Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
The Burning Plain (2008)
Time changes everything
I had recently become a fan of both Guillermo Arriaga and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's work through their previous four films Amores Perros, 21 Grams, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, and Babel (in order of release). In hearing of their creative break-up, it certainly stirred, in my own mind, a possibility of double the good films... or a film-making battle accomplishing nothing. "The Burning Plain" by Guillermo Arriaga is the first of these fruits. Good or bad? You decide. I think good... but missing something.
The Burning Plain follows the story of several different people separated by time and space -- Sylvia, a woman in Oregon who must undertake an emotional odyssey to rid herself of her past; Mariana and Santiago, two teenagers trying to piece together the shattered lives of their parents in a New Mexico border town; Maria, a little girl who goes on a border-crossing voyage to help her parents find redemption, forgiveness, and love; and Gina and Nick, a couple who must deal with an intense and clandestine affair... because they are both married.
Charlize Theron leads the ensemble cast. Theron, I have previously seen in a consortium of roles from Sleepwalking and Monster to The Italian Job. I am glad to say she brings a much more subtle feeling to Sylvia, the central character in the film, without going over the top. The sides we see from the past and present also reflect Sylvia's personality; a side of professionalism brought in by a new skin in the present while her not-forgotten past hiding deep within but brought out by her sexual trysts and self-mutilation.
Also leading the present side of the story is newcomer Tessa Ia in a challenging role she takes at face value despite her young age. With Mexican actor Jose Maria Yazpik in a gentle role, along with Theron, the three are arguably the best actors in the film. Ia's performances hails true talent and not nearly enough credit. With a fierce look in the eyes of a child trying to obtain forgiveness in her own soul, Ia is an actress mature beyond her years. The present stories take on these subtleties that audiences will figure out after the film has ended. This is where the second half (figuratively speaking) of the film suffers.
Focused too much of what is going on in a certain time in the past, the characters of Gina and Nick suffer due to a lack of development. We know of their affair, we know what is going on and we are given too much of that without enough understanding of who they are on their own. Kim Basinger does her best in the role but ultimately is too flat with her delivery. Gina is a sympathetic character because of the screenplay and where the writing takes her, not because of Basinger's performance. Joaquim de Almeida's Nick is more interesting despite a lack of screen time, also due to the lack of development.
The story of Mariana and Santiago is much better because it escapes from this problem and we are given a beginning, middle and end to their story (per se). JD Pardo gives a nice understanding to Santiago and allows for a much better look at the character as an adult when you finally realize who it is (I will not give anything away). However, Jennifer Lawrence as Mariana is probably my most disliked actor of the group. Despite winning the best newcomer award at the Venice Film Festival, her delivery is monotone and lacks any sort of true feeling for what has happened. This also counts for in between two sections of her life... but a nice reaction to a certain event ultimately saved her entire performance.
The film has amazing undertones that audiences won't figure out until later. There are several different themes played on such as the theme of love which is included not only through relationships, though this is the main ingredient, but from children to parents, siblings, and great friendships. The latter is what genuinely seals this aspect of the film as Jose Maria Yazpik and Robin Tunney's characters bring their perspective leads to a connection. Another underlying theme was that of scars. Whether through self-mutilation or a past surgery, Sylvia, Santiago, Mariana, Maria, and Gina all end up with (literal) scars by the end of the film that they cannot forget about eluding to the main theme of the film that the past effects the present.
I was hoping that it wouldn't be just a carbon copy of what Inarritu has done before (in an attempt to win an audience). I felt the same way about Three Burials which is why I have rated it with only 8. This is going to be the first major problem for Arriaga on his own creative path. While unfortunate, it is inevitable: audiences will go in expecting the same intense fair Innaritu has been giving them and will see a more tame version of that. Luckily, the wonderful production values and gorgeous cinematography by veteran Robert Elswit and John Toll, tacked on with a beautiful soundtrack, ultimately send the story flying.
