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I have a hard time with falling for certain directors, so I usually go by a film by film basis as opposed to liking someone's whole body of work (for example, I like Francis Ford Coppola's The Outsiders, The Conversation and Apocalypse Now, but I could acre less for th Godfather films and his recent trend of giving work to his family members, though Sofia has some talent).
I don't care much for trends in film making, but if the movie is good, then that's how I'll look at it. I'm very opinionated, so if you see your favorite film on my list, you might not like it. Carpe Diem
The Purge (2013)
The idea was bigger than the movie
Let's face it, when a mainstream Hollywood film is made, closed minded, money grubbing executives are the ones who ultimately ruin the product. They value money and accessibility over making something that is risky and potentially historic. This sort of mentality is really the only thing that holds back "The Purge," and a common echo that will be heard on this film's comment boards is the fact it had so much potential.
But even then that mentality could be reminiscent of the story at hand, where Ethan Hawke's character James Sandin makes boat loads of money (literally) but blinds himself to the actual truth of the annual Purge. Too bad the people making the film didn't have a realization to the truth and release their violent tendencies much like James Sandin. But either way, despite all of the punches that are pulled, the film brings up a lot of speculation that makes it more interesting to a sophisticated film goer even though it is advertised as your typical kill fest of the week. While popcorn movie watchers will watch for the violent implications, pretentious snobs like myself will find something much deeper, much more sinister. While the class warfare angle has been overplayed the last couple years, this film managed to turn the idea into actual violence. And while conservatives might just label this as typical anti-wealth liberal Hollywood trash, it is actually quite an allegory for 2nd Amendment enthusiasts and fiscal conservatism. "Purging" the poor has saved America, unburdening the country of "parasites" and in turn, has helped create a smaller and more efficient government (presumably) and allowing poor people like James Sandin unprecedented upward mobility through unfettered capitalism. I especially found it interesting when his neighbors turn on Sandin, once again showing classism-based jealousy is not just a poor/wealthy paradigm, but also an affliction that ensnares the upper crust.
While all of these things were there for the taking, the direction was what turned "The Purge" into another run of the mill pseudo horror film. I believe this is where too many people put there opinion into the fray. Imagine the response if the film had some of these scenarios: The people in the masks actually were the neighbors or Sandin was less virtuous, taking advantage of The Purge to make money and not giving a damn about the carnage or implied ethos, or maybe the homeless man they let into the house was truly guilty, an escaped murderer or child molester. The social implications could have gone any way, but even though the filmmakers took the easy way out, the ending still had some interesting implications at the end. I won't say The Purge is great, but at least it wasn't an unmitigated train wreck.
Miami Connection (1987)
A ridiculous collection of bad acting, action, editing and whatever else goes into a movie--and I enjoyed every ridiculous moment
When I first saw the trailer for 'Miami Connection," my mind was literally blown. I knew the 1980s was a wasteland of Troma garbage and horrible B films, but this film had something more than your run of the mill awfulness. It was epic. It was beautiful. It was bad 80s pop music, complete with bad feel good lyrics you might see in some TV show, the kind of song a writer comes up with on the spot because that's what they think the "youth" music sounds like. Never mind the bad acting, editing, and overall quality of the film transfer--that was something I was expecting. What I wasn't expecting was the bad after school special side- plots, the rampant homo eroticism, the most bizarre and random gang of thugs ever assembled and the sheer 80s-ness of the film. What I really loved was the over acting by the extras in the film. They must have known that they would never get another chance to be in a film, so they hammed it up for all to see.
Now I will remind you, if you aren't into watching films that are bad enough to make Mystery Science Theater 3000, then you surely will not get the sheer awesomeness of this awful movie. If you like straight comedy or action films, then I suggest you stay away and save your money. As for the rest of us, enjoy.
Cloud Atlas (2012)
A great achievement in filmmaking
In all the years I've loved and enjoyed movies, one thing that has become consistent with the current trend of filmmaking is the lack of passion. We see tons of movies all the time that simply wish to make money and bore us with their product tie-ins in tow. But Cloud Atlas, thankfully, bucks that trend.
