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Killer Joe (2011)
A Disturbing, Freaky, Hilarious Film
Maybe I'm projecting here but I think this film has a socio-political message, and one I fully subscribe to. If you are a conservative redneck, you'll probably like this movie because you can identify with the characters. If you are a proud Texan, you won't like it because it does your state no favors. And if you are a progressive, you might like it because of how it portrays redneck Texans and because of the veiled slap at the Pro-Life conservatives at the end of the film. Here is a movie where none of the characters have any respect for human life except for that of the unborn as revealed when Dottie says she is pregnant at the very end of the movie. It's the first time Joe has smiled in the entire story.
It's a dark comedy, very dark. It's also disturbingly violent in places, as well as being misogynistic. The most disturbing scene involves fellatio with a chicken leg from K-Fried-C that substitutes for an attached penis. There are hints of a near-incestuous relationship between Chris and his sister, Dottie. Dottie is beautiful, though a bit disturbed. But who wouldn't be living the way she lives with a father who cares nothing for her (to the point where he is fine with offering her as a "retainer" to Joe for services rendered), and a step-mother who respects her so little that she walks around the house naked in front of her. Chris seems to care more about her than anyone else in the family, including her real mother who, as she relates, tried to kill her when she was a baby. But again, there is that feeling that something isn't quite normal between them. Well, they did sleep together when they were children. Maybe they did more than just sleep.
I gave this a 9 for being funny, intriguing, thought-provoking, and for going where few movies have the guts to go. If you don't get offended easily, you should see it. It's a movie you will be thinking about for days. And if you're a woman, you may never eat chicken again.
Larry Crowne (2011)
I left the theater feeling good about it
I love Tom Hanks and I love his directing style. That Thing You Do remains one of my favorite movies ever and this film, Larry Crowne, has the same feel about it, though the subject matter is completely different.
I didn't expect too much before watching the movie because of the lukewarm reception by some of the critics. But I have learned not to rely too heavily on professional reviewers because I so often disagree with them. To me, a film is successful if it is satisfying. If there is one word to describe Larry Crowne it is satisfying - in a feel-good sort of way.
This is not Hanks' greatest film, but it doesn't set out to be. It accomplishes what Hanks seems to have set out to do. It tells a story about a man who, after getting a divorce and then being fired from his job, has to cope with reevaluating his life and reshuffling his priorities. I like the way it didn't revert to the banal going-into- deep-depression and feeling-sorry-for-myself modes. Hanks' character takes the next logical step to being fired for not having enough education and signs up for college. And he succeeds brilliantly at it.
Julia Roberts plays one of his college professors who is struggling with burn out and a dysfunctional marriage. She nails the character, Mrs. Tainot, beautifully. But the best supporting character is played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw. She is gorgeous but in a cute way, not in a runway model way. She plays the free spirited, scooter-riding college friend who takes over without asking and proceeds to do a make-over on Crowne. It works, though, as Crowne's image is substantially improved by her wardrobe and hair style changes on him.
I won't give away the ending, but there are no surprises here. You wouldn't expect one from a Tom Hanks film. There's nothing cutting edge about it either. But despite one or two plot turns that force you to suspend your disbelief for a fraction of a second (such as actually getting fired after years as a successful employee because your boss feels your lack of education is hurting your potential to be promoted), the film succeeds. There are no cringe moments, no vulgarity (I don't even think it used its one-allowed, obligatory F-word), and no tedious scenes of theatrical irony. It's just a simple, entertaining, feel-good movie that makes you happy. And sometimes, that's what a movie should be.
What was the point of leaving warnings?
I liked the movie. It had lots of intrigue, great special effects, and good deal of action. That being said, I did not understand the premise.
Aliens apparently left coded warnings of future disasters by encoding them in the brain of a school girl who scrawled them on a note to be left in a time capsule in 1953. The time capsule was not to be opened for 50 years. Yet almost all of the predictions were for catastrophes that took place before the opening. What was the point of that? If it was simply to validate the code, then what was the point of predicting the end of everything when nobody could do anything to stop it anyway?
