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A somewhat over-hyped horror flick
Bought the bluray of REC after reading so many glowing reviews. I must say i was underwhelmed when all was said and done.
at about 75 minutes, REC doesn't over stay its welcome, however its only the final quarter of the movie that really delivers the scares (fairly meagre scares at that).
The movie is filled with many plot holes. the main one being: there are a group of tenants who inhabit a building and one by one they all get infected with a mysterious disease and die/get killed off. a few of these tenants who appear prominently earlier in the film are simply forgotten by the end of the film as if they never existed. this is lazy writing. And the explanation for this chaos is frankly dumb. a priest researching a girl with a disease finds its highly contagious, so instead of killing her or at least telling the authorities, just locks her in the attic and hopes everything will work out somehow. right...and the condition itself is inconsistent, example: the cop/fireman who are infected take about 30 minutes to become psycho, whereas the little girl Jennifer appears to have been infected for days before she turns. once again lazy writing. and its never explained how the first older lady gets infected or even Max the dog. lazy writing annoys me greatly. its obvious the film makers were more concerned with those big "fright" moments than a cohesive story.
Too much shaky cam (a cheap way of creating tension and chaos i.e. excitement) is utilised, which is a pet peeve of mine, however i understand from a narrative POV this is necessary. It does tend to stretch believability though that Pablo (the cameraman who is never seen on camera) is much more concerned with capturing all this on camera than helping others or worrying about his own wellbeing. the characters all act crazy as well, there isn't one level headed person in the group, which basically means everyone just shouts and screams at each other.
For all the many faults of the film, it does deliver scares pretty effectively, especially with the climactic Silence of the Lambs homage. All in all, its a very decent horror film, albeit a very unoriginal one with some gaping plot holes and inconsistencies. i picked it up on bluray for a tenner, so I'm not regretting the purchase, but a 7/10 is the best i could rate it. Not a classic but very good.
a beautiful little film
happened to catch this little gem of a film one Sunday arvo whilst flicking channels (dont you love when that happens?!). i was immediately struck by the beautiful camerwork, the soft lighting that really captured the delicate aspect of their surroundings. a young girl and her father and their caravan, living out in a deserted forest wilderness, sharing what i assume are the last days of the father's life. the forest is green and lush; soft, delicate, still and quiet. its such a beautiful setting. without giving away too much, the climax of the film is a singular beautiful, haunting image; a moment shared between father and daughter. a gift given from daughter to father, a gift of labour and love. it inspired me and moved me. i urge you to seek this film out.
The Elephant Man (1980)
Exquisitely crafted, but emotionally simplistic.
I loved the cinematography of this film, the lighting and the stark, crisp black and white image seemed apt for the environment; the dark cold streets of the 1880's East End, streets filled with the unfortunate, the dirty, the poor. In fact, Jack the Ripper was plying his trade at the same time John Merrick was being subjected to horrified stares from folk as the Elephant Man. the cinematography by Freddie Francis was truly the hero of the film for me.
The acting as well, was of a very high caliber. of course with acting royalty on screen, your always going to get great performances. Gielgud, Hopkins, Hurt, and Bancroft all give wonderful performances. Gielgud, so measured and precise in his delivery of every syllable, Hopkins too, reflect the upper class doctor of the time. Bancroft, is just luminescent in her genuine desire to accept john as her friend. Hurt is very good as well, many may argue but i feel this is not his greatest acting role by any means though. he stammers platitudes "ohhh, that is wonderful, beautiful, lovely" etc etc. it is a very one dimensional performance. the grotesque makeup masks this lack of diversity in his acting to a great extent i feel.
The emotional simplicity of the film is its major downfall in my opinion. it feels as emotionally manipulative as a Disney film at times, with its very black and white depiction of Merricks existence. he is treated as animal, then he is treated as an honored guest, everybody treating him as a child almost in their fawning over him. every new experience is met with Merrick's stammered breathless replies "oh how wonderful, how lovely, how beautiful". there are about 10 scenes with this scenario. Merrick getting a standing ovation by the crowd of upper crust theatre-goers, whilst he sheds a tear (for what reason, for the simple fact he is deformed?) is about as emotionally manipulative as it gets. i can say i was moved, but i felt manipulated afterwards by this feel-good moment.
this does put a damper on what is otherwise an exquisitely crafted film. visuals and performances are wonderful, but the actual story and its simplistic portrayal of Merrick's emotional state mean its not a film i will be re-watching many times in the future. a very good film, but with its faults not a great one in my opinion. 7/10.
The Fighter (2010)
A remarkably un-memorable boxing flick.
