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A Kiss Before Dying (1991)
Decent movie for the price
For five and a half bucks, how can anyone say this is a bad movie? "A Kiss Before Dying" is a sub-par thriller which is predictable to the point of being laughable. I agree that this isn't the best movie ever made, but it's far from the worst. I was easily taken by Sean Young's performance. She did rather well for the material she was given. The same goes for Matt Dillon, this role proved that he's adept at playing a slimeball. The other name of fame is Max Von Sydow and I wasn't annoyed by his performance. He was on screen for only two or three minutes at a time. What I really liked was the instinct and persistence of Sean Young's character. She put her nose to the grindstone and did not let go of it. By the end, I was glad to see her character was finally vindicated of its nagging doubts. The ending was clunky but correct. As a few of you have stated before, the performances were stiff and Young and Dillon had little chemistry between them. I wish James Dearden and his producers could have worked out the bugs before submitting a finished product. The writing was decent since the story was easy to follow and the eventual outcomes could be predicted far in advance. By my logic, this is your standard, by-the-numbers remake of a classic thriller. The product we're given is decent but far from complete. I give it a score of six.
Here ends my rant!
Not a classic...unless you're comparing it to a pile of brown smelly stuff
I don't know where to begin with this piece of unadulterated schlock. I didn't watch this movie entirely but I did watch most of it. There is too much to complain about in this movie to care about it. I only liked this movie because I saw my favorite CSI character playing a similar sort of role and that is only one of three reasons I like this movie. William Petersen is a decent actor on the small screen, I don't know about the big screen though. He tried way too hard in this unintentional joke of a movie. I like the scene where the killer had the one FBI agent tied to the wheelchair. I didn't expect the agent to become a fireball while traveling back to his car. Michael Mann can write a good-intentioned torture scene, that is if you want to intentionally torture yourself. In my mind, I don't why anybody likes Michael Mann or any of the stuff he creates. He squandered one too many opportunities for some stars to shine and it drove me bonkers. Dennis Farina wasn't able to pull off any of his trademark irony and Brian Cox couldn't muster any creepiness to save his performance. As somebody astutely pointed out, Michael Mann was trying to make Miami Vice on the big screen. I believe he blew half the flipping budget on the set decor. It was heart-wrenching to watch this film. If you liked this movie, you should be ashamed with yourself. As for this movie, it gets a score of 3.
Here ends my rant!
I "saw" this movie and it was demented
"Saw" is a film that be revered as one of the better serial killer-slash-mindscrew films of this decade. While "Saw" obviously suffers from a lack of logic and experience, it's hard not to give James Wan and Leigh Whannell pats on the back for making such a twisted, bankable flick. I was left chilled to the bone by the ways that the Jigsaw Killer operated. I have to say my favorite torture game was the one with the safe, candle and the red numbers on the wall. For me, it appeared that these guys must have studied their inspirations in order to make a film that would leave you saying "That was a scary movie".
There were three areas of success in "Saw". The gritty, demented and all-out distressing setting for the core scenes of the film is the first success. Elwes and Whannell's characters both agreed they were caught in a really crappy situation and the rotten restroom helped fuel that idea. I don't think there was any other possible setting that could have been used to play the game where those two were the victims. The second success was the pacing of the film. It was slow at first but it was accelerated up toward the climax. It set the perfect mood up for the lesser astute viewers to be enthralled by the inevitable twist at the end. The third success was the twist. The twist is one of the best realized moments in recent cinema history. I must say the killer was the last one I ever expected. Even if anybody expected anything about the third person in the bathroom, I don't think anybody could have possibly known whom it was. Those three things make this movie a worthwhile viewing pleasure.