The aliens obviously knew well in advance what was going to happen, down to the exact time and location. They had already implanted a homing beacon, so to speak, in many of Earth's children. They really didn't need the coded predictions, which is what almost the entire movie is based around. It's a huge plot hole.
The trouble with causality...
When people start traveling backward and forward in time in movies, I get annoyed when the plot gets tangled up in that old time-travel gremlin, causality. When that happens, the entire film becomes unbelievable and confusing. So it is with Premonition.
The movie starts on a Thursday when Sandra Bullock's character is informed that her husband died the day before in an auto accident. Just before the officer informed her, she was listening to a message from her husband on the answering machine. At the end of the message, he was interrupted by another call. That call turned out to be her, in the past, trying to warn him of his impending collision but failing.
In fact, she is the one who killed her husband. If she had not tried to warn him, he would not have been killed.
Ultimately, it turned out to be one of those movies where the wife kills the husband to get the insurance. But instead of being written in the style of Law and Order, it is written as a suspense thriller time shifting movie.
It was a little slow paced throughout for me. And I really hated the ending. There are some unanswered questions and some plot devices, such as the dead bird, that were placed in the movie solely to let the audience know what day it was.
It wasn't awful, but it certainly didn't live up to its hype. And of course that whole causality glitch: He wouldn't have died if she hadn't tried to warn him, but she wouldn't have tried to warn him if she hadn't found out he had gotten killed. I gave it a 6.
Simply the finest movie I have ever seen
People sometimes ask me what my favorite movie is. I have always had a tough time with that question, because, just like with my favorite music, the answer depends on what mood I'm in at the time. My favorite comedy is probably "Down Periscope." My favorite date movie is probably "You've Got Mail." My favorite action adventure is probably "The Italian Job," or maybe "The Score." But my favorite movie of all time, I really couldn't answer. Now I can.
I've seen "Spanglish" a number of times, including once in the theater. I own the DVD. But every time I watch it, I grow to like it better. Now, after seeing it tonight, for about the fifth time, I can honestly state that it is my all-time favorite movie of any genre.
It is the perfect movie, I've discovered. Every actor, especially Adam Sandler, plays their parts to perfection. I can identify with each and every one. I've never been a big fan of Cloris Leachman, but I loved her in this film. Her character was precious.
Paz Vega is beautiful and talented. Although her character is far too overprotective of her daughter, their association is clarified by the end. It is one of the most poignant moments I've ever seen in any movie.
I don't like a great deal of character development in most movies I watch, especially the action movies. But the interpersonal relationships that are developed in this movie are developed to perfection. The writing, dialogue, and direction are superb. Why this movie isn't rated among the top 100 in beyond me. It's funny where it needs to be and touching where it has to be but without being overtly maudlin, although I've cried every time I've watched it. (Yeah, I know. I'm a middle-aged man who seldom cries over anything, but this movie gets me.) Suffice it to say, if there was any movie that ever came close to perfection, this one is it. Enough said.
The Da Vinci Code (2006)
Intrigueing and Thrilling
Let me start by saying I did not read the book. There is one thing I've discovered about movies based on novels. Most often, if you've read the book, you hate the movie. Those who don't read the book are usually in a better position to provide an unbiased review.
I love Tom Hanks as an actor. He can play almost any role to perfection. Having said that, this part is still a stretch for him. It could have been better cast.
Still, I really liked the movie. It was all it was billed as. I liked the cinematography. And I even enjoyed the "talking heads" moments. I know it's fiction, but Brown has said his research while writing the book did reveal factual evidence, and I believe there is probably more truth in the movie than what most religious groups would want us to believe.