It is only fitting that a wonderful group of talented individuals congregated to make this film, beginning with the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer. Despite their two different viewpoints of filmmaking, combined to make a consistently beautiful piece of film that flows as perfectly as time itself. Never once did this film feel like a three-hour epic, much in the same way one can watch Magnolia and never feel like your time has been intruded upon. While the whole idea of connectivity beckons like any edict from a far eastern religion, it is done so in a way that allows us to see the obvious connections without noticing the lesser ones (staying for the credits certainly helped with that, though I wished they hadn't revealed those connections). Some might think the $100 million price tag is a bit much for a rather dangerous "art" film, I think the crew managed it quite well considering so many big movies need $150+ just to pay for the sound and visual effects. It comes as no surprise to me that X Filme was the primary production company, for the European filmmaking mindset (which isn't totally concerned with money) was far more suited for this production. I'm sure many will call it a failure due to the many years it will take to recoup the money, but sometimes, art needs to appreciate in order to make its money.
Cloud Atlas wasn't perfect, but the problems were purely nominal. I'm talking about the make-up, which was a no win situation from the beginning. You just can't make someone Caucasian look like a real Asian, and vice versa. I don't know, perhaps it would have been better to not change their appearance at all, possibly adding another layer of connectivity that is only obvious to the audience, a bit of dramatic irony so to speak. Either way, I was more than happy with the end product.
Oh the loathsome treachery of Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay....
I kept telling myself, that this is a bad franchise and my childhood was raped and corrupted by the evil fascists that are Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay. But like pretty light is to a moth, I felt compelled to watch and once again stumbled into my own fiery death.
Dark of the Moon is filled with so much lunacy and idiocy, the numbing effect of this movie has created a generation of stunted, mindless zombies that continue to flock to this detritus and fill the coffers of evil, vile men that were once artists and created movies one could enjoy and not have their intelligence completely insulted. Bay used to make decent action films, and even The Island asked some heady questions between the explosions and chases. Now he is just a parody, and bad one at that. Spielberg should be even more ashamed with himself. He is plopping three horrible films on the public this summer (Super 8, Dark of the Moon, and Cowboys and Aliens) that lack any sense, logic or even a script. We are culpable in turning once talented men into black hearted corporate barons. These people don't even have to try anymore and people throw money into their laps.
The movie itself is an insult to film making in general, utilizing a plot that completely disregards the other two movies. But due to the disposable nature of the franchise and each of its chapters, very few people will care or even notice. The idea of a 50-year plan to attack Earth is ambitious in its scope, but all of the plot holes and inconsistencies from the first two movies coupled with bad clichés and stereotypes leaves a more savvy film goer a bit disillusioned. It all comes back to the idea that the movie is about explosions and robots on robot violence. Why don't they just do that instead of waste our time for two and a half hours with nonsense they pass off as plot.
The acting was bad, the action was overblown, and the film was littered with stupidity and scientifically incorrect moments (like buildings falling over and Shia LeBeouf surviving a harrowing ship ride that crashed and rolled but he miraculously survived) as well as other moments. I could keep going, but I'm getting a headache trying to wrap my head around this movie.
I'm done with this franchise. Plain and simple. Enjoy if you like people...I'm moving on.
Taiyô no ko Esteban (1982)
An Adventure show well ahead of its time
Being a Nickelodeon child of the mid-eighties, The Mysterious Cities of Gold was quite the main stay for the four years it was on. I remember enjoying it due to the fact it was styled after the likes of Transformers, G.I. Joe, and a variety of other Japanese made cartoons that used the more realistic vision of the human characters.
But on the other hand, it was the story that really set this show apart. I guess you could say it was revolutionary, especially since it was one continuous story and didn't have any product tie- ins. Plus, it was so unique from a cultural aspect, portraying the jungles of South America and utilizing Inca legend as opposed to the more Euro-centric choices that dominated the mainstream. The ideas were quite incredible, from a solar powered ship to the Olmecs being some weird, alien-like race made for some interesting viewing. Plus, throw-in the darker aspects of the story (abandonment, father-son relations, greed vs. the right thing) and you have a relatively complex show that was supposedly aimed for kids.
It was too bad we never did see the adventures of the other cities of gold like the end of the cartoon alluded to, but at least we got 39 episodes to fully appreciate.