This is a surprisingly safe film for a film maker like DOR to make, and as a result of its cliché conventions, it feels like it's trying to get Oscars, rather than trying to tell this story of this family skilfully. to put it simply, its a comeback film like 'the wrestler', yet told with little of that film's subtlety, or its pathos. you get the feel good story, with some obstacles to overcome along the way. THAT'S IT.
performances are mixed. Leo is very good as the overbearing matriarch (whether its Oscar worthy is another thing), and Bales is also very good as Dicky. wahlberg on the other hand, is stoic and impotent. he drifts through each scene without owning them. I've never been a huge fan of his acting, and this confirms my lack of admiration. its like he worked more on his six pack for the role than his acting. Adams as his girlfriend is also below her best, and i am a fan of her work. but here she plays a stereotypical boston girl, full of confidence and fire, but it feels like a caricature of nearly every other bawston female we've seen in recent years.
the script really plays it safe and there is never too many surprises in the plot's development. the family drifts apart, then dicky gets clean in jail, comes back to do right with his life, mom is forgiven, everyone is happy and friendly, and in an inspiring climax mick wins the world title, in a fight that is on par with rocky for its fight choreography. for gods sake there's even a training montage with an 80's rock number playing ala rocky. whether this is meant to be ironic or not i dunno.
Going from I Heart Huckabees, an abstract, existential comedy, which was obviously not meant to reach a wide audience, to a formulaic rags to riches boxing flick which plays like its counting its Oscar noms by the minute, is just mind boggling. 3 kings displayed the talent which russell so obviously has, but his last 2 flicks have quickly buried that promise.
a great, if overrated movie. Portman is fantastic.
Leon is a great action movie, that much is unarguable. the action set pieces are handled with great aplomb by Luc Besson, who certainly has shown with previous films that he can create a beautiful film visually, especially with action scenes. And yet Leon is also a great coming of age tale, with Natalie Portman putting in a great performance in a difficult role that would be above the ability of many young actresses.
As much as i really like Jean Reno, he is not a nuanced actor. he is likable, charming in a dumb sort of way, but subtlety isn't his forte. good thing Leon is required to speak little, and basically maintain a gruff exterior and stoic facial expression the entirety of the movie...seriously, his beloved pot plant is more expressive (ok thats a tad harsh, i know). it seems besson tried to inject some quirkiness into the character (his best friend is a pot plant, he seems to exist purely on a diet of milk, he likes gene kelly etc) in order to make him more interesting an unique, but these traits seemed tacked on.
Then we go to the other end of the spectrum with Gary oldman's performance....haha, i mean WOW....great actor and I'm a fan of his overall body of work, but he so completely overacts and chews up the scenery every time he's on screen, it severely dampens my enthusiasm for the movie. every bit of body language, every word that he screeches, just sets my teeth on edge. just taking a pill (supposedly to curb his psychotic tendencies? hmm, maybe up the dosage...) involves shaking the little capsule tin up to his ear (???) then swallowing the pill, and having a full body convulsion, neck twisting while he groans loudly...i mean, a simple bodily function turns into a grand opera in oldman's hands, its ridiculous.
This ridiculousness in the acting also extends to the story, which in some moments just made me shake my head in disbelief. the climactic action scene, where it must be close to 100 swat team are trying to storm an apartment to kill one man, (oh, and using rocket launchers for gods sake) is so over the top it robs the scene of any true tension, as its all so unrealistic. there are a multitude of such stupid, unrealistic moments that i could list at least another 10 without thinking about it. anyway, the movie has some serious flaws, i think I've made that pretty clear by now.
But the Pro's do outweigh the Con's. as mentioned before Portman made the world sit up and take notice with her performance here.Between Reno's stonefaced acting, and Oldman's histrionics, sits a balanced, mature depiction of a girl on the cusp of puberty. Portman is magnetic and you cant help but fall in love with her like Leon does. So where do i sit with the whole age gap thing? to be honest its never really bothered me, bloody oldmans acting and the stories ridiculousness have always been my gripes with the movie. Portman and Reno certainly have a chemistry that works on screen, their scenes together are among the best, as their relationship grows from a father/daughter relationship to something deeper.
And as mentioned before, Besson is a brilliant visual artist, no denying that. for all the weakness of the story, the visual beauty carries the film for all its 2+ hr length. Its just a shame that the films acting and plot leave me almost laughing in disbelief at its ridiculousness. Nevertheless, id give it a 7 out of 10, as its entertaining and re-watchable.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
The magnificent basterds
QT is a unique director, and you just know that whatever subject matter or cinematic genre he tackles, it is going to be unique within that genre. This especially true of Inglourious Basterds. QT has crafted a wonderfully entertaining tale that doesn't seek to aim for historical accuracy, or even political correctness for that matter. But my lord is it gripping, entertaining, and plain fun. the characters do however display a mercilessness and ruthlessness; a real brutality that can be off putting, yet this is just a personal issue i had with the film.
