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Your Mileage May Vary...
Wow...this film is a strange one. It has generally elicited an extreme polarity of opinion...you either love it or hate it, as these comments tend to show.
Personally I absolutely loved it. But, you might despise it. And that's fine, consensus is overrated anyways. Like I said in the title, your mileage may vary.
This is a marked turn for Guy Ritchie. Do not expect a LS&2SB or a Snatch. Although, the imagery in this film is rather audacious, so he has grown as a filmmaker in that regard, even though he is still using a crazy crime world as his palette. I would put this in the mind-mucker subcategory of films, the "what is reality" Philip-K-Dickian subgenre ranging from Mulholland Drive to Jacob's Ladder to ExistenZ, with a little bit of Memento and The Matrix thrown in (ie. Zach telling Jake to "Wake up"). So yeah, heady stuff for the likes of Mr. Ritchie. But it worked for me. I can't tell you why exactly, but it did.
I found some of the visual imagery amazing. It looked great. Little sequences here and there...like the red club where Lord John holds court (with the lollipop girl especially). Or the huge baroque room at Mecha's casino, or his tanning room for that matter.
Little things like the fade in and fade outs of Lord John & company's subtitles, or the short moments of animation, which annoyed some people but I felt was subtle and interesting...not overdone like it was in Natural Born Killers.
The score is stunning. I found the soundtrack (good luck!) and it's the best soundtrack since The Dust Brothers' Fight Club or UNKLE's Sexy Beast...similar in style to both.
The acting is fine. Jason Stratharn and Ray Liotta are very good and fun to watch. Andre 3000, Vincent Pastore et al. do a great job. However, the absolute scene-stealer here is Mark Strong as the meticulous hit-man Sorter. This is one of the most memorable characters I have encountered in a very long time and almost worth the admission alone.
Lastly I have to say that this is one of those rare films where my expectations were so low (due to the horrid reviews) that to say I was pleasantly surprised is the understatement of the year. Almost always it's the other way around.
What can I say...check this out. You may love it, you may hate it. The odds are you'll hate it. But as every gambler knows, the worse the odds the better the payout.
Alice et Martin (1998)
This film is extremely tedious...it took me several days to get through it. What is most annoying about this picture is the character of Martin. I gave him a chance to find himself through Alice. When he melts down in Spain, I said to myself, well lets give him a chance to sort himself out. Since he gets himself locked up in an asylum, it is up to Alice to sort out the root causes of Martin's problems. She does this by visiting his family, who are not terribly pleased with her visit. But she does all the heavy lifting for Martin anyway, however unpleasant.
By the time she gets back she gets him out of the asylum and offers him a challenge. She challenges him to be happy and to be with her, and to finally make a break with his past. Our dear Martin, when finally given a chance to start anew with the beautiful Alice and their unborn child, literally bolts away and sprints to the police station to turn himself in. The end.
Martin is one of the most pathetic characters in film history. He has no character arc. He doesn't learn anything. All he knows how to do is brood and run from things. I really wanted to strangle him. Juliet Binoche is wasted as this lovely, caring woman who offers pure unconditional love to this idiot. All for nothing...completely in vain.
The Black Dahlia (2006)
Black Dahlia completely missed the emotional tone of the book
Well, James Ellroy is my favorite author. I've read the "LA Quartet" (Black Dahlia, Big Nowhere, LA Confidential and White Jazz) several times. Whereas Curtis Hansen completely nailed the emotional tone of LA Confidential without being 100% loyal to the story, Black Dahlia completely missed the emotional tone of the book, and made a failed attempt to be as loyal to the story as possible.
*****Slight Spoilers Below*****
The emotional tone of the book was OBSESSION. At first Lee Blanchard succumbs to it. In the book he's a very charismatic, extroverted, likable guy. Over time and with the assistance of benzadrine he slips into obsession and madness and it gets him killed.
Bucky follows suit and he almost loses everything in his obsession with Short. As Bucky becomes more and more obsessed WE become more obsessed and we have this irrational hope the the killer will be found when we know in the back of our minds that Short's murder was unsolved.
The film omits much of Bucky's quest. The letters from the killer. The frame up of the vagrants. The sick son cop who was with Short before she was last seen at the Biltmore. The degenerate dentist/abortionist. Although, many of these other missing scenes were not essential to the cinematic experience (ie. Red Manly, the trip to Massachusetts).
The casting was completely off with the exception of Mia Kirchner (and to a lesser extent the guy who played Emmett Linscott). Josh Hartnett is a good actor but just doesn't have enough range to show us Bucky's descent into obsession (although to be fair the bad script doesn't really let him). Scarlett Johansen just doesn't fit here. In the book Kay is more of an independent tomboy, not a glamour girl. Hillary Swank was all wrong. Aaron Eckhart COULD have worked here but the script didn't allow him to show off his potential.
Another thing that was totally random and disappointing was the casting of Mike Starr as Russ Millard. Russ Millard is fairly unique in the Ellroy canon because he is probably the only character in his books that is genuinely a good man with *no* dark past or dark underbelly. He is supposed to be Bucky's mentor and father-figure, but in the movie he is just a 2-dimensional character with no personality.
