Saw movies, I beg you!
RATING * and a 1/2 out of *****.
Yo ho ho and a two and a half hour plus running time
Cap'n Jack Sparrow returns to walk around drunkenly and make the requisite one liners, along with almost everyone from the first POTC (even the midget!). What you end up with is a pretty good swashbuckler that runs a little too long.
I just saw the midnight show and I have to say that it was pretty good. Not as good as the first but still enjoyable. But then again, I went into the first POTC thinking I was about to see a crap-filled diaper of a movie and came out pleasantly surprised.
I absolutely loved Davy Jones in this. To think that they achieved his look without any makeup is mind boggling. CGI effects are getting frighteningly photorealistic and Davy Jones character is unbelievably well done.
The movie is funny and the story, while a tad complicated, is not too hard to follow. There are a lot of different characters in this, both good and bad and it will be interesting to see how their story lines will be resolved. I loved the constant references to the first and I suggest watching the first before watching this, just to be completely refreshed. The special effects are well realized and the scenes with the Kraken are pretty wild. The movie has a ton of action with one really cool three way swordfight on a rolling wheel.
Depp is pretty funny but his character seems to have lost a little bit of the charm he had in the first POTC. He's still the main thing to see in this show but this time around, I sincerely doubt he'll be getting another Oscar nomination for Cap'n Jack. Keira Knightley is gorgeous as always and Orlando Bloom does what is required of him. Other standouts include Naomie Harris as Tia Dalma and the crew of the Flying Dutchman who are just outright nasty. There's an awesome cameo at the end of the film that I won't spoil but the audience cheered when they showed up.
I'd have to say that this movie was pretty good but nothing to write home to Mom about. It was a little underwhelming, even for such a massive production. I think the length is the one thing about this movie that kind of hurts it. There was a lot of stuff at the beginning that felt needless and maybe could have been trimmed. I do want to see the third installment and Dead Man's Chest does have that Empire Strikes Back cliffhanger thing going for it, so I guess it did something right. The bit after the credits was really funny also.
Johnny Depp fans should be satisfied, at least.
RATING: ***1/2 out of *****.
Eight Below (2006)
Eight boxes of Kleenex
Eight Below was the in-flight movie on my way to Aruba. I don't know about you but starting off a week long vacation on a beautiful, sunny island by sobbing myself into near hysterics is not the way I like to begin any vacation. You may think I'm exaggerating in regards to the movie or that I'm a bit of a sap but personally, I could care less. This film traumatized me for a good day and a half and all I could think about afterward was the movie and all the things that made me enjoy it so. This is one of those films that will destroy most kids who see it and will linger in their memories as the one film that left them huddled in a corner with wide eyes. It's not as sadistic as say, "The Velveteen Rabbit", "Bambi" or "Watership Down" but it comes close.
This movie is basically the "Munich" of animals in peril movies.
(In all honesty, I just wrote that last bit because it made me laugh but believe me, it's not too far off the mark as Munich traumatized me as well...)
I'm not sure exactly why but I was near tears throughout the entire goddamn movie, even at the beginning when the dogs were just being introduced. I absolutely love dogs and if you like them in any way, shape or form, you're going to love these little guys. Anytime they were on screen, I could feel the dam behind my eyes bulging a little bit, especially after they were left to fend for themselves. By the end of the film, I was sobbing into my hands. I don't feel too bad admitting it because the couple next to me were both crying as well.
I was actually very surprised by Paul Walker, who I have bashed pretty regularly since I first saw him in The Fast and the Furious. I think he has made up for his past sins with this film. He was a very likable and believable lead as Jerry, the owner and friend of the dogs who he was forced to leave behind.
Going back to the dogs, whoever trained these guys in real life is damn talented. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a better performance by animals in any other movie, and the things the dogs do in terms of expression and the fact that they carry the movie with no other humans around is impressive. The movie really grabs you because of them and even when they're not on screen, you can literally feel them. I'd be kidding you if I told you that all the dogs survive. When one goes, that's when you'll be reaching for the tissues or the t-shirt of the person next to you.
That's not to say that the film itself is perfect. It feels sort of formulaic in that Disney movie kind of way. I wasn't crazy about some of the plot setups in the film which felt kind of contrived and there just to satiate the kiddies. Some of the acting was a little weak and Jason Biggs character was almost intolerable as the comic relief. Anymore complaints about the film would just be an excuse to nitpick, though as the good far outweighs the bad.
After watching the film, I had some time to think about it and I think I realized what it was that touched me so deeply. See, the movie is a tribute to these animals and recognizes the loyalty and spirit that they possess. I've always felt that dogs were better than us in that way and this film was made by people who see this as well and appreciate the fact. Underneath the kid-friendly surface is a very touching and moving story about this very thing.