With a number of events occurring through the story, you are never left bored. Piecing together the puzzle isn't really as difficult as it may seem. For Babel it was all about figuring out which story was in what time period. In The Burning Plain it's about who is who and how time has taken it's toll on the characters, which makes it much more interesting in a more creative way. This is where direction suffers as it is obvious Guillermo Arriaga was more focused on the story than he was his actors, but it all falls together without disrupting anything. Hopefully the creative split will allow audiences to realize there is a large difference between directors and Arriaga and Innaritu are no exception.
As the price rises higher.
As my previous review would attest, I would've never known about the first film had The Price of the American Dream II not gone into production here in New Mexico. I was absolutely blown away by the story and production values of the first on such a low-budget but wasn't sure if the part II could possibly live up to the first. Was I wrong.
The film continues the story of Laura Muñoz (Julieta Ortiz) now in a struggling situation after the murder of her husband Chendo. With the help of her brother Meño, she moves her four children, Manny, Carlos, Alexandra, and Daniel from Los Angeles to a small town in New Mexico hoping to recover and move back. But soon Manny and Alex begin hanging out with gangsters of the area with Carlos and Daniel struggling to stay away from such things. But Laura also faces her own temptations at gaining back money when her boss attempts an affair. It's only further proof that the price of the American dream has risen.
This film soars above the first part, though it could easily be seen as a stand-alone film. The entire cast, including the six leads which brings in Hollywood actors Julieta Ortiz and Luis Arrieta, is a great ensemble of experienced, first-timer, and local unknown actors. In knowing the history of the making of the film, it is amazing what is done on-screen if you have any doubts. Nichole Otero and Nathan Sanchez who play two of the younger Muñoz children shined on screen above and beyond. They were able to bring out their true talent in the film in itself because at the time, all three were first timers.
Including production, the film never loses sight of the big picture. It took what it had made it even better. Director Michael Amundsen worked to the best of his ability and beyond to give the film the production values that show up on screen. Though it takes place in a small town this time around, the action the story brings in and the situations the Munoz family faces ultimately sets the story into a rolling motion that never takes a moment for you to breathe.
Many who have seen number one thought of this along the same lines when it is a completely different film in script, story, and production. From parties to gang violence and even car chases, Price II will surprise anyone. From locations in the wind-swept New Mexico, the film can also be seen as a work of art in the differences of culture. The darkness of the underground life of gangs to the seemingly bright regions of reality.
Another thing that caught my attention was the music. From the beautifully arranged original soundtrack to the rap songs incorporated into scenes of the film. Composed gorgeously by Rich Ragsdale, the written soundtrack was my favorite part from the low strumming of an acoustic guitar to the sound design from an electric guitar much like the moodiness of 21 Grams. Laguna Productions standard of film-making have risen incredibly over the years. Their usual fare has brought forth such films as these as well as great films in the past that continue to entertain audiences. I hope we can expect more like this.
Coyote County Loser (2009)
Love is for losers too!
I recently had the opportunity to view Coyote County Loser during one it's recent screenings for it's limited release. A romantic comedy of sorts, it's independent style helps to anchor a nice story and wholesome plot line you never find in normal Hollywood films while still giving you a nice cinematic flavor.
The story follows Jack Proctor, a rising LA radio personality, who stumbles upon the dusty town of Coyote County on his way home in the American Southwest. After getting a rise out of local star Lauren Hartford, with her love advice hour, Jack is offered a bit of syndication K-RAP 780 the local studio. In no rush to get home, Jack accepts. While Jack and Lauren begin to duke it out on the air with their own advice to the residents of the town, the two will come to discover while helping others find love, they may end up hurting each other in the process... or finding love themselves.