Like any movie, there are a few off-putting things about it. The violence is sadistic and killer is deranged; this is a movie for those with strong stomachs. Cary Elwes did a 180 on me (going from killer in one movie to victim in this film) but his performance was scary to say the least. He may be the most unintentionally annoying on Earth. I think his heart was in this film but his acting style is a taste that many will never acquire. He failed in 'Saw'. Speaking of Elwes, the acting for this movie was all over the place and I blame the inexperience of the filmmakers. They were out to make an entertaining film and acting was probably second to plot, mood, and theme. There are also too many parallels to Seven and Silence of the Lambs in 'Saw'. I did not really this movie as an homage to them as much as I 'saw' it as an almost-intentional rip-off of both films.
Overall, 'Saw' is a better written and better made serial killer-slash-mindscrew film. It isn't as good as 'Seven' or 'Silence...' but it's far better than the likes 'Twisted', 'Taking Lives' and 'Gothika'. While these boy wonders have made an imperfect debut film, I see them becoming better with time. For what it is, it is dark, demented, moody, fearful, and above all impressive. In the great realm of cinema, expect this to be lodged under cult classic. 'Saw' deserves a score of eight.
I was onto this stuff before it was famous...
Back in high school during my junior and senior years and I would watch "The New Detectives" and "FBI Files" on the Discovery Channel. I would even tune into "American Justice" and "Cold Case Files" on A&E. I initially refused to watch CSI because I knew I would end up liking it even though it takes some extreme liberties when it comes to presenting the field of forensics. The main thing I don't like about CSI is that they can solve crimes in one or two nights while the real cases on the shows presented above takes months and years to reach full closure. The time-line of the CSI is distressing and some of the gadgets they come up with to solve the crimes are outside my realm of thinking. I didn't know they had a spray to check for gunshot residue and so on. Yes it nice to see that the art and science of forensics get some needed exposure on the world but at the same time, it almost completely neglects the human element. It goes strictly for objectivity while "Law and Order" (I used to watch reruns of this show all the time on TNT) played up the subjectivity of the law. I prefer the human drama involved and CSI attempts to play with it somewhat, but "Law and Order" is far superior at it. Besides that, my fears came true several months ago and I am now a CSI fiend. I watch the reruns and I own two DVD sets of the show (seasons 1 and 3). My favorite character is Gil Grissom and my favorite episode is the first one with the 'blue paint' killer in season 3. There are so many twists that it takes a person trained in plot analysis to foresee them coming. It's fast, it's dashing, it's almost all smoke and mirrors. It's probably the most easily consumed TV show out there right now. I really prefer shows that challenge my intellect and show all the correct details and that's why I started with the Discovery Channel and A&E. If you want flash/bang/whiz, go for CSI. If you want drama, go for Law and Order. If you want the straight dope, go with COURT TV, Discovery, or A&E. The straight dope is usually the best stuff to go with because it is the truth. Sometimes the truth is harder to digest. CSI is well-made (well-acted and well-written) and I actually applaud Jerry Bruckheimer for making a great move this time. I give CSI a deserved A-grade for entertaining me, which is the purpose of any bit of entertainment to begin with.
Denis Leary: Lock 'N Load (1997)
Leary Rocks and Rolls!
Denis Leary strikes again with his second standup special and it's downright hilarious! Leary changes his style up a bit with by being slightly more reserved in his actual performance while unloading a wholly unexpected yet highly entertaining closing musical number. All of his bits were polished and delivered with blistering passion. I don't care what Leary rants about as long as it's delivered in his psycho-contorting motions and crack-driven vocal stylings. My favorite bit was about his family and how artistic his daughter was. For anyone who owns the CD, they cut that part out of the bit. I found this excellent special on the DVD rack at the place with the low prices and the smiley faces tacked on the walls. I was shocked to no end when I found it but I knew I would be entertained. Denis Leary never fails to do that. While funny as hell, this is secondary to 'No Cure For Cancer'. Still, it's by Denis Leary and that is worth ten reasons right there. So, ten reasons give a score of ten.
PS: Will there ever be another Denis Leary standup special? Has anybody heard anything?
