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The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
A powerful script and cast, ruined by a lazy director, editor and composer.
The whole time I spent watching this movie, all I could think was: such a shame. The script is tight, funny and packed with highly quotable dialogue, both Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson are giving it their all, and the production team clearly had a considerable budget to back them, but sadly it amounts to a highly anticlimactic viewing experience.
The overall pacing and switching of scenes is distracting to say the least, and director Renny Harlin seems to think he can hide his lack of talent for storytelling by staging badly-cut shootouts, chases and explosions, and meanwhile overstretching unnecessary slo-mo shots.
Alan Silvestri's score doesn't help much either, as it manages to sound invasive, clichéd and tired all at once. I mean: he even uses a trademark 'eighties soap saxophone' bit in a potentially great kitchen scene. Thank God they used some great classic songs to keep some kind of pace going, by the likes of Santana, Patti Labelle and, of course, Muddy Waters, whose 'Mannish Boy' is used as an inspired comedic red herring in the screenplay.
But those are all sidenotes. If this script had ended up in the hands of an even slightly more original director, this could've become a cult neo-noir action classic.
The Following (2013)
A major letdown, thus far.
As a fan of Poe's writings, the two main actors and the 'serial killer' genre in particular, I was naturally stoked for this series. After only two episodes, it might be a bit early to form a definitive opinion, but the show has been nothing less than disappointing up 'till now; let's just hope that the writers get their stuff together some time soon.
For instance: at the end of the show's pilot, Hardy (Kevin Bacon) breaks Carroll's (James Purefoy) hand in three places; later on in the second episode, which is supposed to take place immediately afterwards, Carroll tries to strangle his ex-wife. For a show that boasts 'nothing is as it seems' as a tagline, that's just plain lazy writing: a hand with three broken fingers is exactly what it seems - completely useless to strangle anybody with. And that's just one of many examples of poor plotting I've noticed after watching only two episodes of 'The Following'; I won't get into any other ones to not spoil too much of the storyline.
Being an avid reader, this would've been plenty of reason for me to disregard the show from now on, but that's not where the misery ends. This show also has some of the worst editing I've ever seen, and I've watched a lot of truly nightmarishly cut B-films, so that's saying something. Furthermore, they did manage to choose some really good music (Deftones, a Massive Attack cover and so on), but they've been slapped onto seemingly random scenes, without any sense of pacing.
Bacon and Purefoy are great, as is most of the supporting cast, but up 'till now, they didn't have much to work with.
So, thus far: five out of ten. I'll give it another two or three episodes, but if things haven't picked up by then, I'm out.
Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
Beautiful, but hollow.
A visually opulent, but rather superficial experience, Snow White and The Huntsman never really seems to know in which direction it wants to be heading. There are some fine nods to other movies - for instance, the wonderful tribute to Princess Mononoke, my favorite Miyazaki movie, in the form of the white stag - and that's okay as long as you've got your own story to tell, which this movie doesn't. Granted, the re-imagining of the old Grimm fairytale does offer a few well-executed new ideas - the 'haunted' forest that functions on hallucinogens, the bridge which actually IS a troll - but it all leads to a pretty anticlimactic final act, and it takes way too long to get there. Also, I guess the writers didn't know how to work the romantic angle, as it's never even resolved if Snow White is in love with the huntsman or William.
Strange thing about this movie is that it features an all-round excellent cast, except for the two leads. Not only does Kristen Stewart have the dramatic range of a broken teacup, for ninety percent of this film she seems physically incapable of closing her mouth, walking around like a mouth-breathing moron - as she does in most of her films, come to think of it. This role would've been done far more justice in the hands of a lesser-known, but more talented actress like, for instance, Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Chris Hemsworth as the huntsman looks and sounds like a troglodyte, and even considering the dramatic back story of the murdered wife and so on, I couldn't get myself to sympathize with the character at all. However, Charlize Theron as the evil Queen is simply wonderful, as are the seven actors playing the dwarfs.
Overall, although it is admittedly beautifully filmed, this is a movie I'm highly unlikely to ever re-watch, mostly due to the clichéd, messy storyline and poor lead performances.
Less Than Zero (1987)
Bad adaptation, pretty okay movie.
I hadn't seen this movie for fifteen years, and as it turns out, it still holds up. Sure, it's a highly dated eighties flick, but in a charming kind of way. James Spader and especially Robert Downey, Jr give the best performances of their early years, and the rest of the cast is so-and-so, pretty much going through the motions, but I didn't catch anyone doing a bad job.
Many people have talked about this, and it's a simple fact: this is clearly a lousy Easton Ellis adaption, with the preachy second half and all the pathos throughout, but you can enjoy the film and the novel as two separate entities. The first time I saw it, I was barely sixteen years old and had never even heard about the book, and yet I hold this movie in even higher regard now, after reading most of Easton Ellis' work. It's simply a different medium and Hollywood tends to ham things up - what can you do.
My personal favorite BEE movie remains The Rules Of Attraction, but that one completely ignored the quite essential 1980s setting. That's where Less Than Zero pretty much nails it: the locations, the clothes, and let's not forget the awesome soundtrack!
A beautiful movie that could have been a masterpiece.
Beautifully shot (particularly the parts in Scotland), magnificently acted (especially by the two leads, but also kudos for Ms. Page and Holmes-veteran Christopher Lee) and a pretty nifty mystery make for a movie that qualifies as far more than just 'good', but I certainly wouldn't call it great. Wilder obviously applied his knack for snappy dialogue, and he brilliantly managed to merge his own particular style with the classic British Victorian tongue-in-cheek humour, so there are many chuckles to be had. It's also great to catch a glimpse of the more romantic, less calculating side of the Great Detective.
