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The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
One of the landmarks of the thriller genre.
Everyone knows this one; it's a pop culture gem and an icon in the realm of detective/thriller movies. Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lector, an unstoppable pairing and a pleasure to watch - Anthony Hopkins' performance is amazing, and Jodie Foster is always smart, snappy and cute as hell. The supporting actors are okay, sometimes becoming a little hammy or whatever, but never distracting from the film.
I think the main selling point of this is Hannibal himself, whose psychological musings and mind games make this movie stand out from others of its kind. Just take a look at his talks with Clarice Starling in the mental asylum - that is chilling. The other inmates are kind of creepy, but they're more silly than anything, and are overshadowed by Lecter himself. The dialogue in these scenes is just great, worth the whole price of admission by itself.
The movie flows well, wasting no time and generally being solid in every area, albeit not truly astounding in any of them, either. The story is basically as solid a detective story as you'll get, with every scene making you wonder what is about to happen next. Perhaps the most exciting part of the movie has nothing at all to do with the whole serial killer deal, as it is when Hannibal escapes from prison. You have to see it to find out what I mean - it is truly electrifying and suspenseful.
If you haven't seen this yet, you should rectify that immediately. This is a definite genre classic and certainly one any self-acclaimed movie buff needs to see. Recommended.
Being John Malkovich (1999)
John Malkovich is my friend
Okay. Okay, I'm just going to...throw my hands in the air and disregard everything I ever knew about movies, because this film is just so...flat out bizarre, weird and boneheaded at times that there's nothing else to do about it. Let's just address the first and foremost question: Why John Malkovich? Did you just pick an actor's name out of a hat? Maybe I'm just too young or something, but god damn. You could have theoretically picked any actor, couldn't you? Did you just pick him because his last name is so catchy to say? I think that's why. Yeah, that must be it.
Second...IT'S A MOVIE ABOUT A PORTAL INTO HIS BRAIN. Which is admittedly a really interesting idea; it sure sold me. This movie is just...I don't know, it's really strange and it really leaves an impression on you. There are a lot of things I like about this. It's artistic, it's cryptic and it's got really excellent writing. As much of a head trip (ha-ha) as this movie is, it sure is good at keeping you drawn in. There really is a sense of comedic genius at work here, just in the plot itself, and it's underscored with a heavy layer of remorseful sadness: this is, at its core, a movie about longing and chasing one's dreams. When you cut out the weird bullshit, that's what it is, and the unique way in which the movie shows you this just makes it stellar.
But I do have some problems with this, like...god, what is up with some of the other comedy in this film? Like that stuff with the monkey with "childhood trauma"? And the whole first quarter of this is pretty much just completely insane. A lot of the time it just leaves you gaping at the screen rather than laughing, and I'm not sure that's a good thing. The jokes are rarely funny and are more confusing and odd than anything, and it hurts the film, especially in the beginning.
Being John Malkovich is one of a kind. It's really just...strange, but the gems here are hard to deny if you are actually crazy enough to stick around long enough for them.
Great new horror movie.
Horror has been real stale for a long time now, with only foreign movies like (REC) and the borderline-horror Let the Right One In bringing anything worthwhile to the table. But what about America, the country that spawned the most popular icons of the genre? It's mostly been wallowing in silly remakes of shitty Japanese movies or bad PG 13 ghost stories - and let's not even mention SAW and Hostel - since the last half of the 90s. It's time for a real turn-around movie to bring America back to the forefront. The Descent was good, and those horror comedies like Planet Terror and SLiTHER were nice distractions, but we need a really good, kickass return to why horror is good in the first place. With that said...Orphan.
I mean, good god. Where did this even come from? It's the most terrifying, depraved, downright evil movie I've seen out of a mainstream US theater in years! This movie is ballsy, not afraid at all to take risks or make you feel completely hopeless. I had no idea what was going to happen next at any turn in this movie; everything was shot in the dark and masterfully suspenseful. And yeah, of course the kid is evil, but she's built up in a way that makes you like her and feel sorry for her at first - something that even a good movie like Omen didn't do.
