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A Strange and Beautiful Film.
Antique shop owner Jesus Gris is shocked when he finds a strange metal object hidden in one of his statues. As he is examining the small device it latches on and stabs into his hand. After he takes it off he begins to feel the urge to let it grab hold of him once more. The more Jesus uses it the more he realizes that there is much more to this machine than meets the eye. He's not the only one who knows of it's power though. Mr. De La Guardia, a dying millionaire, will stop at nothing to get it, even if that means getting rid of Jesus once and for all.
Cronos is Guillermo Del Toro's first film and may very well be his best. Del Toro masterfully blends elements of horror, comedy and mythology to create a magnificent fairy tale concoction. He creates a film that can be scary, funny and touching all in the same scene. Cronos also has a uniquely spooky tone that's much more like a classical ghost stories than a modern horror movie.
All the actors are excellent; specifically Federico Luppi whose performance makes me want to search out more of his films. Ron Perlman also gives an excellent and hilarious performance as Angel De La Guardia, the carefree nephew of Mr. De La Guardia, who can't wait for his uncle to croak and leave him his fortune.
Every element of Cronos is expertly carried off, but what really stands out are the small touches. Gris sneaking to the bathroom to use the device like some perversion of drug addiction. His granddaughter trying to hide it from him as she is afraid of what he is becoming. Angel's sheer disgust every time he has to deal with his dying uncle and be part of this seemingly pointless quest.
Cronos is proof positive that Del Toro is a true master of his art and one of the best directors working today. Cronos is a masterpiece and a film not to be missed by anyone. It's also easily one of the most overlooked and underrated movies of the 90s.
True Grit (2010)
Not nearly what it could have been.
A cruel bandit named Tom Chaney has recently murdered the father of a young girl named Mattie Ross. Chaney escaped the law and Mattie feels that he needs to be brought to justice. On her quest to find a bounty hunter she finds an aging drunkard named Rooster Cogburn who may be just what she needs.
True Grit is not a bad movie by any means, it's actually a good movie, it's just a severely underachieving one. Considering that it was directed by the Coens, who are the best directors working today, and starred Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon it should have been an instant classic. What it turns out to be is an often touching sometimes exciting film that completely fizzles before it's over.
All the acting is exceptional, especially the young Hailee Steinfeld who should have a bright cinematic future ahead of her. Many of the characters are quite endearing as well and you genuinely care what happens to them. And, as to be expected from the Coens, it is expertly directed, until the end at least.
Now the bad news. A large portion of the movie is shown in the trailer and so many of the events, in an already somewhat predictable storyline, are known going in. The pace is out of whack. Most of the comedy is too silly for my taste and I found Jeff Bridges' character to be used as comedy relief a bit too often. The ending is also a major disappointment as it seems to happen far too quickly and it feels like there must be a missing reel somewhere.
True Grit is an enjoyable movie that will likely please many audiences. I just find it to be very disappointing being such a huge Coen Brothers fan. They usually have a knack for making you think even if you don't particularly enjoy the subject matter or the movie itself. True Grit fails to make you think, but provides you with a mostly fun time at the theater.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
Shakespearian Monster Mash
Prince Nuada is the last of a dying race and he has grown tired of watching his kind wither and die in a world that humans continue to tear apart. In order to gain back control and eliminate humans once and for all he will attempt to revive the ancient Golden Army, even if that means breaking the truce between humans and his father. As Hellboy attempts to prevent him from what would surely be the end of humanity as we know it he comes to the realization that he has much more in common with Prince Nuada than the humans he protects.
Hellboy 2 is a truly amazing piece of cinema. Guillermo Del Toro manages to not only make what may be the best comic book movie ever, but also make a fantasy story for the ages. On a visual and set design level, Hellboy 2 is absolutely stunning. The world he creates in Hellboy and the creatures that populate it are complete creative bliss.
The Troll Market scene is one of the happier moments I have ever had in sitting in a theater seat and it is packed to the brim with creatures that only Del Toro could think of, all the while not relying on CGI to get the job done. When every aspect of a movie is created using CGI it's hard to feel any connection to it (the Star Wars prequels anyone). I find prosthetics and makeup a much more impressive and effective method of bringing a character to life than CGI.