Another minor scene that was wasted was the autopsy scene. In the book you really get a sense of the horror of the killing from the autopsy. In the movie it's just some weird obese guy flatly throwing out a few lines.
The screen test shots were excellent although DePalma's voice took me out of those scenes a little (not knowing it was him when I saw the movie).
To sum up. The meta-theme in all of Ellroy's books is the dark, dark underbelly of LA in the 40's and '50's. People think of LA back then as this happy, glamorous, romantic Hollywood, a Golden Age. Ellroy exposes the dark, sick underbelly beneath the surface. DePalma seems to have missed this.
One thing I most sincerely hope is that those who hated this movie will not avoid Ellroy now because of this cinematic debacle. He is America's best living noir writer. It's too bad Fincher was unable to make this movie, he would have done it a thousand times better.
The Departed (2006)
Martin Scorecese is finally liberated...
There is not too much to say that hasn't been already said. Let me just add that with this movie, Scorcese has been liberated from the cultural obligation to make an EPIC movie. With this, he has been freed to just make a great MOVIE. There are no grand passion plays here. Just a damn good story.
The ending was a little bit ruined for me because IMDb or Yahoo entertainment news or some other piece of fluff article spoiled it when they speculated on the possibility of making a sequel. Shame on them! Also, why does Scorcese have to include "Gimme Shelter" in all of his trailers and movies? I can just imagine him trying to include it in "Kundun" for crying out loud! Although with that one exception, the soundtrack was superb.
This is Leo's best performance to date....clearly the most understated yet. It amazing to watch him get exponentially better and better with each and every role. All of Leo's past sins have been completely, 100% absolved at this point as far as I'm concerned.
All in all, a superb and riveting movie.
The Matrix Online (2005)
A Different, Refreshing MMO Experience
Tired of the same old, tired, fantasy MMO genres? Are you maybe a little too old to be playing around with Elves, Pixies and Hobgoblins? The Matrix Online presents players with a refreshing change in about as cool a setting as you can get.
Players start out as newly-awakened "Redpills" entering the virtual world that was so vividly realized in Matrix Trilogy of films. Chronologically, the game world begins where the last film of the Trilogy, The Matrix Revolutions, left off. Because of Neo's efforts there exists a fragile truce between Zion and the Machines, whereby a limited number of redpills are allowed limited freedom within Mega City, the geographic area where the bulk of the Trilogy was set. After almost two years of story (the game was officially released in March 2005), a constant theme is the recurrence of various threats to not only the human-machine truce but in some cases threats to the stability of the Matrix itself. Layers of intrigue upon intrigue make the storyline continuously exciting.
As choice was a predominant theme in the Trilogy, so you are given many choices within the game. The first major choice you will make is to whom you will ally yourself with and work for. Probably the most common choice players make is to work for Zion, although players can also work for the Machines, or work for The Merovingian, who is the de facto leader of the "Exiles" (rogue programs). These three groups are the main "orgs" in the game, although there exists two sub-groups within the Zion and Machine orgs respectively. The first, E Pluribus Neo (EPN), are more radical from their parent org Zion, and seek to free more minds from the Matrix. They are led by The Kid, who appeared in the second two films. The second, the Cypherites, are a more radical offshoot of the Machine org, and they seek to give give more people the option to return to the "Bluepill" state. They are led by Cryptos, who did not appear in the Trilogy.
Choice again manifests itself in what roles or class players choose for themselves. Players may be Operatives (Martial Artists, Gunmen, Spies or Assassins - analogous to Fighters and Rogues of other MMO's), Hackers (analogous to Wizards or Clerics in other MMO's), or Coders (players can craft everything from simulacra to abilities to clothing to weapons, among other things). The best part about The Matrix Online, however, is unlike other games you aren't locked into one class for the rest of your online career. If you, for example, are unhappy being a Hacker, you can unload your Hacker abilities and load up Martial Artist abilities. Players are given a finite number of "memory slots" from which they can custom-build loadouts of whatever Ability Tree they choose.
The look of the game is fantastic. Firstly Mega City itself is very well realized, and players have access to four distinct districts of the city and the thousands of buildings within. Secondly the combat graphics are amazing, complimenting well with the Matrix franchise. Lastly the look of the players themselves is uber-cool. People look really ultra-hot and ultra-stylish. Style is important in the game, with literally tens of thousands of clothing combinations one can wear.
There are lots of things to do in-game. You can simply hang out, look cool and chat; you can explore dangerous neighborhoods laden with Exile gangs; you can collect rare items; go to special Archive Constructs; or test your fighting skills against other players. However, the best way to advance in level is to go on Missions (analogous to Quests in other MMO's). There are several types of missions you can go on. You can choose a standard mission, which are generic missions that are always available to you. Or you can choose a critical mission, which serve to advance the storyline in some way. New critical missions come out on average once a week.
If you are lucky, in the right place at the right time, you may be able to participate in a Live Event. This is when major characters from the story step into the world of The Matrix to interact real-time with players. Previous Live Events have featured such well-known characters as Morpheus, The Merovingian, Niobe, