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Comprehensive look at a specific case
This is a 98 minute long documentary that is directed by John Kastner, produced by the National Film Board of Canada. The film explores the issue of mental illness in relation to the criminal act committed by Sean Clifton. It explores the violent altercation that included him stabbing a woman multiple times at a Wal-Mart. The film explores the basic criminal process that occurred that led to Clifton being declared not criminally responsible, being sent to a mental hospital and dealing with his life after that.
In exploring this story, it is important to note that only Sean and his roommates stories are focused on. While it is necessary to note that this is a film about mentally ill individuals, it should not be considered to encompass all forms of mental illness nor all all individuals.
Having just watched the film, it is important to identify that the story is written to be heartwarming, in that it follows Sean's rehabilitation and reintegration and how mental illness for him is controllable. The insertion of comedic lines by the various individuals in the film allow for some relief from the truly horrific actions that did occur. The victim, and her family represent the opposing view. It is plain to see that they are still affected by the violence that occurred, as they should be, and because of this they present an alternate view to the filmmaker's and Sean and the hospital staff.
The differing viewpoints and the chronological story telling allow for a deeper look at the impact that mental illness can have on an individual, allowing them to be overtaken by "another" force that they cannot control.
It seems to detract from the current Canadian governments ideas surrounding mental health, which are incarceration rather than rehabilitation, and decreased funding for mental health asylums. This documentary does not explore the deeper social issues that are simply mentioned (his failure with women, homeless with mental health issues benefiting from entering the criminal system).
On the whole, it was definitely watchable, with adequate intellectual stimulation and entertainment that has a message that it aims to present, and would definitely be worth a watch if you have any interest in the criminalization of the mentally ill or rehabilitative practises.
Welcome to the Jungle (2013)
Few hilarious scenes; nothing great
Welcome to the Jungle is a story that tries to entertain the viewer with some hilarious comedy scenes; especially involving Jean-Claude Van Damme. The interpersonal relationship between the various actors was not interesting, and the simplicity of the shift from rational to "primitive" was hardly aptly presented or explained. Overall the acting was below par, without any attempt at building a serious character (again with JCVD being the exception).
The plot is a group are sent on a retreat to learn team skills. After a few incidents, they are trapped on the island. The island splits into two factions and the main character learns how to stand up for himself.
The movie plays into typical alpha-male scenarios with little to nothing to offer, and the consistent rape jokes are tasteless, while providing little except to re-enforce the alpha-male stereotype with the subversive male having to defeat him in order to get his "prize".
The music and imagery in the movie are well done, and do set the mood for the various scenes, regardless of how the acting was.The simplicity of the plot wouldn't have garnered a watch in most cases, but there are a few scenes with JCVD that are hilarious. If you can watch them separately, skip this movie. Due to the few entertaining scenes and well produced audio/video, I would rate this a 4; otherwise I wouldn't bother even raising it over a 2.
There might be some people who like it, but it was not appealing to me.
Nothing Special but watchable
The story features a multifaceted take on an interesting topic. It takes into account the variety of masculinities, racial divides and gender divides and while at times it can be a bit questionable, overall the short features well. The various roles are filled in well, and it does have some cool music that doesn't take away from the scenes. Without being familiar with Australian culture and only having seen a few films, it is hard to comment on the intentionality of the depth in the story; the racial, sexual and gendered characteristics - well thought out and well played through the short. The ending definitely was something that is common, but the longing for the gold while finding that the true prize is somewhere else was exemplified in a perfectly apt way. Would recommend to anyone who has 15 minutes, it doesn't wow but does it intends to. 6-7/10
Awesome film that actually tries to move past simplicity
The film is definitely interesting for individuals looking to watch something that is new, a little different that has no preachy typical message. The Acting: The various roles are a diverse concoction, but are necessary to build the storyline. The characters are typical to many films, "hearthrob, hot chick, nerd" that fulfill the regular roles. There is no expectation for them to create non-stereotypical characters, but Jon Gries was an hilarious addition to the main two actors. Cameron Fife and Tyler McGee are an interesting duo that have juxtaposing character traits, but have developed a relationship based on this. The complexity of the cast with the exception of the lead female actor (Bowden). The continually surprised/confused looking lead actress was the only downside to the acting, with the rest of the characters developing a meaningful story that is sprinkled in with some witty humor and banter. 7/10
The Plot: There isn't a way to capture the plot in one sentence. Two actors/writers are struggling, have emotional "issues", have a decision whether to keep their integrity or sell-out. This left me a little underwhelmed as the ending did not adequately capture the consequences that the main characters face/would face based on their decision. There is also another plot that deals with Bowden,Fife and McGee that has various twists and turns and holds its own, raising moral issues with the actions but also asks you to think about what you would do in the situation. 9/10
The music/video: Overall the music is minimal, as the story doesn't require too much. That being said, the piano provides a mood setting piece, as well as helping to create and develop a mood as well as furthering the story: 7/10
Conclusion: The budget was really low, the effects were minimal but the writing and the majority of the acting make the film a definite watch for something interesting that might not get adequate coverage, but does what it sets out to do.