Aside from the visual splendor and eye popping action scenes, Hellboy 2 has a huge heart buried under its thrills. At the core there's Hellboy, brought to life by the underrated Ron Pearlman, who struggles with his place in a world that fears him. Then there's Liz Sherman, his damaged pyrotechnic girlfriend who may be more lost and confused than Hellboy himself. Their confused and tragic nature is what makes the characters in Hellboy 2 so great. They are super heroes who are freaks that would be cast out if they weren't useful in protecting the world from others like them.
Prince Nuada is one of the greatest villains in movie history; mainly because it would be easy to say that he wasn't a villain at all. His struggle to save his people is a true moral quandary that is very understandable given the circumstances. He believes that humans are the problem and he will stop them no matter what the cost. Is he right or is Hellboy, it's up to you to decide.
Another amazing addition from the original Hellboy is Johann Krauss; the new BPRD agent whose gaseous form is contained within a special suit. He is hilariously voiced by Seth McFarlane and the applications of his amazing powers are truly endless.
What I think brings down Hellboy 2's rating and consideration is that some of the humor is very silly and childish. Is that a big deal? You tell me. I agree that some scenes can be overly silly but that adds to the fun atmosphere and tone of the film.
Hellboy 2 is an absolute classic. It's filled with thrills to put you on the edge of your seat, it packs a much greater emotional punch than almost any movie of its type, and it has a ton of laughs as well. I can't smile without it.
The American (2010)
Who Forgot To Bring The Movie?
After an attempt on his life an assassin named Jack must hide out in Italy for awhile so things can cool down and he can do another job for his boss.
Let me start by saying that The American starts off quite well. It hits you with a bang and you can't help but wonder where this strange and somewhat cold character is headed. Nowhere.
The American is just a very flat experience. I know many supporters like to say that it's slow pace is a good thing and you have to be more mature and film savvy to enjoy it, but I disagree. I don't need action every second and I truly enjoy character development; this is nothing. Each seemingly useless scene proceeds with such a slow pace that any possible interest disappears. This is not a movie that uses pace and tone to it's advantage.
George Clooney really doesn't show much range as his character doesn't appear to have any discernible emotions. Whether he is shooting somebody or sleeping with a prostitute he has the same bland look on his face. Maybe this was an attempt to show that he was cold and unfeeling, but no one really contrasts his stoicism. Most of the other characters were very underplayed and cold as well.
This seems to me to be a movie that thinks it has a lot more to say than it does. Especially considering it borrows a lot from superior films (In Bruges, Bourne Identity).
The American mainly fails because it can't successfully succeed as a thriller or a drama. It's not nearly exciting enough to be a thriller and their is very little true emotional meaning. So whatever your taste, it's more likely to disappoint than not.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Truly One of a Kind.
2001: A Space Odyssey is a very difficult film to summarize, but I will give it a shot. A mysterious monolith that dates back to the dawn of time is found on the moon and scientists are attempting to excavate and study its mysterious nature. Also, two astronauts headed to Jupiter must deal with Hal 9000, the artificial intelligence controlling their ship, which appears to be malfunctioning.
2001 is not only one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time but easily one of the most strange and original pieces of film art to ever grace the screen. Every facet of 2001: A Space Odyssey is so meticulously detailed and painstakingly filmed that it's truly a wonder to behold. And while its detail and realism are some of its highest commendations they are also 2001's biggest flaws. Stanley Kubrick crafts a sci-fi universe that is so realistic and believable that it is boring.
I believe that by making certain scenes go on for what can seem like an eternity he was attempting to make the entire concept of 2001 being a science fiction movie blaze' and unimportant. As if to say; "yeah it's science fiction so what, I've got an important story to tell." And what a story it is.
2001: A Space Odyssey deals with everything from god to artificial humanity with such subtly that it's very hard to even discern what any of it means during initial viewings. Everyone who watches this movie once and hates it should at least give it one more chance. Like most really great films the more you watch it the better it gets. Though many scenes can be tedious to watch more than once, 2001 has such a vast amount of subtext it is virtually a completely different film every time you watch it.
2001: A Space Odyssey is easily the most misunderstood and hard to love of all cinematic classics. It's easy to write it off as a self-indulgent piece of pseudo sci-fi nonsense, but it is truly so much more than that. It's not only the most realistic portrait of what our future may really look like but a meditation on where humanity has been and where it may be going. It's a spectacle unlike any other and a film that should not be missed.
Toy Story 3 (2010)
One of Pixar's Most Meaningful Films and It's an Absolute Blast.
Andy is going off to college and what's left of his toys are afraid of ending up in the attic or worse; the garbage can. After a mix up with with a garbage bag Andy's toys find themselves being donated to Sunnyside Daycare. Once they discover how nice it is there they must decide whether to return to Andy, who no longer plays with them, or stay at Sunnyside which seems to be the perfect place for a toy...or is it?
Toy Story 3 is filled with one beautifully constructed and visually arresting scene after another. All the characters look better than ever, backed by the consistently amazing voice work of the Toy Story series, and every scene pops with vibrant colors and and toys of all shapes and sizes. In addition to the numerous exciting action scenes, and there are plenty, the humor is another quality that elevates this from just another Pixar sequel. Yeah, some jokes are juvenile and go on too long but a majority of the comedy is amazingly mature and precisely and cleverly spoofs many cinematic cliché's.
Put looking past the fun and excitement of Toy Story 3 is a cleverly written script that deals with getting old, leaving your childhood behind and becoming unimportant to the people who matter to you the most. Though I find the final scene to be a bit sappy and overly drawn out it a touching and cutting analogy for growing up. What aspects of your childhood are left behind as you begin your journey to adulthood? Some part of us all yearns for the years when our lives were simple and our exuberant joy so easy to attain.
Whatever your age and cinematic preferences I believer you will find Toy Story 3 to be a thoroughly enjoyable and shockingly heartfelt adventure seen through a child's eyes. Believe the Hype.
The Most Original and Entertaining Movie In a Long Time.
Cobb, an operative trained in the art of manipulating the dreamland, is hired for a particularly difficult job involving Inception, implanting an idea into someone's mind, which many believe to be impossible.
When I first saw Inception I looked at it all wrong. I was focusing on the all of it's flaws while ignoring all of it's many gifts. Yes, many of the ideas in Inception don't make strict logical sense and some of the characters we've seen before but it doesn't matter. Some movies if you just check logic at the door you are in for the ride of the your life and this is one of the those movies.
The concept of infiltrating the dreamland and stealing information like some of sort of demented bank job is such a great idea with so many cinematic implications that it's a crime to just disregard it because is "doesn't make sense." Movies are meant to tell you an amazing story and let you escape the world for a while and Inception has that in spades. No other director is currently pushes the bounds of film like Christopher Nolan. He is a true visionary and I think many people are quick to discard him and say he is overrated. Whether you think he is overrated or not; he is consistently created original movie concepts and that's a very hard thing to do these days. Nolan also refused to shoot Inception in 3D as well; which I admire because that has quickly become Hollywood's go to big bucks gimmick.
In Inception, Nolan creates not only some of the best action scenes in recent history but some of the best all time. The way Nolan is able to weave a dream within a dream within a dream into a coherent scene is truly a wonder. It's mental Olympics just to keep up with all these narrative strands at one time but it's also a blast trying to solve this mind puzzle that flies at you at 100 miles per hour.
Inception isn't just strictly meaningless fun however. Inception deals deeply with memories and dreams and specifically how they can affect and warp the mind. The idea of functioning in a word where bad memories can come back to haunt you in a physical form is at once cinematic excellence and a Freudian psychological study.
Inception is not only the best movie of 2010 but a cinematic adventure to rival Raiders of the Lost Ark.
If Inception is a dream...I don't want to wake up.
Mystery Men (1999)
The Most Underrated Movie of All Time
Mr. Furious, The Shoveler and The Blue Raja have been super heroes for some time with very little success. Despite their best efforts everything always seems to go wrong and they are constantly living in the shadow of the city's favorite hero Captain Amazing. When Amazing is captured by a recently released super-villain it is their chance to prove to everyone, including themselves, how important they really are.