Nevertheless, it's abundantly clear that the studio brutally edited more than one hour out of the film, which makes for a good detective mystery, but it doesn't tell us anything really 'new' about Sherlock Holmes, the man and his motives, as the title implies. I would have loved to see the finished product the way Wilder intended it; he himself was appalled by the cuts, as he considered this his 'most elegant picture'. Still, it's a very good, if somewhat inconsistent, movie.
Source Code (2011)
Expected too much
Maybe it's just because I was tired, cranky and my date cancelled (bummer), but I thought Source Code was nowhere near as good as Moon, Duncan Jones' debut. Sure, it's an interesting premise, and Jake Gyllenhaal finally proves he can stand his ground as a lead in an action feature, but it had to deal with a bit of a credibility problem. Also, as I have a bit of a 'celeb crush' on her, I think Vera Farmiga's character came across slightly underdeveloped; you just didn't get to know anything about her. But yeah, great visuals, good camera work. Not a bad sophomore effort, but it did have some big shoes to fill. I'll rewatch it in a better mood.
Visually impressive, but doesn't hold up.
While I know I'll anger a lot of thriller fans, here's my two cents: this is one of the least enjoyable Hitchcock classics. To clarify: if you compare Psycho to North by Northwest, Strangers on a Train, Vertigo or Rebecca, I can't see how any self-proclaimed film fan wouldn't conclude that it falls considerably short. Even other Hitch classics I don't particularly love or hate (such as The Birds, Rear Window or Marnie) trigger a wider emotional response than the pretty simplistic shock effects which are all Psycho has to offer. Of course there's some great cinematography, but it isn't backed by any involving factors other than sheer horror, or the kind of hammy pseudo-psychology Hitchcock already tried his hand on in Spellbound.
My reasonably kind rating of seven out of ten is mostly motivated by its historical importance - even if you take into account that Peeping Tom, which I think is a far superior film with a similar theme, relentlessly flopped earlier in the same year - as it opened the mainstream public's eyes regarding the horror/thriller genre. But if you've seen Psycho once (which, in fact, any film fanatic should), to me there's no real reason to watch it again.
Un prophète (2009)
Great, gripping movie.
Whereas Audiard's two previous movies the similarly crime-based and emotionally gripping 'Read my Lips' and 'The Beat that my Heart Skipped' focused primarily on the protagonists' moral dilemmas, this movie offers the viewer a broader spectrum to consider. 'A Prophet' manages to successfully create a surrounding world (a bit paradoxical maybe, considering it's mainly a prison drama) thanks to some naturalistic performances by convincing supporting actors, a claustrophobic, at once realistic and magical cinematography that truly communicates the psychological consequences of incarceration, and - perhaps most of all - a powerful, masterful lead performance by newcomer Tahar Rahim.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
QT's glourious return to form
This is truly a great movie, celebrating everything that's wonderful about cinema. Granted, although it isn't anywhere near as brilliant as Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs, Inglourious Basterds hits Tarantino's recent full-blown or half misfires like Death Proof (boring dialogue, uninteresting characters) and Kill Bill (fun, but annoyingly superficial) right out of the park, and rejuvenates this once-great director's career.
No need for nitpicking about the blatant historic inaccuracies, since this is just sheer good fun - made abundantly clear by the first chapter's title, 'Once Upon a Time... in Nazi-occupied France' -, with Christoph Waltz as an inspired nazi villain, Brad Pitt's laughable Tennessee accent providing comic relief, and great, highly convincing female performances by Mélanie Laurent and Diane Kruger, rekindling memories of the leading ladies of cinema's golden age.
Furthermore, making the characters speak in their native tongues was a bold - Americans are known for disliking subtitles, especially in a 'talky' movie like this one - , but refreshing move, certainly after having to sit through 'Shakespeare-English' abominations like, for example, Valkyrie.
Combine all of this with an exciting, exceptionally smart storyline and a fantastic, at times anachronistic soundtrack (especially Bowie's 'Cat People' is put to good use), and what you've got is a highly entertaining two-and-a-half hour thrill ride.
So, in short: welcome back, QT!
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
No Top 250 material.
Overly sentimental, anything but credible and ridiculously over-hyped, this petty excuse of a movie managed to reel in a multitude of Oscars. I have to admit I wasn't exactly bored while watching it, but a second viewing just isn't going to happen.
The storyline's a wash - to name just one inconsistency, as Salman Rushdie pointed out: from Bombay to the Taj Mahal by jumping a train? Really? -, the actors don't bring anything truly endearing or sympathetic to their characters, and the 'award-winning' music is more often a nuisance than an extra to the whole movie-going experience. Don't get me wrong: I love M.I.A., for instance, but for the biggest part it just didn't work for me.
In fact, the only virtues of this film are the often astonishing landscapes, the energetic, yet dynamic camera work and the rhythmic, punctual direction. But you simply cannot make a good movie out of those three elements - except if you wanna go all 'Koyaanisqatsi', which I love. But they didn't.
Hence: six out of ten.
P.S.: To be completely honest, I would probably rate this a seven, seven and a half tops if it weren't for the suffocating hype surrounding the film, but I feel like bringing the overall score down a notch in my own humble way, because 'Slumdog' simply doesn't deserve such a high rating. I mean: Top 250? No.
Let's just wait and see who will remember this film in three to five years' time.