Here ends my rant!
Talk Radio (1988)
I Should Have Paid More Money...
When it comes to movies, I don't easily discriminate between crap, pure crap and masterpieces. I believe this movie is an absolute masterpiece and it's hard to keep me entertained for more than 90 minutes. This movie ran SLOWER than Mystic River and Harry Potter 3 combined and I still managed to stay riveted to my seat. For me, it was the passion that Eric Bogosian put into his performance. It's extremely difficult to pull off such a stunt and manage to garner any positive effect from it. Bogosian probably nailed one of the toughest single-man performances in modern cinema. I didn't have any respect for Bogosian until the end of the film. The entire monologue minutes before the inexorable climax was the turning point, it was the key that turned me around. This man hit a point so low that he knew he could never recover from it. The corporate boys congratulated him on the performance. His blistering prose made even the slimiest one in the cavalcade shake his head in awe. It made me realize that personal integrity and hypocrisy don't matter in the world of talk radio, even in the corporate world for that matter. Stone may have been pushing some uber-liberal agenda but it was the actual movie and production that got my attention. Oliver Stone is a minor master of the moody. The final third of the film had probably the best lighting and cinematography I have seen in any film. Stone artfully makes the DJ booth feel like five-by-seven cell in a nineteenth century prison. Visually speaking, it appears that Bogosian's only friend is the black foam that absorbs his routine vitriol. He speaks and it doesn't speak back. It's a sad metaphor considering the way he treats the people who handed him his success. Stone and Bogosian carved out a stunning film of a man who is trapped in both a prison of walls and a prison of self. This man is confined to his own volition and he can never escape it. The scene that made me realize his conundrum was when he was unwilling to his ex-wife back. He preferred his own prison instead of the world on the outside. Every story has a conflict and it came down to the simplest of all conflicts: man versus himself. 'Talk Radio' presents this conflict in an intelligent, gripping, and artful fashion. There are no hidden messages in this film and the progression of events should be expected by any astute viewer. I just leaned back and let my mind be grasped by this film and I loved it. It's unheralded, unseen, and it will never receive its due recognition. Let's hope it stays that way because gems deserve to be found and then hidden again. It's a gem because I found it in the discount DVD bin at my local Wal-Mart store. For $5.50, it was worth the half-hour I spent digging trying to find it. I did and I got more than my money's worth. This is one of the best movies ever made and that is worth ten reasons alone. Ten reasons give a score of ten.
Here ends my rant!
Little Black Book (2004)
Please Throw The Book At Me...
...and give me a black eye. Of any and all pieces of media that I have ever seen, heard, touched, tasted and smelled, this is the worst piece to have the word 'black' in the title. There was no book, and it wasn't black. If it was meant to be a 'black comedy', then it fell on its face because it stumbled over a black cat. I shall cease the punspeak and continue my commentary in the accepted normalspeak.
There are some decent aspects to this pile of bunk and those reading this shall be spoiled: (1) Kathy Bates was probably the only ray of sunshine in this hopeless crock. She was sadly underplayed in my mind and she should have stolen this away from the cutesy starlet. (2) I have to say that Holly Hunter is still in top form. She can play a conniving b**** better than anyone that I have seen in quiet some time. While she isn't up there with Sharon Stone, she did prove the point that certain parts of the working world require backstabbing to survive. If an actor can make a philosophical point and make it well, then the performance is well-done I believe. (3) Extending the second reason, the climatic sequence was the best in the film. It came from nowhere in my mind considering certain hints were being dropped (Hunter's going-along with the plan, the Working Girl movie poster, Ira's obsession of the little black book idea). Maybe a more astute viewer could have seen it but I did not. I believe it was carefully plotted, written, acted, and filmed in order to incite a deep emotional reaction from the viewer. Is it just me or did the entire cast and crew read Aristotle before the sequence was shot? I could be missing the point but I am from the school that suggests philosophy is the underpinning of all human understanding. Three reasons give a score of three.
