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The Way of the Gun (2000)
Desperado meets Bill and Ted
I really wanted to like this film, but it is hard to defend something you are ambivalent about.
Nothing really original, the plot twists were probably pulled out of a hat before the days filming, there are lots of guns, lots of people lying to each other, lots of other films in there. Two slightly dumb, (it's easy in films to make someone tough, edgy, with complex feelings and bad-guy with a good heart qualities, just write them as you'd imagine someone slightly retarded would act) thugs kidnap a pregnant woman, and all hell breaks loose. Probably. Didn't really care. All I knew was I wanted everyone in the film to die.
Oh, and before I forget, it has a contender for THE worst film accent of all time. Step forward Ryan Phillipe (spelling?). Single handedly ruined the film for me with his glass-chewing mongoloid speak. Really, I think it would have been half bearable, but every time he opened his mouth, this inhuman cacophony wail came out instead of actual words. You could write a thesis on how bad it is, and I'm really surprised only a few people have mentioned it. He must have done it for a bet.
The Machinist (2004)
Twisted, intelligent film which takes two viewings to properly appreciate
There should really be two reviews for this film, one for the plot, and one for the subliminal images and ideas which pervade the story the second time you watch it. I loathe using spoilers and see them as detrimental to the point of a review but to talk about a film like this they would be hard to avoid.
I will concentrate instead on the need for this film to be watched a second time, I really cannot underestimate the difference a second viewing makes, it really is like watching a different film. Odd lines like "Trevor! I need a hand!" take on completely new meaning, scenes such as Christian Bale's Trevor screaming at people who may be plotting against him are simply terrifying when watched with different context.
Brad Anderson excels himself packing the film full of literary references and images, the acting is fantastic, I don't know whether Bale was nominated for any awards, but he should have been and he should have swept the board, becoming so immersed in the character he inspires fear and revulsion as well as pity and empathy, an absolute masterclass.
The first time I saw the film I came away thinking it was a clever psychological thriller. The second time I saw it, having sat through the Route 666 scene, I came away with the distinct feeling that this was a horror film, I was shocked at how my perceptions had changed. The aforementioned scene will probably go overlooked, but is possibly one of the single most disturbing scenes I have ever sat through. Skin-crawling, and we don't need over-the-top violence to shock us when film-making is this clever.
I'd urge everyone to watch it, wait awhile, then watch it again, there aren't many films I re-watch unless for a specific reason, this should be mandatory for everyone.
The Virgin Suicides (1999)
Thoughtful, dreamy, full of air, no substance
I read the book, so my reactions to the film would not have been from someone who had no idea what would happen. But, it's pretty obvious from the title what goes on here.
Themes dealt with include repression, small-town life and how it suffocates, the loss of innocence and the corruptive power of sex on teenage minds as represented by stale authoritarian figures. There are no car-chases or explosions. There is a sub-plot about a tree that might get cut down.
Now, the acting. Here's my problem. The direction consists of "stand around and look arty". And that's what happens, Josh Hartnett is particularly guilty of wanting to make love to himself so badly it ruins his character. Trip Fontaine in the book never came off as such an arrogant moron, yes he is arrogant and yes he is a bit of a moron, but Hartnett seems wooden to the point you think he's more of a model than an actor.
It's a good story, there are some subtle, funny lines (mostly taken from the book), and the music gives the whole thing a dreamy, floating on air, this-is-not-really-happening feel. I think my problem, like with Lost in Translation is that people see these films and automatically think they are art because they don't fully understand what is going on, not because it's genuinely hard to fathom what we're supposed to get out of it. "Open to interpretation" is the big cop-out when it comes to explaining or defending something and thats the best thing I could say about this film. For people who think normal multiplex fare is beneath them.
Sunset Blvd. (1950)
Fast and nasty noir.
Call it noir, call it a thriller, you could even go as far as classing it as a horror. Whatever, it has pretty much everything.
From the classic narration to a gripping storyline to a wonderful cast, the viewer is is invited to take a look at the underbelly of Hollywood, a seedier side to the hopes and dreams that the machine feeds off. A down-on-his-luck-writer falls under the guidance of an old female silent movie star, then things start going wrong.
You almost feel like a voyeur as you watch the plot unfold, and I cant rate the script higher, Billy Wilder truly was untouchable in his prime.