Overall: Between 7-8/10 because it is an interesting, fun film to see. Check it out if you have the time.
All Is Bright (2013)
All is Bright (2013) doesn't really appear to stand out as a great movie in any sense. It has a simple storyline, that is more obscure, but, still has a lot of randomness and boring conclusions.
The acting, especially the main characters (Rudd and Giamatti) were decent. They play ex-thieves who go to New York to sell Christmas trees. The supporting cast (Hawkins and Landecker) were good, and their characters play symbolic roles, and this can be seen in the different ways they behave toward Dennis (Giamatti).
The audio was rather apt, with a variety of piano solo's to indicate the mood, with overlaying images to reinforce said mood. The overall imagery was a bit lacking, but did it's part in trying to arouse sympathy for the main characters.
So far, these were the enjoyable parts of the film. The downside for me was... the plot, the weak connections drawn, the lack of explanation for certain tasks throughout the film, and the simple conclusion at the end. The symbolism of the various characters and of the objects (piano, ringtone) show an attempt at trying to build a deeper film, but sadly did not achieve what I was hoping it would. I wouldn't say the film is disappointing, but it doesn't have anything to make it stand out, very similar to Prince Avalanche (starring Rudd). 6/10, as it could've been something much better, had there been a deeper storyline developed, as well as adequate attention paid to detail.
Leave Me (2009)
Disjointed but Gets the Message Across
This short definitely tries to capture the pain in loss. It explores the life of a widower who tries to forget his partner, but is transported into her "broken" camera; where he experiences her pictures as reality.
The length of the film allows it to develop a concise beginning, middle and end. On the other hand, the randomness of how the camera works affected my viewing of the film, as well as the random scenes that are captured, that especially differ from what Jack believes is in the camera.
The images and the sound are beautifully done, and compliment the simplicity of the plot. The acting by Ryan Dunlap, and Mark Gullickson do not completely capture any sense of amazement in the fantastical world, but rather seem almost instantly accepting of it.
The ending is perfect for any viewers who want to get lost in the past, but can also be used to understand how sever depression results after the passing of a spouse or close family member.
Overall, it is a 7/10, because there are some flaws. On the other hand it is only 4-5 minutes, so it is worth a watch, but don't expect too much out of it.
The Conspiracy (2012)
I just came upon this movie, and having liked the poster decided to give it a watch, though I was skeptical of the "Tie Camera" and other first person camera usages. Going into the movie, having done no research on the story or anything related, I wasn't expecting such an entertaining film. After the movie, I am still pretty confused about the distinction between the reality and the fiction that the film presents (not reading any reviews or interviews).
Plot - The film starts of as two guys making a documentary on the life of a conspiracy theorist (Terrence). One of the guys (Erin) gets attached to (Terrence's arguments) and seeks to continue his research. It leads him to a secret society, where the goal is to understand it's history, as well as their rituals and membership. The two guys differ in their thought processes about conspiracy theorists, which actually makes the film much more appreciable. There isn't one side putting down the other, and tries to deconstruct the "life of a conspiracy theorist". Without ruining the film, suffice to say, the film picks up with various twists and turns towards the end that are well worth the wait in this 84 minute flick.
Acting - I found the acting to be quite cold at times though Alan Peterson (Terrance) was amazing, while the main characters juxtaposition allowed for a smooth flow in the story to develop that did help to take away some of the focus from their acting abilities (which were okay, but lacking at times). The various supporting roles didn't encroach with anything interesting, and added little to the film. Sound - The music through the first half of the film was nicely produced and played well, but towards the end, it got extremely harsh and it worked with the movie, but could definitely have been more audience-friendly.
Camera Work - I did not enjoy the first person scenes towards the end of the film, but using the camera's as flashbacks and to record the recordings were definitely well done and well thought out. It is simply a matter of preference to which I dislike the shakiness, whereas other people do enjoy it. Miscellaneous - Overall the story was definitely interesting, and tried to present a variety of views, and the numerous twists, especially the ending are open to interpretation because of their ambiguity, and lead the user to question the intent. We never find out the result of the scene at the end, and the roles of various people are revealed, which draw the user to question: Who made this film, and for what purpose?