So, yeah I cried like a baby. Make fun of me if you want but I'm not ashamed to admit it. Chances are, you will too. Strongly recommended.
RATING: **** out of *****.
NOTE: Just some things I have to mention:
- There's one scare in this movie and it's a big one. Sensitive kiddies might get seriously freaked out by it.
- Also, if you can't handle the sight or even the thought of a dog in trouble, you may want to seriously consider whether you want to watch this film or not. It's rough viewing and I'm really serious about it.
- This movie was inspired by true events, and by a Japanese film called "Nankyoku Monogatari" (Antartica), which I hear is even better but not currently available on DVD.
This is quite possibly Larry Clark's best film to date. It's a horrifying film that peeks at the world of these kids with very little direction in their lives and even less drive. They spend their days at the beach, drinking, doing drugs and having sex at almost every free moment. One in particular, is a complete and utter scumbag who the other kids decide to take out when they've finally had enough of him. That's pretty much the story but it actually manages to go a lot deeper than that and into the thoughts and minds of these kids. This plus the fact that it was based on true events make this film a painful experience to watch, each and every time.
I have to give Nick Stahl a big thumbs up for his work as Bobby, the bully of the title because he is so loathsome in this that you sincerely grow to hate him for all the abuse he heaps on everyone around him. I hate to say it but if the real Bobby Kent was this much of a prick in real life, he had it coming. Nick Stahl gives a chilling performance and hits so many notes with it that you can only expect great stuff from this guy in the years to come.
Everyone else is pretty good, especially Brad Renfro, Rachel Miner and Bijou Phillips (who plays her role just a little too convincing if you ask me). I think one of the best things about the film is the acting. Most of these actors and actresses I've seen in other productions and they all do quite well. It was actually interesting to see Leo Fitzpatrick (Telly from "Kids") in this as the so-called Mafia hit-man. He was actually damn good in this! There's one thing I have to say about this film. For me, I don't mind excess. Be it violence, sex or whatever. The one thing that bugs me about this movie are the unnecessary crotch shots and sex scenes. There's a shot where Bijou Phillips is on the phone and for no reason at all, they cut to a shot of her barely concealed genitalia for no reason at all (a fact which caused Phillips to confront Clark afterward). I don't want to come off sounding like some kind of prude because I'm as much of a pervert as the next guy but with Larry Clark, it just comes across as wrong. There's a lot of sex in this movie and the funny thing is, I'd say about sixty to seventy percent of it could have been dropped. That's my only gripe with the movie, it's just a tad excessive in the same way that his other creep fests are, most notably Kids and Ken Park. Whatever statement he was trying to make with this film was dampened by this.
One of the things I love the most about this film is how everything slowly unravels after the murder. You can literally feel things coming apart and watching it feels almost like being in a building that is slowly collapsing with no way out in sight. This is where the actors do their best work and make their characters believable.
This movie is definitely one to see. No matter how many times I watch it, it still disturbs the hell out of me each and every time. Very well-made, well-acted and well-done.
RATING: **** out if *****.
Koroshiya 1 (2001)
Here comes the pain!
Be warned, for this movie is as graphic as it gets. Murder, dismemberment, torture, rape, mutilation... and that's just the beginning. This tour-de-force of sadism as directed by Japanese auteur Takashi Miike is an unbelievable display of cruel and inhumane punishment, both to the characters inhabiting the film and anyone with a weak stomach. Anyone familiar with Miike's other films, especially "Audition" will find this to be familiar, yet still interesting ground. The violence is so over the top that it's hard not to laugh while watching it. How many times have you seen someone get their throat cut, only to have a literal torrent of blood spray out of the wound all over everything? How about a guy who cuts off the tip of his tongue as an apology to his bosses, rather than the traditional tip of the finger? How about a guy who gets cut in half lengthwise by a concealed boot blade, only to split in half and fall to the floor in two? One of the main reasons to watch this film is for Kakihara, the character played by Tadanobu Asano. A bleached blond sadomasochist, this guy easily ranks up there with any other anti-hero you can think of. Think of him as a garishly dressed metro sexual with a penchant for needles and you'll come close to what he looks and acts like.
Describing the story isn't quite so simple but multiple viewings provide more insight each time into the labyrinthine plot. Kakihara is a Yakuza lieutenant on the hunt for his missing boss, who had disappeared with 300 million yen. His reasoning for finding him has nothing to do with the money but because of the fact that his boss was the one person who knew how to dish out pain the way he liked. Soon, Kakihara discovers that his boss has been murdered and begins the search for the man who butchered his boss. He discovers that the man responsible is an enigmatic figure named Ichi, a wild tornado of violence who holds the promise of giving Kakihara what he so desires: the ultimate experience in painful death.