I was honestly completely surprised at a lot of the things this movie did, from the twisted opening sequence to the final bloody chase through the snow. This movie is brutal and does not hold back, and I like that a lot about it. It doesn't even try to sugar coat the children from harm - I'm obviously not going to say I like this about it, but that's what makes it so goddamn SCARY, and that is why it rules. Where other movies would come off as silly doing some of the stuff here, and while some of it is a bit "been there done that," it's all just executed so well that I can't say no.
Oh, and there are even a few comedic moments scattered throughout, adding an unexpected element of humor to the darkly chimeric mix here. They aren't too prevalent, but they're definitely noticeable. It doesn't lighten the mood, it just makes the movie more real. That's what any humor in a movie like this should do.
Yeah, there are a few dull moments, and a few kind of generic scares, but those are in the minority. This movie is just supremely good, definitely the best horror movie I've seen out of the US this decade. Highly recommended to those of you who can't turn down a good headtrip every now and then.
Last Action Hero (1993)
Last Action Hero is...I don't know, a satire of Arnold Schwarzenegger? A satire of action movies in general? That's the first problem, it doesn't know what the hell it is. At first you think it's going to be one of those fish-out-of-water movies where someone from our world is transported to one he doesn't belong in, but it also has the satire elements there, even though it isn't sure what it's a satire of. Then later on it seems like a sort of existentialist thing? Come on, you idiots, pick a theme and stick with it.
Whatever it is, there are some funny parts here that are really genuinely witty, tongue in cheek and clever, and some parts that just make you roll your eyes out of boredom, and that's the main problem with this - it's dull. It doesn't seem to have much direction at all as it plods on and on for what seems like forever, and while there are good ideas here and the intention seems to have been good, it's just too contrived and stale, and it doesn't really excite that much, as hard as it tries.
Austin O'Brien plays the kid in this movie in what is probably its most annoying point, too, dragging it down in mostly every scene he's in. Lame. We don't really need to have all of this self-reflective, obnoxious "it's a movie! it's a movie!" bullshit shilled at us, anyway. And why is he even doing it? What's there to gain by ruining what is supposed to be his favorite movie franchise? It makes no sense. This movie could have been a very funny and clever parody without the kid or any of the bullshit about the real world, or any of that, and you know what? It would have still been manageable as a full length theatrical movie if you took out all of that.
Well the ending FINALLY comes after what seems like aeons, as well as suffering through some painfully stupid scenes and a plothole or two - why would the kid need to get Jack Slater back into the movie? Wouldn't the real Schwarzenegger play him again anyway in another sequel? This makes the climax very hard to really get into, especially when it seems like they wanted you to. This whole movie is misguided, strange and not at all well thought out. Pass.
The Lazarus Project (2008)
A little half baked, but not bad.
Decent low budget thriller that somewhat resembles Dennis Lehane's Shutter Island, of which a movie is also being made soon. Frankly, I'd rather watch that, but this is alright. There's nothing really gripping here, but the movie keeps your interest all the way through - albeit at times at the false assumption that it's building up to something truly horrifying, which it never does. But it's still quite interesting and you can tell they were really trying to make a good movie. They almost succeeded, if not for the truly wretched dialogue between the main character and this lady he meets. Good god, have these people EVER talked to a girl in their lives? In fact, all of the dialogue is pretty damn mediocre; you can tell the same person wrote it all because every character speaks the same way!
Oh well, aside from that, this movie is alright.
Jacob's Ladder (1990)
Surrealism and horror - this movie just works.
Jacob's Ladder is one hell of a movie. Very dark, very creepy - seriously, this movie is scarier than most real horror movies, and it doesn't even solely belong to the genre - and very cryptic. What it does right is downplaying the creepy hallucinogenic moments and ghostly specters to where they're not shoved in your face, and to where you'll miss them if you don't pay attention. This gave the movie a very dreamlike and surreal feeling that I haven't seen duplicated by most other horror/suspense movies - which this movie's uplifting ending and overall message sets it apart from.
There are a lot of scenes where I even felt like turning this off if I didn't already know how good it was. It's a very disturbing and dark movie where everything that can possibly go wrong, does, and everything that can possibly make sense never happens until the very end. Special points go to the hospital scene for being one of the creepiest and most disturbingly gleeful that I've ever seen. This takes pleasure in making sure you are as uncomfortable as possible and that you never forget it, and it is brilliant.