With a predictable yet enjoyable plot line, audiences seemed to have found few moments dull (judging by the laughter). The cast, anchored by an array of television personalities, veteran actors and newcomers, held their ground and entertained. Top-lining the romantic ensemble as Lauren is TV-Guide star Nikki Boyer. Never a falter, Boyer is arguably the most entertaining of the actors with a nice mix of personalities to her character, allowed to by the script. Her co-star Beau Clark brings a nice side to Jack underneath the cockiness. Along with Boyer, the two shine on screen together and created wonderful chemistry for the two characters.
Along with Boyer and Clark come veteran actors K Callan and Wayne Grace as The Hopps couple. Easily recognizable, their chemistry on screen seemed to capture a more true essence of love while Jack and Lauren are the more modern day ventures. Callan's kind Maggie is played with small-town subtly while Grace's gentle Fred was a favorite among audiences. Luckily, this is why Coyote County Loser is able to reach out to several different generations.
Falling in a love triangle is newcomer Frederic Doss in the role of Lyle. More likely to be seen playing secret agents and cops in recent films and TV shows, the down-on-his-heels Lyle is quite a difference from Doss's usual fare but his gentle performance shows just what a talented actor he is. Rounding out the romantic ensemble are also newcomers Tiffany Lynch and Everette Scott Ortiz as radio workers Katie and Doyle. Given their own nerdy sexual tension but also providing comedic relief to Jack and Lauren's trysts, the two also give the younger side of audiences something to look out for... and hopefully learn from!
This was the great part about the script is that you meet several different characters all well-developed. No one is left thinking "Hmm, I wish I could've seen more here or there". The well-roundedness of each persona also helps to bring the fictional town of Coyote County to life and at the same giving it a home-cooked flavor that is very much lacking in today's film productions.
With gorgeous cinematography from director of photography Joel Deutsch, showing off the wind-swept landscapes of New Mexico, the colorfulness of the film offers something of a visual aid that helps audiences enjoy the sights more often than not. Producer Jacob Roebuck toiled over to get Coyote County Loser made and finally has become a reality. Certainly not to be passed up, I won't be surprised if we're hearing more from this film than a lot of people are expecting. Audiences are looking for something everyone can see... and hopefully they won't have to look any further.
Midnight Clear (2006)
When your soul needs uplifting
Honestly, I just rented this film on two whims. 1. I had recently co-starred in a film (Coyote County Loser) that had three principal actors from this movie as our leads and one of the crewmembers was actually our direction. 2. I absolutely love interconnecting storyline films. From Babel, Crash and Amores Perros, when I heard a Christian one (or at least Christian undertoned) was made I was more than happy. Usually interconnecting films have an extreme amount of violence, cussing, sex, etc. and their intense films for that reason but I was wondering if they could possibly get rid of that for this film.
They did, and in a good way. The story follows five principal characters: Lefty, a recently jobless and homeless man in search of redemption in the wrong places; Eva, an elderly woman who feels she has nothing left to live for; Mary, a mother who is dealing with her husbands' brain damage after a car accident; Kirk, a gas station owner whose past dreams were shattered, and Mitch, a youth pastor who feels his existence in to the church is nowhere near relevant.
K Callan as Eva and Mary Thornton as Mary were my favorite characters and actors, though all five did great. The women's emotions were kept well hidden throughout the film. You weren't sure how they were feeling until they let it out. Callan and Thornton's performances were stellar and completely rolled the story for the lack of development from Lefty, Kirk, and Mitch's stories. If they would've developed Kirk and Mitch a little more the movie would've been incredible, as it is, but among all audiences. I feel Eva and Mary were also the most interesting characters. Lefty had too much character, not enough was shrouded in mystery.
Considering I had a terrible Christmas myself, to see the small acts of kindness the five people in this film do, causing them to intersect made me think of just how much one small thing you can do for a person might actually change their life. A lot of films never make me think about them afterwards but Midnight Clear has stuck with me. I just purchased the film and am loving it. You just think about it at a certain time in your life and when you watch. I would suggest this film to anyone who just needs a little uplifting. You could now.