Southland Tales (2006)
This isn't an art or cult film, its just plain bad
Sorry, I couldn't pontificate enough about the mess that was Southland Tales. Sure, it was broad, intriguing and certainly strange enough to be a cult classic, but the whole idea of a cult classic is that it should have some semblance of being a good film.
Richard Kelly clearly made this movie for himself and for himself only. Sure, the movie cost very little to make, but I think most people would have put the money to better use. Its so self indulgent, so esoteric that the idea revolves in some alternate little world that only exists in Kelly's muddled mind. Where do you start?
Clearly, the whole alternate time line stuff did not fly with me. The primary idea of making a neo-futuristic movie is to put it in the future, not start it in the past. Its one thing to say that a nuclear war was started in Abilene, Texas, but it is another thing to say it started years before the suggested time line of the movie. Therein lies the first big problem with Southland Tales. There is no Urban Pacification Units, there is no USIdent and there is no weird scientist creating a new energy source to ween us off of oil. Now, if this movie was placed in the near future, like say seven or eight years from now, then the audience is instantly drawn into the fantasy and the impact of the images. Instead, the audience is lost and they know they are watching a movie.
Which leads to the casting of this farce. Could Kelly have gotten any more power mad from his past Donnie Darko success? The Rock? Sarah Michelle Gellar? Multiple Cast-offs from Saturday Night Live? More than half the cast was miscast in this film, especially Justin Timberlake and Many Moore. Why didn't Kelly realize this? Did he want to see John Larroqeutte and Kevin Smith in the same room just for the heck of it? What the hell was he thinking!
We move onto the directing. Everyone is forcing their lines out, like they have idea what's going on because the director is too busy counting his royalty cash from Donnie Darko. Kelly wrote some graphic novels to help supplement his main story, and the acting tin the film seems to mimic that of comic book acting. The weird expressions, the over the top facial ticks and the turn in characters that seem to sudden. This is a movie, not a comic book. Just because The Rock can stare off into the distance and squint really well, doesn't mean that is acting.
I could keep going? Like what the hell was the random Killers' video in the movie? Or why was Wallace Shawn the so-called creator of the new power source but Curtis Armstrong seemed to be more knowledgeable of it? And did we really need the stupid line "Pimps don't commit suicide."
To the haters out there, yes, I did understand the story. I got the whole Messianic connection of Roland Taverner and how the corruption of God and religion could lead to the eventual apocalypse, but do we really need these story archetypes. Kelly should have just stripped this sucker down and concentrate on making a movie rather than making some crappy student film.
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Oldschool Coens at their best
After some real clunkers (Intolerable Creulty, The Ladykillers and that bad Superbowl ad), it looked like the Coens might slip into the subconscious of Americana. But they came back with a vengeance in No Country For Old Men. Tapping into their earlier, much darker work like Blood Simple, Fargo and Barton Fink, they once again crated a work that will nicely compliment body of work.
The truly brilliant detail in NCFOM was the story the Coens didn't tell. Sure, we are engrossed in a cat and mouse game between a simpleton and a cold-blooded sociopath, but it is the other little details that allows you to create your own conclusions about the characters and the story. Why does it seem that everyone is constantly running from the past? Why is Anton Chigurh such an introvert? And why did Llewellyn Moss give up his simple life so easily to essentially become a bum? These are all questions that are not asked but are created when watching this movie.
I especially like the fact that all of the characters back story was reveled more in their voices and dialogue rather than being explored through contemplation and back story. One example is Tommy Lee Jones, who's character is so devoid of strength and conviction that the horrors of the real world seem to shake him to his foundation. His retirement at the end only prove that he didn't have what it takes to take someone down like Chigurgh. This is where I believe the title's significance comes into play. His character, due to his gage, was no match for a man that was far more prepared than he.
But the most amazing aspect of the film was the Coen Bros. belief in leaving a lot of the story up to the viewer. In the end, the overall lesson is that money will corrupt any situation, much like the little boys at the end fighting over a bloody 100 dollar bill. This film is truly a revelation, and second only to There Will Be Blood as the best of 2007.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
A grand old Epic with modern touches
Call it socialist, anti-religion, anti-capitalist----whatever. There Will Be Blood is truly the best movie to come out in a long time. Its a rarity to see a film take a huge leap with such a stunning indictment on not one, but two relevant institutions in current society. And it is done so in a solid and deliberate manner which fully illustrates the madness that is created by hate and greed.