Face it; if it were all nothing but fiction, the Catholic church wouldn't be so worried about it. And, of course, everyone knows the church has been one of history's biggest villains. I know something of religious history, and much of what the talking heads were discussing is true. That makes the movie better, being based on actual events, even if highly embellished.
Even though it's fictional, it's still a movie everyone should see. It can lead some to question the role of religion in their lives. And that's a good thing.
A sinister, creepy, and ingenious movie
I had my doubts about this movie, but my daughter insisted that I go watch it with her. She has read every one of the Snicket books.
I'm glad I acquiesced, because I thoroughly enjoyed this peculiar film. I especially enjoyed the children. I've always thought Liam Aiken should have a lead role in a film. Emily Browning, though only a teenager, is seductively beautiful. Both their characters, as well as the younger sibling, are very bright and resourceful. It's a trait I, as a teacher, enjoy seeing in kids.
The artwork, cinematography, and directing were superior. It was beautiful, but delightfully creepy. The plot started a bit slow and tedious, but became more intriguing.
Jim Carrey was a bit over-the-top as Olaf. But then, that's Jim Carrey. I was also a little annoyed that the adult characters in the film all seemed quite clueless, at least in the beginning.
Overall, however, the story was clever and original. The movie was intriguing and entertaining. I gave it an 8.
National Treasure (2004)
A Treasure in Itself
National Treasure is a really, really fun film. It has action, adventure, and comedy all wrapped up in one, with a side of romance. Although its premise is shaky (though intriguing), and it moves through time a little too fast at the beginning, it still is an impressive flick.
Justin Bartha's character was a treasure himself for his comic relief. Diane Kruger is a real beauty. And Nicholas Cage holds it all together as the mastermind tracking down all the clues to the greatest treasure in the world.
Admittedly, you have to suspend your disbelief. I mean, they made stealing the Declaration of Independence look far too easy. But then, that was only a small part of the plot, so I'll forgive it for that.
It's not a caper movie, although there's a caper in it. It's not a love story, although there is a hint of romance between Cage's and Kruger's characters. And it's not a comedy, although there is plenty to laugh at. Whatever genre you want to put it in, it was very fun to watch. I can't wait to buy this one on DVD. I gave it a 9.
The Village (2004)
Love story masquerading as a thriller
I loved "The Sixth Sense." I liked "Signs" even though it was full of plot holes and really stretched common sense to the breaking point. But I didn't care much for Night's latest "thriller."
"The Village" is a love story set in what appears to be the late 18th or early 19th century. It is about a group of commune dwellers who have escaped the brutality and depravity of "the towns."
What it wants to be is a thriller. But it was a big disappointment in that arena. The creatures, "Those whom we do not speak of," although the villagers speak of little else, play only a minor role in this film.
It begins to get a little interesting during the last 30 minutes of the movie, but the surprise ending, although a fairly clever concept, doesn't really work. It was disappointing, given all the hype.
I gave it a 5.
The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
Really good action flick, but....
I loved the first movie, The Bourne Identity. But at the end of that movie, you kind of got the idea that Bourne settled down with the lady of his dreams and lived happily ever after.
This sequel, The Bourne Supremacy, had to untie the nice ending of the first flick to make a bunch of loose ends, which it then proceeded to tie together again by the end of this movie.
That's ok, though. It made for a really cool action flick, complete with car chases, crashes, foot chases, fights, and lots of shooting. That on top of the mystery and intrigue.
There were two things I didn't care for, however. One was that Julia Stiles' part was too small - again. Most importantly, however, is that the cinematography was absolutely horrid. It looked like a home video, especially during the fight scenes and car chases. It made my head spin, and there was no way to visually keep up with the action. Even during the office sequences, the images were blurred and shaky. I guess they figured they wouldn't need to hire a choreographer for the fight sequences if only the camera were shaky enough to disguise all the mistakes of the actors.
That said, I still highly recommend the movie if you like action and mystery. Those of you who are prone to motion sickness, however, should take some Dramamine first.