Stolen Miracle (2001)
Inspired by a true story, but very close to the real thing!
I was only four at the time, but I did indeed remember in 1993 around Christmas that Margaret Wheeler, a woman pretending to be a nurse, walked into Carleton General Hospital, and walked out with a new born baby girl. My mother, who was expecting, felt terrible, but my parents were relieved to find the next day, Wheeler was caught. I thought, what kind of person would do something like that, along with her partner, Darryl Thibidault. It was scary. But in 2001 when Stolen Miracle hit Lifetime's Christmas specials, I was beginning to see another side of the story I hadn't already seen.
Jane Mckinley, a young Sargeant police officer, is desperate in trying to keep her family together, and also the people she knows around Carleton, Canada, safe. When she finds that Karen and Phil Lewis's premature baby has been stolen from the hospital, Jane must put everything aside, including her family, in hopes that she can help someone else in need, before the kidnapper, a manic-depressive named Mary Whelmer can get away with little Paul.
You've heard the side of the police officers, the families, but not the kidnappers. The amazingly talented and underrated Nola Auguston, who plays the bipolar Mary, was awesome in her portrayal of the kidnapper. You felt for her, even though she was the one who stole Paul from the hospital. You knew she wanted a family she could never have, and in her efforts to simply have one perfect Christmas, she takes a baby promising her boyfriend, Darryl, she'll take him back. Her boyfriend, an ex-prisoner on probation can do nothing, and if he tries to take Paul, he knows he'll be the one put on blame, even though he wants to take Paul back. It's an amazing story, and soon, you begin to realize that the two wanted a healthy family, but can never have it because of a miscarriage Mary suffered.
Then there's the story of Jane McKinley (beautiful Leslie Hope), changed from the true life Allison McKinley. There's also another side to her story in why she wants to protect everyone. Her son, played perfectly by Michael Cera, is portrayed as a whiny little brat whose feelings change when he realizes the truth of why his mom wants to keep everyone safe, and it's true. When we find out things, we all change for the better.
Stolen Miracle has got to be one of the best made movies. I wish it were on video, but I just wait until the holidays come around, and then I can record it. Watch it, you'll like it with every side of the story in a movie you could possibly imagine. All actors are perfect and not one misplaced. You'll love em' all.
A Thief in the Night (1972)
Better than the rest!!
A Thief in the Night has got to be the best out of all the end times thrillers. I have no clue what people are complaining about what people are whining about when they say that these movies scared them into accepting God. They just needed to find an excuse and blamed A Thief In The Night. Do not listen! These movies do not only tell of one of the many possibilities of the tribulation, but they're also fun to watch in their simplicity. They are in fact low-budget and that is a little obvious, but not all too obvious upon first viewing. I had no clue because I really assumed that a lot of movies like these made in the 70's included low-budgets all the time.
A Thief in the night tells the story of young and cynical Patty Myers who lives for what comes her way, until her husband, and nearly all her friends disappear in the prophetic rapture everyone warned her about. At first, the movie isn't all based around her until the rapture happens. What it leads up to are showing that everyone else around her are becoming christians and believing in Christ, which is usually what happens to a lot of people. Everyone around them they once knew and loved will be gone forever, and the one who is left behind is the one who blames everyone but themselves. No one can ever blame themselves because they're always right.
Just like these whiners who complain about the movie. These people must be full grown adults. I'm thirteen, and you don't see me whining, especially since I was exactly like Patty before I re-accepted Christ into my heart. For those who haven't seen it, if you want a little bit of everything tossed into a Christian movie instead of stereo-typical everyone else is wrong movies, than you'll enjoy A Thief In The Night. Don't knock it before you try it. Something new is always good. Trust your own instincts.