There Will Be Blood hardly pulls any punches. Greed consumes all. The hopeful heart is easily manipulated. The quest for pomposity blackens the heart. Family is only relevant in comparison to the mighty dollar. There are all lessons that humanity must battle everyday, and Paul Thomas Anderson throws all of these struggles onto the shoulders of two men, Daniel Plainview and Eli Sunday. Both are manipulative, both talk of grander, more majestic worlds that stir the imagination, and both would seek untold riches at any cost. Its an interesting battle that the pair have for much of the film, fighting to gain a leg up on each other but also playing with the hearts and minds of those they directly affect. Some might call this a direct attack on the oil industry and Evangelical Christians, but the movie merely depicts both areas for what they truly---corruptible, just like everything else. Its a relatively fair statement, considering both Palinview and Sunday are much different and far more idealistic in their earlier depictions in the film.
Anderson's visual work was also quite astonishing, making the bleak landscapes a character unto themselves. He also made the movie work with a relatively unknown cast of actors, which gave the film so much more depth in its characters because you could believe them. Paul Dano's whiny Eli Sunday was a perfect juxtaposition to Daniel Day Lewis' Daniel Plainview. One uses his anger and hatred for power while the other uses manipulation and ignorance. And the even more interesting thing is that both statements could apply to either character.
There Will Be Blood is easily the best movie of 2007, much less of any decade. Go and watch it.
A Different kind of monster movie not created by idiots
The Host by now means is an exceptional movie. For the most part, it follows a lot of the same devices that have made bad American films (Primeval for example) such unwatchable tripe. But at least with this film, it takes on a few different conventions that allow us to enjoy the film.
While the back story on the beast is a little ludicrous, we at least get to see what it looks like almost immediately. While an American version would certainly drag this type of imagery out, we get to see what the beast is quite early and quite often. From the first scene to the last, it is a pretty believably scary monster. Throw in the fact that this movie isn't sanitized for stupid teeny- boppers with its R rating, we get to see some true guts and blood.
A couple elements in the middle of the movie did drag on for a bit too long, but at least this type of scenes weren't used to build unnecessary build-up in the first half. I think a 7/10 is a good fit for this movie.
Decent, but weighed down by a sloppy script and humans
We all knew the Transformers would be well made, well crafted creatures due to the utter genius that is Industrial Light and Maghic. But its too bad the human element was what bogged this movie down.
Sure, we'll watch the movie, but there was just too much exposition and for us impatient, Ritalin-riddled miscreants of the world, it was excruciating. First of all, the script was pretty lousy. Now I know the guy who wrote this film supposedly wrote X-Men, but lets face it, that was a good seven years ago. There were plenty of things that could have been chopped out of this film. Now I understand the producers wanted to get a little titillation with Raechel Taylor and Megan Fox, but they were both dead weights to the movie and the movement. Without those two, we could get rid of Anthony Anderson, another waste of words, and maybe even expand Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson's roles. Either way, the female element in the film was completely useless. Let's face it, guys watched this cartoon growing up, and we want action, violence and lots of transforming. Who fricking cares if Shia LeBouf's character gets some action. Its completely irrelevant. It would have also been nice to see some conflict between Megatron and Starscream.
The only other thing I didn't like was the awful soundtrack. The strings portion of the film was pretty substandard, borrowing the most generic themes one could possibly imagine. Then there is the random songs and generic heavy metal they try to slip in. It was like the people who mixed the film took a lesson from the dopes that mixed Daredevil, which had an equally awful mixture of CD sales-friendly mixing.
But I digress. For those that had doubts about the transforming, it was put to rest rather quickly. Dazzling to say the least, it was as realistic as one could have hoped for, making the transformations rather cool. ILM must have put their best and brightest on this movie, because it certainly shows. This brilliance alone made up for the bad exposition and substandard characters.
I gave this film a "7" simply because it was entertaining, but they are gonna have to tighten up the screws for future sequels. People won't put up with unnecessary characters and bad music for very long.