Now for the negativity: (1) Brittany Murphy blows like an untied balloon. She blows like the bitter cold winds that sweep across the high plains of North Dakota in the dead of winter. She can't act and she hasn't acted well in anything (except for Just Married, that was funny). I think this role could have been better for someone like Scarlett Johannsen. If she dyed her red locks blonde and chopped it short, she could pass as a Diane Sawyer wannabe. (2) What has happened to Ron Livingston? He is truly a no-hit wonder as far as I can tell. His best performance was in Office Space but that was a defeaningly silent failure at the box office. He had no heart in this movie despite whatever extending circumstances might have caused not to have it. (3) Carly Simon was used and abused in this movie. Maybe it was a mutual you-save-my-relevance-to-history-while-I-can-fill-up-my-bank-account-kind-of-agreement. Plainly, I believe the greatest chanteuse of the 1970's is trying to extend her relevance span much like Styx did with Adam Sandler in 1999's Big Daddy. It's pure exploitation for the sake of keeping the cash cow happy. (4) I hated the premise of this movie from the outset. Why can't the heads behind this film realize that the biggest questions cannot be answered? The question is, should past secrets stay buried or be revealed? The answer is BOTH, end of story! It depends on every relationship and every circumstance involving those relationships. She should have let the situation alone despite everything else involved and the world would have been at ease. That is why I hate doubt; when you are at ease, everything is right with the world. (5) I leave the psychobabble for more common sense themes. I hated how the character of Joyce got screwed because she was the one we were meant to root for. In fact, the other two women (the self-absorbed doctor and the shallow, vane model) didn't deserve the screwing either. While the situation was complex from the outset, they didn't deserve any of the attention. If you are outside the situation regardless of your flaws, then you don't deserve to be sucked in and then burned at the stake. The characters Murphy and Hunter played both deserved to be burned at the stake. (6) This movie attempted black comedy and failed miserably. It tried to express some opinions on the insatiable American appetite of reality TV and the cruelty of the world of television. I would think films like Network and Broadcast News (even Ringmaster with Jerry Springer) would profess those opinions in better ways. If this movie had marketed itself as that and the heads behind this film went more the jugular, this movie would been much better. I think if James L. Brooks had at least directed this movie and cast somebody like Holly Hunter or Scarlet Johannsen in the main role, then we might have something to talk about. (7) The ending was a farce so nothing more needs to be voiced.
Overall, this movie bites and I felt cheated for the most part. I did laugh in a few places but it just made me cringe over and over again. Somebody treated me out, so I waited until the end of the horror to make my opinions known to the world. When it's free, who says you can complain? If anyone out there has a little black book, burn it now so your significant other can never find it. If you are in a relationship that is more worthy than anything you had prior, why hold on to the past? It's the kind of stuff that makes Hollywood rob us of our hard-earned money.
Taking Lives (2004)
Won't You Take Me Back Again?
To the beginning of how and when this psychofest started. It all started on a whim to see "Twisted". Then, I progressed on toward "Gothika" and then the aforementioned. By the end of it all, I don't ever want to see a serial killer for quite awhile.
This review will be littered with spoilers...
Here are my reasons: (1) I did like the introduction. It was a crazy yet satisfying setup. It was shown in the previews but I never expected the scene to pop up that early in the movie. It was the best scene in the movie despite the all-out horror it involved. (2) Another snippet from the previews was the hand coming out from under the bed. I could tell when it was coming but I still jumped. D.J. Caruso does have a way of setting up certain scary moments. (3) Best performance in the movie I felt went to Ethan Hawke. His try at being a psychopath was at best decent. He is no Hannibal Lecter or John Doe or even a Bone Collector. I felt that he was the only saving grace for this movie and that is an overstatement. (4) I know I shouldn't be saying this but it was nice to see Tcheky Karyo in a role where he wasn't the enemy or the butt of the joke. It tells you how big a fan I am of him. This is only a cosmetic reason. Four reasons give a score of four.