I definitely enjoyed this film, and I think it is because I went in with no expectations, and the movie didn't try to tell me a story, but gave me a chance to think about it, and develop my own interpretation, something lacking in spectacle movies. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys Thriller (light horror) movies, that keep you in suspense and actually don't preach to you (on one side or the other). 8/10.
Confusing and disjointed
I watched this movie without reading any reviews for it, thankfully, as most are really harsh, most rating it as a 1. The images and camera shots are amazing and definitely made the movie more enjoyable than the plot, as well as the end credit images were superb. The plot is interesting, though not properly explained at points, as well as not addressing some key issues throughout the movie. Without Wesley Snipes, this movie would have been worse, and that's saying something. The camera kept focusing on him when he makes one word/sentence responses for way too long. The supporting cast were not written in well, and at times seemed out of place, appearing at random moments without any cause.
The action scenes are good, though the close ups can be disjointing for the viewer during fast paced scenes. The flashback scenes helped to reveal the plot throughout the movie, but, the randomness of scenes and the transitional points were just irritating.
The budget was about 17 million, so they might make it back, but this movie is only for those who can sit through 90 minutes of confusing scenes with little actual thought. I would rate it a 5 because I did enjoy it. The racial and gender presentations were a bit questionable and does try to identify their key audience pretty well (however narrow it will be). To anyone planning on watching it, skip it, unless you're looking for basic action and a basic storyline.
Black & White & Sex (2012)
Well Intended, and extremely limited in scope
This movies does what it intends to do. "Angie is determined to set the record straight about sex" is in the storyline, and she (in the plural sense) does. Multiple versions of Angie allow for a wider look at the similarities within sex workers, though only can be connected to those who freely enter the trade, do not face violence, police corruption etc.
The film is written and directed by John Winter who wants the male viewer to see the film as more than simply sexual, but it is hard to do so. The male gaze is amplified with Matthew Holmes (the interviewer), who essentially explores his own prior relationships through relating to various prostitutes.
Overall, the film doesn't explore more than a simplistic look between money, sex and emotions. It tries to explicitly imply the power that sex has on people, and the reversal of roles in the film helps to dictate this well. There are a few character developing moments in the movie, but overall it does not "set the record straight on sex". In a way it tries to universalize emotion by having the multiple Angie's, and generalizes all males in the same way.
The emotional connection with the audience is built through a physical one, rather than anything else, as vulnerability is seen throughout the film, but is not explained as anything outside of the physical, with little importance paid to power and dominance.
I would rate this film a 5/10 while the ratings might range from 3-8 depending on personal tastes. The film doesn't seem to have much of a budget, and didn't need it. The transitions were good and provided the meaning intended. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone, and that might explain the low feedback for this movie. It is dealing with a taboo subject, but it deals with it superficially, and therefore there is but a few statements that can be taken away (if you have no knowledge on the subject), but otherwise it isn't worth watching.
Rock Jocks (2012)
This movie is intended for a male audience, preferably between the ages of 14-30. The humor isn't great, but definitely funny if you like "immature" humor. The only female character is played by Felicia Day (Alison), who does have a minor impact on the story, but is not properly utilized intellectually, as is the case in many Sci-Fi, Comedy movies.
Gerry Bednob, Andrew Bowen, Justin Chon and Kevin Wu help to develop the distinct characters needed for a misfit group. The acting itself is good, but hilarious writing helps to fuel this movie.
While the premise of impending doom, small group having to save the planet, "The Man" always trying to make the job harder, and the deadbeat dad role are not original, they are developed and help to conduct the story in an interesting way.
Doug Jones as Smoking Jesus, with continual exclamations of "Jesus" is definitely an upside, as well as quoting numerous movies throughout the movie.
Hopefully a deeper look at the characters and speeches throughout the movie will prompt similar movies, because there are pretty well thought out speeches made by the characters in the film.
The story itself is interesting to follow, peppered in with character conflicts that makes this an interesting movie, well worth a 85-91 minute viewing. Many people will not relate to it, and that's more than fair, but if you enjoy simplistic humor, good/great acting as well as some quality background imagery (scenes with Smoking Jesus), this might be worth a look.
Without spoiling the movie, it is hard to develop a full review, but a fair rating for this movie is 6/10, with a wide range of ratings expected between 1-10 because there will be people to whom this movie does not appeal at all, or to the target audience which it might. There are a few editing issues (talking without mouth moving) but overall the movie seems to be pretty well done.