I'll start by saying that Mystery Men is absolutely hilarious and one of most clever and subtle comedies ever made. All at once the Mystery Men are spoofing super hero conventions while being heroes themselves. Ben Stiller gives the best performance of his career as Mr. Furious; whose failed puns and inability to use his power to any affect are the two funniest running gags in the film. Backing up Ben Stiller is an superb ensemble cast almost all of whom give amazing performances that are at once resonant and hilarious. In addition to Ben Stiller; William H Macy, Hank Azaria and Greg Kinnear are high points.
I also want to point out that Mystery Men isn't just a good comedy, it's one of the best movies about super heroes ever made. Never have super heroes been portrayed in this realistic light. These are super heroes that live with their mothers, have low self esteem, and can't talk to women. This is an underdog story in the truest sense of the word and you can't help but root for them because they're like real people. Much like Watchmen reinvented super heroes in the 80's as cruel and sometimes impotent lunatics, Mystery Men reinvents them as well meaning losers.
Don't let the critics or the paltry 5.9 IMDb rating fool you this is one of a kind. I highly recommend this to everyone and I implore you to not this let cinematic gem slip through the cracks. People who don't appreciate good movies....Make Me Furious!
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Why so Underrated?
Dr. William Hartfor has just had a fight with his wife and begins to realized that his marriage may be collapsing. As he wonders New York City he has a series of strange encounters that culminates with him visiting a strange masked ball where nothing is as it seems.
I went into Eyes Wide Shut without high expectations. I am a huge Kubrick fan and I knew, since he directed it, it couldn't be a complete waste of time but due to its lack of acclaim I figured it was one of his weaker efforts. I was blown away.
Eyes Wide Shut is a cinematic masterpiece that, in true Kubrick fashion, can be interpreted in innumerable ways and puzzled over for hours. Eyes Wide Shut dissects everything from marriage to sexual perversion all the while containing an ominous tone that turns it into some perverse horror story. Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise both give excellent career defining performances as does Sydney Pollack even with his extremely short screen time.
I'm not sure why this isn't considered one of Kubrick's best. Virtually every movie he has made, including the disappointing Full Metal Jacket, are considered to be some of the greatest pictures to every grace a multiplex, yet Eyes Wide Shut was virtually ignored by critics and audiences alike. I guess most of his movies were misunderstood at the time of their release and the intense expectation everyone had coming in didn't help either, but don't be fooled. Eyes Wide Shut is an amazing achievement and one that you can watch over and over again. I have watched it five or six times now and every time I notice a few new things and discover another way you could interpret a specific scene or phrase. Trust me; Eyes Wide Shut will blow you away.
An Occasionally Fun, Mostly Juvenile Action/Comedy
Dave is a depressed nerd who can't understand why no one has every tried to be a super hero and decides to try it himself and call himself Kick Ass. While attempting to help out Katie Deauxma, his high school crush, he encounters two other vigilantes named Hit Girl and Big Daddy; a deranged father and daughter who are just a bit more serious about dolling out justice.
Kick-Ass is not soul-shattering stuff. It mostly consists of vulgar jokes, gratuitous violence and super hero clichés. The characters aren't particularly interesting and outside of Chloe Moretz, who is actually pretty impressive as Hit Girl, the acting is sub par. The plot is a bit of a mess and it's hard to really follow or care about what is going on. Kick-Ass teeters between action and comedy and never really finds a happy medium. It's not funny enough to be a comedy and not action oriented enough to be a proper action movie.
The music is good and some of the action sequences are impressive, even though suspension of disbelief is a must. I also have to commend Kick-Ass for it's originality and guts as Matthew Vaughn tried to combine many genres and include particularly shocking elements; a little girl slicing and dicing criminals with total relish. But, even though I appreciate him pushing the envelope I dislike the fact that it is used as a gimmick. It's as if Vaughn is saying; "isn't a little girl killing people cool," instead it just being part of the story.
Despite it's few good points Kick-Ass is a failure, mainly because of what it could have been. What was hailed as an ingenious retooling of the super hero genre feels very rehashed. You've heard these lines before, you've seen these characters before and the comedy; you've not laughed at before.