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A wonderful told story with a unique style
Persepolis tells the amazing story of a young girl growing up in Iran around the time of the Islamic Revolution. Marjane Satrapi does a wonderful job of bringing her story to life and drawing the viewer into her what it was to grow up during a time of political revolution. Using a unique style of animation, that closely follows the style of the graphic novel, the audience is pulled into a world that is much different than the world they are used to.
Marjane's story is often times humorous and often times heart breaking without resorting to heavy handed sentimentalism that is often seen in Hollywood movies. There were times that I laughed out loud during the movie, particularly the "Eye of the Tiger" sequence which had me in stitches. Other times during the film I had to wipe a tear from my eye. I won't spoil any of those moments for anyone, but there were parts of the film that left me crushed.
The characters in the story were all very interesting and all seemed very real. I loved watching Marjane grow from a child to an adult and seeing how she dealt with struggles as extreme as a revolution and as simple as the end of a relationship. Most of the supporting characters were interesting as well and extremely well thought out. The most memorable of the side characters though, would have to be Marjane's grandmother. She almost acted as Marjane's moral compass throughout the film and in most cases she did it with a great cynicism and humor that only someone who has lived through so much could have.
As an American I will probably never know what it is like to live in a state of such political oppression as the one depicted in the film. It is an extremely hard thing to even imagine what people go through during such political struggles. However, one of the things that makes this movie unique is that a lot of it is told from the point of view of a child that does not really understand the politics of what is going on around her. This really helped draw me into the movie. Since I do not understand what it is like to be in the situation, having the story told from the point of view of someone that doesn't really grasp the enormity of the events unfolding around her really helped to bring me into the story. It was very helpful in trying to comprehend the scale of what was happening in the movie, not that I claim to totally comprehend what this young girl must have gone through.
The animation style of the film is definitely interesting and unique. It is a lot different than anything I have seen before and I really enjoyed the style that was used. The more simplistic animation that was used definitely worked well with the story being told from the point of view of a child. The child in the story could not totally grasp all the details of what was going on during the revolution and having a less detailed style of animation definitely helped emphasize this. Also, having a style of animation that was so different than what audience are used to also helped emphasize that we were viewing a world that was, in many ways, much different than our own.
Overall I really enjoyed the film and it is one that I may eventually want to see again. I really would like to read the graphic novels that it was based on and probably even a few of the other graphic novels written by Marjane Satrapi. I think she is a wonderful talent and I hope she continues to make such interesting films, perhaps bringing some of her other graphic novels to the big screen.
Too much melodrama, not enough monster.
A lot of the reviews I read about this state that the camera work is the only real negative about the film. Other than that it seems that people, for the most part, really enjoyed the movie. I will however start off my review by saying; the camera work was the least of my problems and in fact the camera work didn't really bother me at all. However, I was bothered by just about everything else that the movie had to offer.
Warning: Spoilers in this review.
The "relationship" that was a major part of the film was, in a word, boring. It wasn't at all interesting and didn't make me any more interested in the characters then I would have been had we just been thrown into the middle of the film with no previous knowledge of the characters. None of the characters were at all likable, so I pretty much wanted them to die... well except Marlena she was kind of cool. The relationship melodrama that was going on in the uninteresting people's lives was so dull that beginning party sequence bored me to such a level that when the attack finally came I looked over at my friend and said "Finally, now these annoying people can start dying."
I had heard from several people that the movie was scary and suspenseful so I was at least hopeful on that level once the attack started. However, none of the "scary" moments were at all scary, I saw each and every scare coming from a mile away. As soon as they went down into the dark subway it was pretty obvious that they would get attacked down there and then when the attack finally happened they gave it to much build up that it didn't surprise or shock me. Also, when they were flying over the monster in the helicopter and they were cheering because they though it was dead I just knew that it was going to jump up and hit the helicopter. Which brings up the question, if the pilot of the helicopter was supposed to be evacuating these people why was he just flying directly over the monster while it was being bombed, why didn't he change course and get the heck out of there? Which then brings up the question, how did they survive the helicopter crash? The pilot dies but the three main characters somehow survive? How does that work exactly? The movie seriously should have ended with the helicopter crash; it would have made a lot more sense.
Some of the scenes of the monster attacking the city were pretty cool. One scene that stands on in my mind in particular is the one that happens right before they go down in the subway where the tanks roll in and start attacking the monster and the main characters are just kind of stuck there with nowhere to go. That was actually a very cool scene; however scenes like this were too few and far between to keep the movie interesting for me.
I will agree with some of the things I have read that the CGI was very well done, especially considering that all the shots were hand held. I am sure it is hard enough to animate a monster into a movie when the camera is still, but it has got to be extra hard when the camera is going all over the place. It probably becomes much harder to find references for where to put the monster from frame to frame.
So, in short, the characters weren't at all likable or interesting and the love story was dull. I never really felt that there was any suspense in the movie because all the scares were predictable. The only cool parts were when the monster was destroying the city and there really wasn't enough of that to justify an 84 minute length. And it is pretty sad when a movie is only 84 minutes and is unable to even justify that short length.
I feel the movie could have benefited from maybe seeing everything from more than one perspective. Perhaps instead of finding one camera, the military finds three cameras at different places in the city that see different things. This definitely would have helped the movie reach feature length without having to pad it with the uninteresting melodrama, because honestly the relationship part of the movie felt like it was just there as filler to get the movie up to a length that they could actually show in the theater.
À la folie... pas du tout (2002)
Audrey Tatou, perhaps not so sweet?
He Loves Me... He Loves Me Not had been sitting in my Netflix Queue for some time. I hadn't heard much about it but my love for Audrey Tautou made me curious to see it. I kept putting it off though, something about the cover and the tag line "Is she crazy in love, or just crazy?" made it seem kind of like a cutsie romantic comedy that wasn't going to interest me. However, my sister who had been putting off seeing it for the same reason finally watched it and told me how great it was. I must thank her because if not for her I might have taken an even longer time to watch this wonderful film.
The film is far from a silly romantic comedy in any way, it falls closer to a thriller than anything else and at some points in the film it even gets rather disturbing. That being said the tag line that I mentioned before should not be taken as a light hearted jest, the tag line should be taken rather seriously, because the sanity of the Angelique (Audrey Tautou) is in question for quite a bit of the film.
Audrey Tautou plays Angelique marvelously as is expected since she has yet to disappoint me in any film I have seen her in, it doesn't hurt that she is pretty damn cute as well. However in this film, that cute and innocent looking exterior may be hiding something much more sinister and disturbing. Audrey Tautou does a good job of making us wonder if Angélique is really all there for most of the movie. Sometimes she seems to be on the verge of a breakdown and sometimes she lets her anger do some dastardly things.
The whole movie is put together in a way that the audience really doesn't know what to expect from Angelique. At first she seems like a sweet and innocent girl that wouldn't hurt a fly. However when Loic, the married man that she is dating begins to leads her on and breaks promises she begins to lose it. Has Loic led her down this path of self destruction or is there something even more troubling going on for Angelique? One of the best parts of the film is that the audience gets to see the relationship between Loic and Angelique from both sides of the relationship. Only after the audience has seen both sides can they really see how this relationship came into existence and how Angelique's problems began to manifest themselves. I definitely loved this film; it was a well written and well acted thriller that kept me on my toes quite a bit. I highly recommend this to anyone, especially if you are a fan of Audrey Tautou.
Grizzly Man (2005)
Interesting film about a disturbed individual
This was quite an interesting film about a very intriguing, if not a little disturbed individual. The movie isn't about the bears or the wildlife, this film is about Timothy Treadwell and the madness that drives him to live in the wilderness with the bears for 13 summers of his life.
Overall the film is quite good and Timothy Treadwell is quite an interesting person to watch on screen. He goes from happy and silly to angry and hateful several times through out the course of the film. He often treats the camera as a confidant, recording his secrets and inner most thoughts on to the camera. The film shows Timothy at his best and worst through out the film; We see him calmly and happily tell us how he wants to help protect the grizzly bears, we see him furiously curse the government for not doing enough to protect the bears, and we see him weep after a male bears kills off cubs in order to mate with the female again.