Sounds messed up? Well, let me assure you, that it is. And I haven't even begun to describe Kakihara's methods in finding Boss Anjo. If at this point, I've gotten your interests piqued, I'll leave it for you to experience.
It's a yakuza movie of sorts but it really plays out as a kind of rhetoric on desire and our willingness to fulfill them or have them fulfilled. The film can also be viewed as just a straight up gore fest and it works on that level also. There is great use of physical and computer assisted effects. Also, the music by Karera Musication deserves mention as probably the most original film score I've ever heard in any movie, period.
If you want to see something daring, disturbing and groundbreaking, I strongly recommend this film for those that can handle the intense scenes of violence. Just make sure you find the unrated director's cut for the film and avoid it on cable, which shows the R-rated version. See it the way it was meant to be seen, as with every other film.
RATING: ****1/2 out of *****.
The Omen (2006)
The Omen? Oh, man!
I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this flick. I went to see it last night (6/6/06... I'm a sucker for clever marketing) and while I will say that the film was not better than the original, it was still enjoyable and actually did some things better than its predecessor, even if it did get some things wrong in the process.
I loved the way this film was shot, for one. It definitely helped the mood of the film, especially for the last half, when the two protagonists are looking for clues of Damien's origins. It's so dark and gloomy that you can practically feel the weight of doom as you watch it. The death scenes are pretty horrific and are basically the same deal as the original, maybe just a bit more gruesome this time around. David Thewlis's decapitation scene was really well done and is at least on par with David Warner's horrific death form the original. Speaking of Thewlis, I thought he was fun to watch. He almost has that David Warner charm. Mia Farrow was great as the nanny from hell. They made some interesting changes to the storyline like adding scenes of destruction from recent headlines, most notably the attack on the World Trade Center. The movie is almost exactly the same as the original, just a little more spiffed up. Oh and before I forget, I jumped twice while watching this. The original never actually did that for me.
Problems I had with the film start with the casting. Julia Stiles was, in my opinion, way too young looking for the role. They needed someone with a little more age to play the part. That's not to say she was bad, she was just not convincing in the part. Liev Schreiber didn't bring me into the film the way Gregory Peck did and there were only few moments where he managed to shine. The kid who played Damien... he was good but I think one of the problems with the film is that from the start, this kid is an evil little bastard. Yeah, he's the Anti-Christ and all that jazz but part of what made the original so creepy was that the kid really had no idea who he was and was seemingly innocent and ambiguous. The Damien of the remake gives dirty looks to everyone, shows up in people's nightmares and participates even more in his mother's demise this time around. I don't know why but I just preferred it when the kid wasn't outright evil like this kid was. The music in this film is sadly, nonexistent. Considering that Jerry Goldsmith won an Oscar for the original's score, they should have given the score a little more heft. Last but not least, the ending, while just about the same as the original, was not done right. All I can say is that they edited the scene wrong. It's not like the original, where you don't know exactly what happened to Thorn and his son until the very last shot. A little weak, in my opinion.
This was a decent remake and I liked the fact that they had respect for the original because it definitely shows. They stuck with what worked and tweaked some things here and there, even if they goofed with some considerably important elements. Worth a watch but it's nothing you have to run to the theater to see.
RATING: *** out of *****.
The Thing (1982)
"I'd rather not spend the rest of this winter TIED TO THIS F******* COUCH!"
This is one of those movies that give me a feeling of nostalgia like few others. I remember being a kid and watching this over and over on video and on cable whenever it aired.
Some would say that this is Carpenter's best work and it's tough to argue against that point because it's such a great film. It succeeds at creating this mood that's so palpable that I can only think of a few horror films released after this that achieve the same effect. I love the feeling of despair in this film, especially when the team realizes that they're not going to make it off of the outpost alive. You never know who's going to be next in line to become a mess of tentacles, teeth and slime and you never know who's going to bite it. The true horror of the situation that these men find themselves in is captured perfectly through the skillful direction of Carpenter, the acting by the uniformly excellent cast and the music by Ennio Morricone, which helps to seal the deal.
The special effects by Rob Bottin still hold up even after the nearly twenty five years since the film's release. This film has one (actually, I should say several because this thing never looks the same every time it appears) of the most wildly imaginative designs for a space creature that I've ever seen.
There are many scenes in the film that are classics, my favorite being the initial discovery of the creature manifested as a dog. It's one of the most revolting scenes ever, in my opinion. Another fantastic scene is the blood test scene that somehow manages to make me jump occasionally, even though I know when the big reveal is coming. The ambiguous ending is one of the best ever. We will probably never know just how things ended up* (see below), will we? This is another grade-A effort from Carpenter and I applaud him for this one. Highly recommended! RATING ***** out of *****.
NOTE* They made a video game for the Xbox which was considered an official sequel to the film and it actually does answer the question of who survived. But I'm not telling!