The opening scene is a great example of the feeling, the atmosphere, and the suspense that will pervade the film for all of its 2 and a half hour running time (which incidentally, as the great films do, makes that time fly by). We meet a pivotal figure, Hans Landa, an SS super sleuth who is one of the most menacing, yet at the same time most cordial and charismatic interrogaters the screen has ever seen. his conversation with a french farmer who is hiding a Jewish family under his house, is amazing. the two men exchange pleasantries and meaningless banalities, all the while both know exactly what the other is thinking. you can see LaPadite thinking frantically, how firstly he can hide the jews, and also how he can protect his family. when it become apparent that Landa already knows every detail of his hiding, he wilts and gives up the jews in exchange for his families safety. One family member does escape however, the beautiful Shosanna, played by Melanie Laurent, who will get her revenge ultimately, but at a high price.
You could talk for hours about the first scene in the movie, such is the mastery with which its handle by QT, and such is the movie as a whole, with many memorable, and especially suspenseful scenes that would be the envy of Hitchcock. The bar scene in which Bridget von Hammersmark (played by the gorgeous Dianne Kruger) and a few nazi double agents are under suspicion by a shrewd gestapo officer is another incredibly well crafted, suspenseful scene. Once again, as he has made his trademark throughout his career, Tarantino provides great dialogue with which to ramp up the tension little by little until it reaches a boiling point. Scene by scene, the care and craft that have gone into the movie's structure elevate it above the dreck that pervades contemporary American cinema.
A small element within the film that made me uncomfortable was the ruthlessness and cruelty of the films characters, especially the Basterds. they're supposed to be the heroes of the film, yet they cruelly kill and maim their nazi foes, and show no honour nor any mercy. Eli Roth has a few brief scenes, and true to form, all his scenes revolve around gratuitous violence, whether it be bashing a nazi soldiers head in with a baseball bat, or mowing down a room full of nazi moviegoers in machine gun fire. Not to mention the role of aldo rayne was so completely overacted by Brad Pitt, his portrayal of Rayne showed the character as a slightly retarded, bloodthirsty redneck, with one of the worst southern accents I've had the displeasure of hearing. and also the backstory of Stiglitz wasn't adequately explained - a nazi officer who for some reason decided to go a homicidal rampage and start killing every gestapo officer he could find? no explanation was given for his motive and i found this really bugged me. and the other 5 or so basterds were given no story nor any screen time, so they were essentially props. So in short, as you can see, the basterds were the weak link of the movie in my opinion.
But overall, this is but a small part of an otherwise excellent production. The exquisite acting of Kruger, Laurent, Waltz, Bruhl, and most of the European cast was a joy to behold, and i was once again enamored with Tarantino's unique directorial vision. Huge recommendation from me, QT has done it again.
Shi di chu ma (1980)
One of Jackie's earlier classics - a must watch!!!
Young Master was JC's first directorial effort and it is definitely a classic amongst his films from his golden age. Full of action (and incredibly impressive action for its time) and great comedic scenes, it's not laden down with too much unnecessary filler; the drama is kept to a minimum and there's no token romance. JC just looks in his prime, an astonishing physical specimen, and his fight/stunt work puts this to great display.
As with most classic kung fu cinema, there is a grand finale fight with the main baddie, and young master certainly doesn't disappoint on this aspect...in fact it could arguably be called the best climactic fight in all of HK cinema! The master hapkido kicker Wong In-Sik is more than a match for Jackie's skills, and thus ensues an epic fight that approaches 20 minutes.
Whilst not JC's best film in my opinion, it is certainly in his top 10 and will always be a pleasure to re-visit on multiple viewings.
Noise, destruction and nonsense. Bay strikes again.
I honestly went into this movie expecting to be entertained. i thought that would be a reasonable expectation. i wasn't expecting to be moved, i wasn't expecting to be stimulated intellectually, i didn't expect the movie to stay with me for days after seeing it...but congratulations are in order for the Bay-Meister couldn't even keep me interested in the action scenes.