The best parts of the film are those that use Timothy's own footage of him in the wilderness. As much as I love Herzog's work, the parts he shot come across a bit below most of his other work. Many of his interviews seem over rehearsed and don't come across as real, causing some people to actually believe that this is all one big hoax. I definitely am not one to say it is a hoax, but the reactions of the people in the film just never seem genuine. It seems as if they had memorized there lines and were trying to remember what their next line was. However, this could just be because it was very difficult for them to talk about and took many takes for them to get things right.
However, even though I don't particularly think the interviews were well done, the way Herzog put the film together is done rather well. He seems to have admiration for Timothy Treadwell for doing something that he loved and living in the wilderness for so long. He also seems to really appreciate Timothy's film making style and comments quite a bit on it. Towards the end of the film Herzog does seem to suggest that Treadwell wasn't quite right in the head, but he never seems to put him down for what he did.
The overall story is a sad one, I don't think it is a spoiler to say that Timothy meets a very sad end at the hands of the very bears he wanted to protect. However the saddest part may not be the he died but that his girlfriend died with him. He knew that he could get killed out there, and some parts of the movie gave me the impression that he wanted it that way; however there was no need for her to die so horribly as well. We as the audience never see or hear any footage of the death, however we do see Herzog's reaction to listening to the audio recording. He simply tells Timothy's friend Jewel, who owns the tape, that not only should she never listen to it but that she should destroy it.
As I said, I really liked the film in spite of the flaws I have mentioned because it tells an interesting story about an interesting person who was passionate about something, although maybe a bit overly passionate. He died believing that he had done something good in the world by helping the bears, and that in it self is an accomplishment. It is just sad that he had to take his girlfriend with him.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Amazing film to see on the theater screen.
I had been meaning to watch this film for quite sometime but the length kept me from moving it to the top of my Netflix queue. However, I kept hearing wonderful things about it so I really was looking forward to getting a chance to see it. When the AFI Silver Theatre near me decided to show a 70mm print of it, I decided I could not put it off anymore. From all the things I had heard about this film I knew I would regret it if I passed up the chance to see it in the theater. So, even though the only time they were showing it was 7pm on Sunday nights and the theater was over an hour away, I decided that I would see it. It was well worth the lack of sleep I got that Sunday night and the grogginess I was feeling all day at work Monday.
Clocking in at just under 4 hours the movie is still paced extremely well and never seems to slow down or drag. The story is always intriguing and the characters always interesting. Peter O'Toole does a marvelous job as T.E. Lawrence, he makes this over-the-top character seems 100 percent real like few other actors could do. The supporting cast is just as wonderful; Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, and Anthony Quinn all do a wonderful job portraying their characters. And even though this movie is about T.E. Lawrence, the supporting characters are just as important to the story and had the supporting cast not been just as wonderful as Peter O'Toole the movie would not have held me for 4 hours. However with wonderful acting all around the movie is a pleasure to watch, even once your backside starts to go numb.
The direction and cinematography of the film are some of the best I have ever seen. The desert landscapes look amazing. The battles scenes are brilliantly shot and editing together. However, the smaller, more intimate scenes are just as memorable as the larger than life battle scenes. Perhaps that is due in part to the larger than life character of T.E. Lawrence though. In fact the most memorable scene for me was the scene where Lawrence admits that what most disturbed him about killing wasn't the act itself but that he enjoyed it. Intimate scenes like this along with the huge battles scenes such as when the Arabs take Aqaba give the film its wonderful pacing that keeps the moving going.
Probably one of the most memorable shots in the film is when the character of Sheriff Ali is introduce, riding his horse through a mirage in the desert. Capturing this mirage on film could not have been an easy task and it makes for such a wonderful and beautiful effect that would probably be achieved digitally these days. This one scene those is just an example of how wonderful this film looks from beginning to end. This is one of those movies that you could take almost any frame and it would be a wonderful photograph that you could hang on your wall.
The musical score of this film is also simply amazing. Now, I don't really know a lot about music and I don't always take notice of the musical score for a film but you can't help but take notice of the score for this film. It always fits perfectly with the film and the overture at the beginning really puts you in the perfect frame of mind for the film.