Now, for the downsides: (1) Angelina Jolie was sadly wasted and I mean sadly. She isn't the greatest actress on the face of the Earth and she doesn't strike me as one who cave to misjudgment so easily. Even though I was wrapped into the story and I didn't see the 'twist', it was still bogus. She strikes me more as the @$$-kicking, doesn't-put-with-any-sort-of-s***-kind of actress. Watch Tomb Raider and Foxfire to see what I mean. She was emotional eye candy and nothing more. (2) Kiefer Who? I was reminded of the conclusion to Phone Booth in where the actual person showed up at the end for thirty seconds. Same problem here, what was the point? Was there even a point? How desperately does a semi-famous actor like Kiefer Sutherland need work? He would have been the better killer. (3) As much as I like gratuitous sex, that scene really sunk this film. Like the last point, there was no point. It was a useless plot element that went against the nature of reality. The cop/killer romance plot game is better suited for something like "Basic Instinct". (4) The ending was sick to an exponential degree. Even if the sex scene was supposedly the key to the story, it still makes me want to hurl. He should have been killed with a piece of piano wire in my humble opinion. The only good aspect of the conclusion was the fact you needed somebody as mentally numb as the killer to do something like that. (5) Olivier Martinez is a wimp, enough said. (6) After we find out who the killer is, went actually went down was a letdown. I got to easily sucked into it and I shouldn't have. My fault in going so I don't deserve my money back.
In the end, this movie was a major waste of time, talent, and money. Of all three thrillers mentioned, "Gothika" has the most promise but that is where it ends. If you want a great crime thriller, watch "Zero Effect", "Mystic River", or "L.A. Confidential". If you want a great psycho thriller with Angelina, rent "The Bone Collector". If you want to keep your sanity, stay away from this film.
Those are my thoughts.
No Hole In My Head...
In the area of movies based off of screenplays from some other area (or whatever the title for that Oscar is), "Holes" has credibility. I think it is better to have the author create the screenplay because the author is the creator of the material. If the author can't write a screenplay to save their life, then have the author and someone fluently talented in the area of screenwriting create it. Aside from that, this review is about "Holes".
The reasons start here and a spoiler maybe found within. (1) Louis Sachar is an excellent author and it turns that he can write a screenplay. I watched the movie and then read the book and both didn't reek incoherence or stupidity. Some people just have natural talents that can transcend mediums. (2) The best performance award goes to Shia LaBeouf for his portrayal as the main character. He "dug" himself into the role. I wanted to see his character vindicated before the conclusion. (3) To ratchet up the suspense a bit, Andrew Davis was brought in. This is the man that made Harrison Ford run hard and run fast. He also can make Steven Seagal smash some heads. As for this film, he made Shia and the rest of the boys dig some holes. In other words, he can make an "action-packed" movie and make it well even if "action" isn't the main genre isn't "action". (4) My second favorite performance goes to Jon Voight as Mr. Sir. Sometimes a goofy role brings out the best in a performer. When Voight uttered the line "Once upon a time...", I must have laughed for half a minute because it was so funny. He is capable of comedy and he should investigate a few more roles that let him to exercise that talent. (5) Tim Blake Nelson is very solid whenever he is given a solid script. This is probably the second best role I have seen him in (second only to 'O Brother Where Art Thou?'). (6) I love the choice of settings for the movie. I didn't know California was that dry or that barren. I guess population and land area figures both can be misleading. (7) The overall look of the movie made me want another bottle of water. One could only imagine digging a hole in that barren area for half a day. (8) The rest of the cast should deserve a box of Kudos bars as well. Sigourney Weaver, Henry Winkler, Khleo Thomas, Jake M. Smith and the rest of the bill were tapped because of their talents and it gelled very well. Great cast even though it was anywhere near ensemble. (9) I like a movie that doesn't explain anything right away. When Stanley got clocked in the head with those baseball cleats, it made me want to see how weird the events could get and that is a key ingredient in making a good movie. (10) Disney Pictures (not Touchstone, DISNEY!!) needs to make a few more of these mature juvenile films. It was palatable for me and I am a college student. The last mature juvenile Disney film I saw was "Something Wicked This Way Comes" and "Holes" possibly exceeds it (like the election in 2000, it's still to close to call). Disney can make greatness if they decide to expand on this genre and keeps artistry in mind over milking a cash cow when they see it. Ten reasons give a score of ten!