So lets get the positives out of the way first. the movie IS stunning to look at, every frame is polished to a chromed shine. CGI is wonderful, and the robots are pretty cool in their design. so that element of the film gets a 3 out of 10.
oh boy, now the negatives. lets start with the humans. Shia: i don't know if his "jumpy geeky nervousness" is supposed to be endearing but i just found it very annoying. Megan brings nothing more to the film than eye candy (although that is some DAMN tasty candy). john turturro, one of my favorite actors, reduced to hamming it up so awfully i expected him to blurt out 'bud-eep bud-eep, thats all folks" at the end. john voight, ah how the mighty joe buck has fallen, just a run of the mill 'government-guy' performance. the rest of the actors, milquetoast would be a compliment to their performances. some roles are just so perfunctory and purposeless(the worlds greatest hacker happens to be a smoking hot little blonde Aussie chick. yuh-huh. and her role brings nothing to the film except to develop the very bare bones story, which is so riddled with plot holes and nonsense i could do a thesis on it). the transformers: not much personality is injected into these cgi creations, other than some woeful and weird stereotypes (jazz, although hailing from another planet is now acting like a Harlem pimp. riiiiiiight).
so the humans and robots acting is atrocious. and the fact that the dialogue given is just so cliché-riddled and uninspiring sure doesn't help either. i cant decide whats more tiring to sit through with this film...the horrible acting and dialogue and story or the action scenes. so lets move onto the action anyway, which is just sound and fury, a mess of flashing images of destruction and cacophonous sound that leave everyone but the 12-18 yr old male demographic numb. Bay cant do an action scene. he specializes in them, yet this doesn't mean he is competent at doing them. a well staged action scene is not shaky cameras, quick cuts, deafening noise and wanton destruction. but this is the calling card of transformers...the worst thing is that when the robots do fight, most of them look relatively similar, so when they do collide, its just a big ball of machinery rolling around. and that fight in the city at the end, the film really seems to gloss over the fact that half the god damn city is destroyed, buildings demolished, hundreds of cars thrown about like marbles...how many thousand people would have perished amidst all this carnage??? just glossed over like its completely irrelevant, as long as megatron was destroyed everything else is inconsequential....
OK, I've wasted enough time writing about this film, its a complete load of tripe that ill forget about in 30 minutes from now. its just so frustrating that in this day and age we are privileged to experience great character driven action movies (Iron man, The Dark Knight etc) we still get Michael Bay's crap-tacular Transformers.
Le samouraï (1967)
Hugely influential, and a lot deeper than at first glance.
Jef Costello (the cold emotionless killer played by the impossibly suave Alain Delon) is a character who has spawned countless imitators. The killer with a heart of gold has been portrayed since Le Samourai in many different films, yet none have managed to match Delon's cold, detached performance.
The opening scene in particular gives a palpable feel of how empty, how cold, and how lonely Jef's life is. He lies on a bed in near darkness and smokes a cigarette in a bleak looking apartment. the only movement in the scene is the plumes of smoke rising from the cigarette, and the only sounds are the cars outside, driving down the rain-soaked streets of Paris. Its such an effective scene, and in true Melville style, he is able to convey such feeling by using a minimalist approach.
The movie continues on its way, with a narrative that is surely familiar to most cinephiles by now; killer for hire does a job and is double crossed by those who hired him. Naturally, he seeks revenge. Jef must also contend with a tenacious policeman who despite Jef's carefully crafted airtight alibi, instinctively knows he's the killer, and will follow him like a hawk hunting its prey. This leads to a wonderfully structured scene where Jef tries to lose various policemen and women through the Paris metro subway through various clever means.
One of the most impressive aspects of Melville's film is how he is able to unfold a fairly complex plot despite the lack of dialogue and how he is able to keep the viewer mesmerised despite the lack of action. And also credit must go to Delon who despite being almost robotic in his performance, never fails to be less than captivating.
The look of the film is another huge element of its feel. the drab colour palette used is effective, the various shades of grey, black white, and the generally dim lighting and bleak weather, really reflect the loneliness and isolation of Jef, and almost seems to signify his inevitable path to death (which Jef seems fully aware of too).
Its a truly individual film in its style and one that i cant wait to rewatch many times over the years.
Office Space (1999)
One of my all time fave comedies, endlessly rewatchable!
A movie that snuck up on me, Office Space is one of those films i saw for the first time and went 'meh'. It was OK, but i had heard this film had such a devoted following, i was expecting big things. But over the years i have for whatever reason wanted to come back time and time again and revisit it. its one of the very few movies that after about 10-15 viewings just does not get stale or boring. its not laugh out loud funny, but its situations are captured with such an observant eye, you cant help but identify with the characters and smile in acknowledgment as you recognize a similar situation in your own workplace.
I think Office Space is a great comedy because it has these moments of true honesty and real life situations that ring true, mixed with outlandish fantasy scenes. destroying the copier is a perfect example; we all would love to do it to that irritating piece of crap machine at work that never co-operates, but unlike the movie, we cannot. but in office space we are able to live out these outlandish fantasies: destroying office equipment, sticking it to your annoying boss, ripping the company off. its a cathartic experience and i think a huge part of why many, including myself, find it such an enjoyable experience to re-visit time and time again.
But this is only one of many reasons this movie is so beloved, it has quotable lines and really likable characters too.
I give it 9/10.