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Shakespeare's Dead (2006)
What is reality?
Well, if you wanted to know what is reality and what is not, just go see Shakespeare's Dead. I saw it at the Action on Film Festival back in July 2008. Very well done film. Just like their other short film, 'Intermission Man' which also played at that aforementioned film festival, it is clear to me that the filmmakers are a fan of the esoteric and philosophical. On the surface, it seems like it's about an assassin trying to figure out life by talking to his therapist, but it's really much more than that as you will see by the end of the film. I've heard from others that they didn't get the ending, and perhaps some will not, but if you are one who is philosophical, trust me you'll understand and like this ending. That said, hope you have a chance to see this short!
The Intermission Man (2004)
I enjoyed watching this film at the Action on Film Festival back in July 2008. I especially enjoyed the music. Very effective and carried the point of the film across. I also liked the shadowy character - reminded me of The Shadow. Whoever put together the costume design should be rewarded for a job well done. It's obvious that the filmmakers are esoteric and philosophical in their thinking (just like their other short film 'Shakespeare's Dead') - is the shadowy character just a figment of the main actress' imagination? Or is that shadow somehow real? And I guess that's the gist of it: aside from the music and a cool costume design, it's the plot that makes this short film intriguing from beginning to end. I say if you haven't seen it, go see it at the upcoming Phoenix Comicon Film Festival.
Decent action flick but mind-numbing.
"Crank" (2006), directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, is a decent action flick starring "The Transporter" star Jason Statham as the lead character Chev Chelios, who has only one hour to live and must decide what to do in that time. An interesting premise for sure, the way it's done is very mind-numbing, mostly due to the MTV-style editing and visual effects. Because of this style, the story and script itself becomes unnoticeable, and your mind must be set on auto pilot while you are taken from scene after scene after scene. My advice: just go along for the ride, it's a thrill to be sure though afterwords you will be left wondering what exactly happened. A 6 out of 10.
An interesting look into the first war planes.
"Flyboys" (2006), a film by producer Dean Devlin (of "Independence Day" fame) and director Tony Bill, is a wonderful look into the first war planes (fighting during World War I - in this film, 1916-1917 - with planes only invented 10-some years ago). Using present-day visual effects (which reminds me of "Star Wars" fights including a black colored "villain" plane), we see very impressive and welcome air fights (and there are plenty of them in this film). The weaker points of this film include the somewhat predictable script and some miscasting (including James Franco as the lead character - whom I cannot fully buy in the role of Blaine Rawlings). Regardless though, an impressive film - a high-flying 7 out of 10.
Thank You for Smoking (2005)
Worth breathing in.
"Thank You for Smoking" (2005) is a hilarious satirical romp of a comedy. Directed by Jason Reitman (son of another comic genius Ivan Reitman), this film had me in its addictive grips from its unique title to it's intriguing plot. Who would have ever thought to get into a mind of a tobacco lobbyist (in this case, Aaron Eckhart who is perfectly suited for the role of the aforementioned lobbyist, Nick Naylor). His charm and charisma will make anyone a believer in whatever he says. Also hilarious is his "rival" in the film, William H. Macy in a humorous performance as Senator Ortolan K. Finistirre - it's not about the "cheese"!). The cinematography is also a big plus in this film. All in all, a rousing 8 out of 10.
"The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" (2006) is a very entertaining addition (the 3rd film so far) to the "Fast and the Furious" films. While most sequels tend to be inferior to the originals, I found this one very refreshing and unique. Expertly directed by Justin Lin, this movie is definitely style over substance, but a great style it is! When you see the cars "drift", you are in for a ride (pardon the pun!). So while the story and script are unoriginal, and the acting by Lucas Black as the lead character Sean Boswell not up to par, it's still a must-see - at 7 out of 10.
P.S. - Watch out for a welcome "cameo" from the first film!
Superb film that will make you cry.
"Awakenings" (1990) is a film by veteran and master director Penny Marshall. This is the type of film that works all the way around - from the strong screenplay by Steven Zaillian (who also penned "Schindler's List"), to the strong acting by Robin Williams as the shy Dr. Sayer who helps to diagnose a certain catatonic state by 15 patients in a hospital, including the first to be given the diagnosis and treatment that causes his "awakening" - Robert De Niro in one of his strongest and emotional role as Leonard Lowe. To accompany the already strong elements listed above is the emotional charged score by Randy Newman. All of this will be sure to cause you to shed at least one tear by the film's end. A true gem - 9 out of 10.
Cutter's Way (1981)
"Cutter's Way" (1991) is a great film by director Ivan Passer. What really makes this film work is the acting by the main trio (John Heard as Alex Cutter, Jeff Bridges as Richard Bone (Cutter's best friend), and Lisa Eichhorn as Maureen Cutter, 'Mo' (Cutter's wife)). Especially John Heard, who took on a very challenging role as a Vietnam War veteran who has lost one of his eyes, arm, and legs, and has also taken to the drink. You can see his unfocused life and his anger, wanting to blame someone for what has happened to people like him. The death of a teenage girl leads him to focus again on his life by blaming J. J. Cord, a rich citizen of the same city they both live in (Santa Barabara). Also great is Lisa Eichhorn as his estranged wife who tries to rectify her depression due to her husband's condition by drinking and also falling for Richard Bone. A very intriguing film that shows what the Vietnam War has done to certain people. 8 out of 10.
The Brothers Grimm (2005)
Could have been better.
"The Brothers Grimm" (2005), is another macabre fantasy tale from and the first film for Terry Gilliam in 7 years. Although not his best, it's nice to see him make another film. These aren't the best roles for Matt Damon and Heath Ledger as the Brothers Grimm. The production value is definitely there, and homages to various Grimm stories are definitely interesting to see. However, the story and script are also somewhat incohesive and the film is sometimes difficult to follow, and when you can it's somewhat predictable - but then again isn't this supposed to be a happy ending? Well maybe not fully . . . a "grim" 6 out of 10.
Four Brothers (2005)
Another hit from Singleton.
"Four Brothers" (2005), the latest film from acclaimed Oscar-nominated director John Singleton, is another hit for him. About 4 adopted brothers who avenge their caring and kind mother's death, this film soon turns out to be more complicated than it actually is (due to a very sharp script and dialogue). The acting is top-notch from our cast, including Mark Wahlberg as one of the brothers, Bobby Mercer. Also of note, though her role was minimal, is the mother herself, Fionnula Flanagan as Evelyn Mercer (I first enjoyed her performance as Data's mother in the 1993 "Star Trek: The Next Generation" TV series episode "Inheritance"). The camera work is also top-notch here, showing the gritty reality of Detroit. All in all, a high 8 out of 10. Highly recommended.