All in all, "Holes" is one of my favorite Disney films and probably one of the best this year (granted this movie may not be Oscar material but whoever said Oscar material is the best material?). In terms of being a movie from a book I have read, this ranks behind "Fight Club" on my list (which is on top). For being a film I saw in 2003, this is in the top five (somewhere behind "Mystic River"). Compared against "Harry Potter", Stanley Yelnats easily takes a shovel to Harry's head and brings the final death blow with a smelly sneaker to Potter's nose. Everybody should see this movie because it both informs and entertains. Here ends my rant!
The Order (2003)
I am on the fence...
I saw this movie on opening night for that the fact that Brian Helgeland was writing and directing it. Helgeland is an excellent screenwriter and an Oscar winner to boot. When I first saw the previews, I figured this movie would be as dark, cynical, and twisted as his greatest effort (helping adapt James Ellroy's mammoth novel LA Confidential with Curtis Hanson). It turns out that I was nearly disturbed out of my seat by watching this film.
First off, here are my reasons (spoilers): (1) As I mentioned before, I am a fan of Brian Helgeland. He is an awesome screenwriter even if his directing credentials have come into question. (2) The best performance award goes to Benno Furmann. He easily stole this film away from Heath Ledger without much effort at all. He has a knack for playing foreboding and underhanded characters that you feel sorry for. See the film "The Princess and the Warrior" by Tom Tykwer for more evidence. (3) It was good to see Peter Weller on screen again in a decent evil man role. The last good bad guy he played was in "Firstborn" nearly twenty years ago. (4) The lightning, backgrounds, settings, and cinematography were perfectly set and made for this movie. If there is one thing that Brian Helgeland knows, it is how to make a dark movie. His talent for choosing the right technical cast payed off immensely. (5) As much as the romantic aspect was not needed, it was pretty clever. This is the first film I have ever seen or heard of where a priest falls in love with a mental patient. I have to say that is pretty original. (6) Mark Addy is always good for comic relief. He provided the right touches of humor when necessary. (7) Believe it or not, the plot of the film was rather interesting. Seven reasons give a score of seven.
Secondly, the downers involve (1) the main performances. Heath Ledger playing a priest. Even though suspension of disbelief is needed to watch this movie, I could suspend it enough. He is way too young to play a priest even a renegade priest with years of experience under his belt. As for Shannyn Sossamon, she was not believable enough to play a mental patient. She is more believable as a web page designer. Another downer is (2) how much is took from "Stigmata". This was a subtle rip-off as opposed to all-out. The originality comes in much closer toward the denouement. This is connected to my third point, (3) this movie pretty much rips Christianity a new one. I guess every so often a movie comes along to challenge current preconceptions about any and all things and this time the largest faith in the world got caught in the crosshairs. It really irked me but I know their are bigger things that Christians have to worry about than a movie that came out of Hollywood bashing their faith.
In conclusion, this is a movie where the discretion is up to the viewer. If you love darkness and foreboding, this is your movie. If you have issues with Christianity, this is your movie. If you are a Christian of any branch, avoid this film at all costs. You may regret watching this and curse Brian Helgeland until the day he passes on. As for me, it was iffy and could have been better.
Here ends my rant!