It's a classic, I'd definitely recommend this to anyone with an interest in films about films, hell, I'd recommend it to just about anyone.
Big Fish (2003)
Many people have said how great they found this film, personally it didn't really do it for me.
I thought it was quite sickly actually. Plus points for the special effects; Tim Burton rarely disappoints in that area, but what got me was the obvious way it tried to toy with the viewers emotions, it tried too hard to upset me, and at the end I didn't care, I knew it was manipulating the viewer and I didn't fall for it's narrative tricks. But this isn't about how clever I am, rather, how superficial I found the acting and the writing to be. There were too many clichéd characters, and I suppose that is partly the point of tall tales, but I found it boring.
It's definitely not for everyone, it left me cold and wet. Rather like a big fish.
Reality Bites (1994)
I remember really liking this film when it first came out, but it hasn't aged very well. It seems to be suffocating under the weight of its own lethargy.
Many teen concepts are played out here, the angst, the moving out for the first time, the corporate sellout versus being true to yourself, and for a while, I got sucked in. But now when you look at the film its hard not to see it as some cynical marketing piece, as Bill Hicks once said, they've gone for the "anti-market market". It plays big business and corporations as evil whilst simultaneously being in bed with so called corporations and taking your hard earned cash while they're at it.
Again, some of the characters just need a good slapping, too many emo-kids here, the world isn't fair, yeah, get over it and get a wash while you're at it. Maybe its a bit too kitsch for me, and Americans will get more out of it than other nationalities, but I thought the acting wasn't great, the jokes too few and far between, the direction plodding and the tale itself rather predictable. There are worse films out there though, so don't be afraid of giving it a try, it just seems as empty as the post-modern society it was trying to deconstruct.
Universal Soldier (1992)
The Actors Studio Presents...
Every so often a film comes along that makes Chuck Norris's life's work worthwhile. This is one of those movies.
There's so much wood on the screen you could build yourself a log cabin, then set it on fire to take yourself away from the pain that is this flushable excrement.
The fight scenes are rubbish, the average 6 year old girl could take either of these pansies, the plot is not even remotely funny, and the worst thing is it could have been a good idea but ended up like so many other mid-nineties action flicks, in the fifty pence bin at your local pound-shop.
Street Fighter (1994)
What did you expect?
Wow. Bad. Avoid.
You'd have to be a fool to even consider, you must have read the reviews and heard the slating, this film has not received an inch of good press since it was released, and is quite possibly one of the best known flops around. Look at the cast in disbelief, even Raoul Julia died soon after, I don't blame him, still, he's in a better place now.
A testament to bad film-making everywhere, you'd be better off putting broken up pieces of bread into your DVD player than touch this worthless rubbish. Marketing executives do not make good producers, this is a disgrace to the Streetfighter name and deserves to be jettisoned into space next time we send someone up there, its crappiness might just save us from a Martian invasion,
Talk Radio (1988)
More ranting from Olly
Probably one of his lesser known films, it suffers from the same lack of exposure as Salvador in that its actually one of his best.
Written by and starring Eric Bogosian, Talk Radio tells the story of an opinionated radio phone-in host who upsets the wrong kind of listener. The film is important, and has much to say on the issues of free speech and just how free it should be, and you can easily tell that it started life as a stage play. Know what you're getting into before you sit down to watch it and you'll be fine.
There isn't much to the acting really as Bogosian pretty much steals the film, he wrote and is given licence to rant, I couldn't take my eyes off him and that was part of the fascination many of the listeners had; the people who hated him wouldn't turn off in-case they missed something.
Not for everyone, but a very good drama and overall a very good film.
This movie is a little piece of magic.
Thrown together on a shoestring budget, Jon Favreau writes and stars as Pete. He and his merry band of swingers hit the town to hit on women, they go drinking, they spout catchphrases that have entered our language, the banter alone is priceless. The soundtrack and the whole vibe of the film picked up the zeitgeist and it did very well, it fitted snugly into the hip, swing/jazz music market that was on the way up at the time. A perfect photograph of that space in time.
Film buffs will enjoy the in-jokes and references to other films, non-film buffs will enjoy the film because its so damn funny and likable.
Watch this one my friends, the special edition DVD has more extras than your average Biblical epic.