Regarding the ending, well...I don't like twist endings that much anymore. Too often they're flashy and gimmicky and don't really add much to the cinematic experience, and it really takes a good director to do it right. Jacob's Ladder is one of the ones that does it right, because your enjoyment of the movie does not in any way hinge on the twist or the ending. Yes, the twist is pretty drastic, but it's not shoved in your face and you don't feel talked down to when you finally see it. It's quite well written, and I'd cite this movie as an example of how to make a twist ending and a great movie overall.
This is just...I don't even know. I watched this years ago and was really blown away by its odd structure, but really it's rather simple once you get a grip on it - heinously simple, even. It's told backwards in a linear line and interspersed with black and white shots of the lead actor telling us the back story, so what? This movie is given a lot of credit for being complex, but it's not that mind boggling when you think about it. And the ending just feels like a huge slap in the face, especially after all that build up and guessing...it's deceitful!
And a lot of the first half of this is just too dull at times - especially the bits where the lead character is telling you about his client in the past who had a similar condition. It just feels too forced; they could have done it in a better and more interesting way.
But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a good movie anyway. The deceit of the ending has its purpose and everything is fulfilled in the end; I just can't help feeling a little odd about it anyway. The strength of this movie just lies in the suspense that comes with it. Deceitful or not, it keeps you watching and guessing until the end. Sigh, this is a really dividing movie, as you can tell. You just don't know what to think about it, and I guess that's another good thing about it. Memento is a perplexing case and I would recommend it if you like thrillers - although you could always do better, this one definitely stands out.
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Shining majesty in film form.
Winning Oscars is apparently easy for heartwarming romance/slice-of-life stories. But that's not to say Slumdog Millionaire doesn't deserve it, even if I think Benjamin Button should have gotten it instead. This movie is a very eloquent, artistic and cinematic venture that honestly left a smile on my face. Sure, it's a bit hammy and heavy-handed, but it works, and the story is told masterfully. There are some really tense dramatic moments here, and the movie being two hours long only feels like about ninety minutes - it flows wonderfully. The acting is great, even from the children, pulling you right in and keeping you there. And Freida Pinto is hot - even though she doesn't look a damn thing like the child version of her character.
The only thing I did find a bit unbelievable was how every question Jamal was asked tied into his past and childhood somehow. I guess it's kind of realistic, because that's just how we learn things, but it's still a bit odd that every single question would tie in so snugly. Oh well.
So Slumdog is a really good movie that I feel deserved the Oscar at the end of the day. It isn't really perfect, and I liked a few films from 2008 better, but am I going to complain when a film this good is getting such widespread praise? Hell no.
True Lies (1994)
Snappy, witty, action packed greatness.
Kick ass. This is a sleek, stylized James Cameron blockbuster that combines action, husband-and-wife jealousy and comedy into one explosive package. Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis take the front lines, and although they are about the last people in the world I'd put together as a couple in a movie, they work really well here, with Schwarzenegger's wit and simple charm clashing with Curtis'...well, the way she somehow exudes sexiness while not actually being the sexiest woman in the business. It's just how she acts I guess, and it works. Everything about this movie is just cool and quirky as hell, from that scene where Curtis goes on her first "mission" in the hotel to Bill Paxton's antics. It all comes together for a really enjoyable film.
The action is fast and fun, building up tension as the movie goes on, and the comedy is really brilliant too. Schwarzenegger has this deadpan, sarcastic style that I find myself smiling at all the time, even when his acting gets a bit weak, and yes, there is a scene where he rides a horse through a building and into an elevator. That about says it all. See this if you haven't.
The Running Man (1987)
Solid campy fun.
Adapted from a Stephen King novel I've never read, The Running Man is a movie that does not need much to remain entertaining and enjoyable, just a bunch of cool action scenes and a kinda-cute girl whose accent is just as thick as Schwarzenegger's - that was kind of funny to me. So really, it's about a dystopian future where Americans are a bunch of corporate whores who can't stop lying and cheating people out of things for two seconds. Arnold plays a wrongly-accused convict who has to survive a deadly game show in order to prove his innocence. And if you need me to tell you how it all turns out, you don't know how movies work.
This movie was enjoyable and packed a lot of fun, with some colorful visuals and an abundance of witty Schwarzenegger lines. The jumpsuits look pretty gay, but overall this movie doesn't fail to please.