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Mr. Nobody (2009)
I Want To Love This Film, But I Can't
Ever since seeing Jaco Van Dormael's Le Huitième Jour (The Eighth Day) I had been highly looking forward to his latest work....MR NOBODY. Last night I caught an early screening of it in Liege, Belgium with special guest, director Jaco Van Dormael in attendance.
I tried so hard to get into Mr Van Dormael's brilliant, yet fatally flawed vision of love, life and the choices we make. My first problem of the film is its structure (flashforwards, flashbacks..). The film rarely gave me the opportunity to sit back and immerse myself in its world without constantly jolting, and distracting with its fractured structure. I understand this was to show how every choice has its consequence, every choice leads down a different life path. It often reminded me of the more mainstream and simple chick-flick SLIDING DOORS, which my wife adored. I loved the film for its ideas and questions it posed on who and what we are. MR NOBODY certainly can't be criticized for being empty or shallow. If anything, the problem with the film is that there is too much to consider. It's overblown and bloated which ended up numbing me to the point of not even caring.
Van Dormael clearly loves the use of color in his films. In THE EIGHTH DAY his use of color was beautiful and poignant in the way it illuminated its troubled young hero's fantastic world, in contrast to the gray realities of the true world around him. That is another one of my major problems with MR NOBODY. This film had so much to say about who and what we are. It dealt with such real issues of abandonment, loss and loneliness, but his Tim Burtonesque use of colors and over-the-top jests didn't slightly resemble anything real or believable. If only he had given the film some sense of the real world from time to time, like with The Eighth Day it would have strengthened the film tremendously. Something has to look and feel real in order to feel any emotion or anything at all.
I just wish Jaco Van Dormael had simplified things a bit. I don't mean dumb down his vision, but give it some space to breath and room to move the viewer. As I said before, I really wanted to love this film, but now I can say I really didn't like it. MR NOBODY was a bold effort with a lot of good in it, including the fine cast, but in the end unfortunately it falls rather flat.
The Box (2009)
No Donnie Darko, but also (luckily) no Southland Tales
I just saw Richard Kelly's flawed but highly involving THE BOX. I really enjoyed it as well.
I'm one of the many who loved DONNIE DARKO when it first came out, before there was much buzz. I eagerly awaited his second film SOUTHLAND TALES which ended up being so unbearable I couldn't even finish it. Now, Kelly's third film, THE BOX which I entered a bit skeptical but highly enjoyed it. It feels like a cross between 1978's BODY SNATCHERS and SCANNERS as directed by early Brian DePalma (not necessarily in story but in atmosphere and mood). The look of the film and the music are like watching a film from the late 70s (in which this film takes place). At times Kelly's choices are a bit overwhelming and somewhat goofy on the overly dramatic end of things, but at least he never underwhelms with THE BOX.
THE BOX is a bit heavy and stressful, and I recommend it for that. It could have been better with a different lead actress though. You can see the acting wheels turning in Diaz's eyes. Marsden on the other hand is solid the whole way through...maybe because he has "Mars" in his name...hint, hint.
This is good stuff. It's better than most of the usual retreads that are constantly dumped on us. AND it's way better than SOUTHLAND TALES.
See it, even though it's no DONNIE DARKO.
Trick 'r Treat (2007)
I Want To Love This Weak Treat
I'm one of the many that has been dying to see TRICK'R TREAT since first reading about a few years back. I love Halloween, the holiday and as an avid horror fanatic I adore the film HALLOWEEN as well. So I pre-ordered the Blu-ray of Trick'R Treat the moment it was listed on amazon.
A couple of weeks ago my Blu-ray arrived in the mailbox. I raced upstairs and threw it in the player. I watched it. I loved the look and feel of this lovingly made throwback to 80's genre films such as The Thing, The Goonies, ET, Monster Squad and of course John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN. TRICK'r TREAT wants to be everything and suffers for that. There is very little character development or backstory. There is no one to route for and no one to hate. It's too short and too rushed to take time on anything except the aesthetics, which look great. This film is like a cute girl with nothing on the inside. She'd be perfect if only she had a brain too.
Needless to say I'm disappointed. Sure I would have liked to have been scared but I understand it's difficult to execute a good scare, but at least one quick jump would have been nice. I do like Trick''r Treat for what it tries and wants to be, but for what it is I'm left hanging, waiting for my anticipation to be fulfilled with looks and brains. A bunch of well lit jack'o'lanterns do not a perfect film make.
I now understand why TRICK'r TREAT never got its day at the cinema. It was a nice try, but no cigar.
See it and enjoy the lite ride while it lasts, because soon after you will forget you saw anything at all.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
A Reminder Why We Love Horror
First of all I must say, living in Belgium, I have the benefit of not being caught up in the hype machine. I'm sure if I were living in the States, I too would be numb to the affects of this film.
I would imagine being in a crowded cinema would take away from the intimacy of the scares. I watched this alone on my couch in the comforts of my own home cinema. I am a huge horror fan, not just a gore hound, though I do enjoy some good gore f/x from time to time, but most of all I love a good scare...which is rather hard to come by. Films that have scared me are, The Changeling, The Innocents, The Ring, Inside (A L'Interior), The Brood, Blair Witch... I'm not easily scared, but given the circumstances in which I watched PARANORMAL ACTIVITY I was quite tense.
This film is a lot like Blair Witch, Cloverfield in the use of the home camera, but the way in which the characters in PARANORMAL approach their situation is rather realistic and believable. The characters are like normal people, not Hollywood types. The acting is fine and the characters are fun and likable. The only thing I had a problem with (as far as believability) was the exorcism footage they looked at on the net.
Maybe I would have been disappointed if I had driven half an hour to the closest English language cinema to see this film when it comes out in December. I love going to the cinema for the great image and sound quality. I wouldn't want to watch AVATAR for the first time at home. But PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is the film to watch at home with as few people and distractions as possible. It's not groundbreaking or amazing, but it works and it's good. I applaud the filmmakers for sending some chills down my spine. Thanks.
Lower those expectations and enjoy the ride.
The saddest film I've ever seen.
Let me start by saying, I don't know if this film touched me so much because I've recently had a major loss in my family. But this film touched me deeply. I've never struggled so hard to hold back tears as I did watching Dear Zachary.
I don't know if this is the finest documentary I've ever seen, but it's certainly the most moving. The pain is so raw and so new. The loss these family and friends encounter along the way is nothing short of devastating.
I'm not sure if I can recommend Dear Zachary, unless you really want to be sad. I'm not sure if I'm happy I've seen it. I didn't need someone else's loss in my life, but now I mourn for these lovely people I just met on TV. What a waste of such joy and life. It brings back all too familiar feelings.
I leave it at this... If you have never experienced true loss, then Dear Zachary is open window into a devastating world of pain that you can only hope you'll never have to deal with. But if loss is something you are familiar with then maybe you don't need this refresher course on the subject.
Thank you for this real and sincere work.
Fireflies in the Garden (2008)
What a mess of a film.
I'm an American living in Europe and usually when I see a film with such a fine cast released here before it is in the States an alarm goes off in my head. Normally that means the film is junk and they want to make some money back before word gets around. I read the 2 other IMDb reviews and thought maybe it's not too bad. I then read the Hollywood Reporter, and Variety's reviews, which were not as kind. But I decided to take a drive over to Maastricht, Holland to form my own opinion of FIREFLIES IN THE GARDEN. The first 15 minutes I thought, okay maybe this cast can rise above the seemingly Lifetime special material. But in the end it was clear they couldn't. I've seen much finer Lifetime movies (because of my wife). I can't understand WHY the cast agreed to making this movie. The characters were inconsistent and the script was sloppy. It seemed as though a reel had gone missing, some footage had been erased or maybe they had forgotten to film 30 pages of the script. Characters make huge changes for no apparent reason. Plot points are mentioned but never followed through. I could go on forever but I'm not sure about what. There is no substance to FIREFLIES IN THE GARDEN. It's a pure waste of your time and it's talent. Clearly they thought they were making a solid family drama like ORDINARY PEOPLE or IN THE BEDROOM but they certainly did not succeed on any level. So unfortunately my theory about the US dumping its cinematic junk on the rest of the world for a quick buck has proved true again.
Crystal Skull Is Never Dull
I was 17 when the last Indy film came out in '89...yes I'm that old. I loved the Indy films. "Raiders" was by far the best and "Last Crusade" remains the second best for me. Even when I first saw "Temple Of Doom" I thought it was pretty lame and over-the-top, so it still remains the least engaging of the bunch. Which leads me to "Crystal Skull," the third best of the series. I was so excited to catch the latest Indy today in Belgium. Ever since I saw "Last Crusade" I've been anticipating a new Indy and "Crystal Skull" delivers the goods...I repeat "goods", not greats. There are some great Speilbergian moments but the film rarely soars. As with "Temple Of Doom," "Crystal Skull" is too cute at times and goes way too far over- the-top and unfortunately Lucas' special effects can't do the scripts imagination justice. So much of this film looks so fake that it makes it hard to believe or even really care. I must say it was great to see the older Indy in action and Shia was a nice addition, but this franchise has seen better, more energetic days. Too often the film got bogged down by too many characters. It felt like Indy was the Pied Piper who kept on collecting more and more followers. The first half is pretty solid, but the second half gets too bogged down in weak stunts and lackluster special effects. If you love Indy then you'll definitely like this film, just make sure to check your brain and critical eye at the door. "Crystal Skull" is never dull but it's also never "Raiders" or "Last Crusade."
Iron Man (2008)
It's no ELF, but it's a lot of fun...and way better than ZATHURA
I was excited when I first learned that John Favreau would be directing IRON MAN. He brings a new and nostalgic energy to the his movies especially ELF. IRON MAN continues that winning formula, though ZATHURA is far from a classic, but my kids dig it,
IRON MAN is well made, but follows the typical path of your first in a series of super hero movies. Everything has to be established the first time around...and after having seen several super hero movies it's a little bit boring. 55% of the film is spent watching our hero construct the 2 versions of his super suit, which is kinda fun but kinda not. I did love IRON MAN's first outing in his souped up super suit, that's the only time I was completely eating it up. Don't get me wrong, this is a good film, but it is a bit limited by establishing itself. Without Robert Downey Jr and the rest of the great cast this movie would just be fine...but they lift it to nearly excellent.
I definitely do recommend an outing at the cinema for this, but I'm sure the second one will totally rock.
Shoot 'Em Up (2007)
Poo Em Up!
I know I was supposed to check my brain in at the door, BUT man this movie is pure trash. It has nothing going for it. I love a good action flick. I'm willing to forgive a weak plot for some over the top stunts, but even the action in this film was poor. I wanted some John Woo action ballet, but this stuff is clunky and unconvincing. Every attempt at humor and wit falls flat. Oh god, and the soundtrack just didn't work. this film had no suspense or excitement.... only boredom. I have no idea how this director got such a good cast. If you want good over the top action rent, Die Hard 1, Face/Off or The Rock....don't waste your time on this clunker. I have two kids now, so I rarely get time to see films anymore and to waste my time with such a bummer is such a time sucker. Please, take my advice and save your eyes and ears for something better like reading a milk carton or anything else.
Black Sheep (2006)
Artless, pointless, laugh-less, scare-less....void of any creativity..AVOID Black Sheep
I adore horror films. I love all kinds of horror films....monsters, ghosts, slashers, werewolves...and I'm even open to a good killer sheep film, BUT this isn't it. It seems that the creators of this film just had an idea....and that's all. the script, the acting...everything about this film is so weak and low grade and it thinks it's so funny....maybe to some frat boy wasted on pot. Don't waste your time or your dime. Rent Dead Alive (aka Brain Dead) or An American Werewolf In London instead. I really feel this film was made by a fan of Pater Jackson's early stuff, maybe this guy loves horror like me, but he doesn't have an ounce artistry or imagination...no offense, but stick to working behind the counter at McDonalds Mr Director.