Overall this is just a very enjoyable film and definitely was a pleasure to see at a movie theater as it was meant to be seen. This movie also, most definitely gets my "Seven Samurai Award for Excellence in Pacing in a Film Exceeding Two and a Half Hours." Usually I am of the belief that if a film clocks in at over two and a half hours it probably could have benefited from a better editor. This is one of the few films I have seen that breaks that rule, and it is always a joy when a film is able to do that.
kind of fun, but not what I expected
While I did have a good time watching this film and thought it was rather fun I was still mostly disappointed by it. The reason for this was because of the way it was advertised. I have seen enough movies that I should know better than to go into movies with expectations, but I was really excited about seeing the "Old School American Horror" that this film advertised itself as. This is, however, not what the film delivered.
When I think of Old School American Horror three movies instantly come to mind; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Dawn of the Dead (1978), and Halloween (1978), all of which have been remade into lesser films in the last 5 years, but that is beside the point. This movie did not have the feel of any of these films. These 3 films are all either very creepy or very disturbing and at times both.
Now I don't know if I should really compare Hatchet to these three films, but when you advertise your film as Old School American Horror, these are the comparisons that are going to get made. The main difference in Hatchet over these films is that I never really felt the menace from the Victor Crowley character that I felt from the characters in those films. Mike Meyers and Leatherface are scary and disturbed characters that are very unsettling to watch on film as are the zombies in Dawn of the Dead. Victor Crowly, though, did not ever feel menacing to me.
The only time I felt and sort of fear from him is when they would do the quick, cheap scares where he comes out of nowhere. I never once felt the feeling of suspense or dread that I felt from the other characters I have mentioned. There were even times that I felt like laughing at Victor Crowley, and that is something I never would have done with those other characters. Victor Crowley is a character that should have disturbed me though, as deformed faces tend to have a very unsettling effect on me. However that didn't even effect me in anyway. I'm not sure whether the blame for this goes to Kane Hodder, the makeup effect crew, or the director, but Victor Crowley just didn't really scare me.
Speaking of laughing at the film, that is another place where this film departed from the Old School American Horror. It fell to much into the realm of self parody. It seems a horror movie can not be made these days with parodying itself and the whole genre, and this film is no different. I was hoping this film would take itself much more seriously than it did. Don't get me wrong I had a good time laughing during the film, but the self parodying made it feel more like a '90s horror film than an older horror film. Of course maybe for today's audience the '90s would be considered Old School horror.
The movie was often very predictable about when and where the scares would occur though. If you've seen enough horror movies you'll probably be able to pick them out when you watch the film as well. Especially a certain scene at the end that I won't give away, but as soon as it happened I realized that something very similar to another popular horror movie was going to happen. I also was usually able to tell when Victor was going to show up at certain times and it wasn't really surprising. However, this film did break one of the Hollywood horror movies clichés, of the 9 people that were put into the situation the black guy actually managed to make it pretty far into the movie without getting killed.
I will say that the gore in the film was pretty good, it definitely had a low budget feel to it that you would expect from and older horror movie. And even though the movie didn't really live up to my expectations it was enjoyable to see. It however was pretty much just an average horror film that was able to keep me entertained enough to stay in my seat. Overall, I am not sorry I saw it but this definitely was not what I was expecting.
Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
Just didn't fit...
The first Die Hard was probably the best modern action film ever made. The second Die Hard works because the movie has a major sense of humor about how ridiculous it is to put John McClane through such a similar situation again; it practically makes fun of itself for a lot of the movie. The third one works because you have a bad guy that is out for revenge against John McClane. The fourth one though, it just felt like McClane's character was dropped in as an after thought. I don't think you can just drop John McClane into any story and call it Die Hard and this movie felt more like a Tom Clancy political thriller than a Die Hard movie.