Faster paced than "Curse" and somewhat better
I found "Sticks and Stones: Investigating the Blair Witch" a lot better than "Curse of the Blair Witch" which was also a documentary made to advertise the movie, and both of them are extremely well done. One of the main reasons I bought it (which was originally only available at blockbuster) was because I really wanted to see one of the deleted scenes of the movie which was going to be passed off as newly discovered footage, and as a huge fan of the movie, I think they should've left this scene in, in which Mike and Heather have broken down and a re desperately trying to keep it together (Josh is already gone). It also brings together separate beliefs which is very interesting. And because of those two crying, who you feel for the most in the movie, is really disorienting. I myself almost started crying because it was a really emotional scene. I would recommend this to anyone who had a good time watching Curse of the Blair Witch and The Blair Witch Project.
Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
A great thriller
I've always enjoyed this movie for suspense. It gives you the chills that not many other horror movies nowadays don't. They either have to be too horrifying that you can't sleep, or they're dull. The pit and the pendulum is about a torcher chamber where evil things have gone on. Nicholas Medina (Vincent Price) has just lost his wife Elizabeth (Barbara Steele) due to the chamber. When her brother, Francis Barnard (John Kerr) arrives after hearing that his sister has died, he is shocked to hear that it has been 3 months. Nicholas tells Mr. Barnard that due to obsession with the torture chamber, and being locked in one of the torture devices, it caused Elizabeth to die of fright. Nicholas's sister, Katherine Medina (Luana Anders), tells Mr. Barnard to take pity on her brother, for he had witnessed their father torture her mother to death in the chamber. But when strange things start to happen in the Medina castle, Mr. Barnard realizes that there's more to this story than meets the eye. It is presumed that Elizabeth is haunting the house, playing the harpsichord, whispering to a maid, and destroying her room. Mr. Barnard thinks that Nicholas is the cause of everything, but he is very wrong. The ending will surprise you so much, you'll be at the edge of your seat the whole time. Vincent Price was very good at the part of Nicholas Medina, very mysterious, always acting the way a husband would if his wife was haunting the house. John Kerr did very well in his part as Elizabeths brother, very well done, very suspicious of everyone. Luana Anders in her full beauty did very well also. Finding out shocking things and did very well at reacting to these parts. Barbara Steele is very beautiful, as usual, she was great as the aldultress and the haunter of the house. Her part looked as if she was having fun doing it. I couldn't believe how beautiful both Luana Anders and Barbara Steele were. Luana Anders just mezmorized me in her beauty. By the way, she's my 3rd cousin.
New Mexico sure looks different.
I know that this film was based in New Mexico, that was the one of the sole reasons I rented it (It's my home state) but I knew right away that it wasn't New Mexico, much too desolate. The movie itself was a great, 5 stars out of 5 stars, but some people shun this movie just because of the ending, I really don't think that's right. In the small town a Weaver, New Mexico, a strange and mysterious force lurkes that won't let it's visitors go. Though it does leave a lot of holes in the plot. ***Spoiler warning*** I think the writer wanted the viewers to come up with their own ending by re-watching the tape, putting it in slow motion at it's most intriguing parts to figure out what it is, etc. When it got to the part where Patty fell down the mine, and the thing started running faster, when it showed the last part of through the creatures eyes, it showed several pairs of kind of blue light's looking upward, I thought they looked a lot like eyes. Someone a while back had a good idea that the birds might have something to do with everything. That was a good theory until he got to the part where it was a bird that they hit while leaving the neighboring town, but tell me, could a bird flip over a massive car like a ford Excursion? It looked more like a cows head to me. I'm not sure what the Neutron Bomb had to do with anything, but the first theory that the old man gave Harry hamlin, didn't add up. I think that whatever really was out there is possessing these people in some way. Whatever is out there in Weaver, is either invisible aliens, or ghosts of the ancient Native Americans, and whatever flew over the car and made it flip over (6 times) was either an animal or a human already possessed by those things. Great movie, with 5 star everything. If anyone liked this movie up until the ending, forget the ending and watch the parts you like.