While watching this I at least thought I would let it pass as a generic action movie, because I was having fun. However, then I started thinking about it and I'm sorry I need even my action movies to at least make a little bit of sense. There was just too much stuff in this one that didn't work for me. The first problem I had was that the bad guys created a giant traffic jam in DC causing congestion everywhere except of course for the streets they need for the major car chase scene. Also during the part of that car chase that took place in the tunnel, how come when the bad guy started turning the lights off in the tunnel not a single person though to turn their head lights on? However the biggest action scene that bugged me was the scene where John McClane is driving the big rig truck and being chased by the fighter plane. This scene was so laughably over the top that it had no place in a Die Hard movie. I know Die Hard movies are known for their over the top action at some points but I just could not stop laughing at how completely ridiculous this scene was. Oh and seriously, since when does the 695 beltway around Baltimore have palm trees? OK, that is a bit too nitpicky, but it was kind of funny.
The film seemed to me to also be extremely inconsistent about whether or not cell phones were working. The cell phones weren't working, so he reprogrammed the phone to use the old "satcomm" satellites instead. Then that stopped working and then a little bit later that is working again. Also I'm still amazed at how Kevin Smith's character is still able to hack into so much stuff even after all the power on the entire eastern seaboard has been shut off. I mean seriously there are a lot of servers out there that have battery backups and stuff, but a lot of the servers he would need to go through to have a good enough connection to do any of the hacking he was doing would have been shut down after the power outage. OK, maybe I am picking at too much of the film, but all this bugged me while watching the film and I wasn't able to just sit back and get sucked in like I would in any other Die Hard film.
The acting in the film for the most part was pretty good, except of course for the main bad guy. He had one facial expression for the entire movie and the tone of his voice never changed. His only way of showing anger was to throw something off his desk. His performance was so wooden; it just paled in comparison to Alan Rickman, William Sadler and Jeremy Irons, who all three just played wonderful bad guys.
The look and feel of the movie didn't feel at all like a Die Hard movie to me either. Sure, John McClane takes a good beating like he does in all the films but all the action seemed to crisp and clean. It didn't feel nearly as gritty as the previous Die Hard films. Also one of the things I noticed was the film seemed to have this predominantly blue color scheme going on. It just felt like there was this blue hue through out the film, where in the previous Die Hard films the predominant colors are very earthy and red. I don't know if anyone else even knows what I am talking about, but that is just something that I noticed that took away from the gritty Die Hard feeling.
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Brett Ratner;The new Joel Schumacher?
Can we say Batman Forever? Seriously this movie really reminds me of Joel Schumacher's attempt to make a Batman movie. Both X-Men 3 and Batman Forever suffer from the same problem. They took everything that made the first two movies in their respective franchises good, and threw it out the window and instead made a run-of-the-mill action movie full of poorly written dialog and very little substance or character development.
X-Men and X-Men 2 were both fairly well written for comic book movies. The writers and the directors took the stories very seriously, and made 2 very good movies about intolerance and prejudice. X-Men 3 was not at all well written, it was just filled with cheesy one-liners and pointless dialog. I have nothing against cheesy one-liners, both X-Men and X-Men 2 had their fair share. X-Men 3 however has no well written dialog to mix with the cheesy one-liners.
There was also a whole lot of pointless dialog in the film; I seriously got tired of people announcing that they were going to use their powers. Just use the powers, don't inform me that you are getting ready to. The worst example of this is when Wolverine and Storm go back to the lake where Jean had been killed. It is extremely foggy and Wolverine and Storm walk around in the fog for a minute until Wolverine comments that he can not see anything, at which point Storm decides that clearing the fog would be a good idea. Why didn't she just clear the fog as soon as they got off the Jet, why did she have to wait for Wolverine to inform him that she couldn't see? Because of all this bad and pointless dialog it seriously felt as if some of the really good actors in the movie were not giving their best performances. I don't blame them, they did the best they could with the dialog that they were given.
While we are on the subject of pointless things in the movie (slight spoilers beyond), why did the two mutants take Warren Worthington to the roof of the building to throw him off to kill him? Why didn't they just use their powers to kill him right away if they wanted him dead? This was done for no other reason than to give Angel the chance to swoop in and save his father. This was just a totally poorly written and unbelievable scenario.
Also the actions sequences seem to come right out of one of those Live, Action/Aventure shows you see at theme parks like Six Flags and Kings Dominion. I'm not sure if it was the obvious wire work on Storm's flying, or maybe the cheesy entrances that each of the characters made, or what. Something about the entire sequence just gave me that whole cheesy vibe that you get while watching one of those shows.
This movie tried to have the same type of substance that the first two had but it failed miserably. Ratner just doesn't seem to know how to include the substance and underlying messages in his film the way Singer did. The message was in there, but it was secondary to the action, and it wasn't brought to the surface in any way, shape or form. It was mostly just lame dialog proclaiming that the cure is evil and that they must destroy it. All of this had potential to be as good as the first two, but it just was not handled well at all by Ratner.
Does not deserve the distinction of being a Noir film.
I went into this really, really wanting to like it. I had heard such good things about it and the trailer made it look really good. But I ended up having to do something that I very rarely do with a film; I turned it off before it got to the end. I really hate saying that I did that too but I seriously could not justify spending any more time with this film. I was bored, I mean really bored.
I didn't care the least bit for any of the characters because none of them act in a way that any normal person would act in these situations, especially the main character. So you found your ex-girlfriend's dead body, what do you do now? Go to the cops? No, that would make too much sense. Hide the body (which places you at the scene of the crime and puts suspicion on you for moving the body) and then go about trying to find out who killed her yourself.
Now, while running around trying to figure out who killed your girlfriend make sure you try to borrow the lingo from old Film Noir films, because that will make your story even more believable and plausible. This film may have borrowed heavily from Film Noir, but it did it poorly. It just felt like it was trying to hard to make the dialog clever and it all ended up falling flat. The dialog in this film is no where near as clever as the dialog from great Film Noir such as Double Indemnity or The Postman Always Rings Twice. It doesn't even come close to touching some of the newer Noir films like Chinatown. Now maybe I shouldn't compare it to such great films, but the way people talked about this film they made it sound like it was going to jump start the Neo Noir genre. It is just a mess all around though and it did not work for me in the least.
Oh and one other thing. When they were in that basement and the mirror was spinning and spinning and creating that "dramatic" *rolls eyes* lighting on the main character, how long was that mirror spinning for? It wasn't even starting to slow down. Maybe that is just a bit of a nitpicking thing, but it really annoyed me. It may have been a cool effect but they took it to far.
That is about all I can say about the film though since I didn't watch it all the way to the end. I should have gone with my first instincts on this film. From the beginning I thought that "Film Noir set in a high school" sounded like a bad idea, but it looked like it might be pretty good. However, It was just boring, with poorly written and acted "noir" dialog. I am glad I waited to rent it instead of making the long trip to the nearest art-house theatre when it was playing there.
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
An all around wonderful film.
This is one of those films that I loved so much I really just don't know what to say about it. The cast was absolutely perfect. Steve Carell was great in a role that seems a bit more subdued than what he as normally done. It was a bit more dramatic and less comedic than his other roles. Don't get me wrong, he was still funny as hell but he played the dramatic part of the role perfectly. Greg Kinear, Alan Arkin and Toni Collette all also played there roles wonderfully.
However, special mention has to go to little Abigail Breslin as Olive. She delivers a wonderful performance, and possibly one of the best performances from a child actor I have seen in awhile. She manages to be this sweet innocent child without being so sweet that it makes us sick, like the performances we see so often in Hollywood movies. She was one of the many wonderful things about the film.
The film is also very emotional all around, it will make you laugh and cry; sometimes both at the same time. And it never feels like the emotional impact is being shoved down your throat like many Hollywood movies do these days. The emotional connection you feel with this movies seem to flow very naturally. I honestly cared about the characters in this film, which is something that I don't see very often these days.
I do have to say that Olive's dance routine was simply great commentary on the whole idea of beauty pageants for children. If you have never seen one of these things, they are just as creepy in real life as the movie makes them out to be, little girls getting spray on tans and running around in bikinis. Olive's dance routine where she almost strips was just so hilarious because here she is doing what is obviously a stripper routine and she was still being less provocative than the other little girls (I feel so creepy just using a word like "Provocative" when talking about young girls like that).
I also loved the irony of the father that is supposed to be this wonderful motivational speaker but he is really a complete failure at everything. He just can't seem to realize that if his little motivational plan actually worked, he would be able to find something else to do with his life other than selling his motivational plan.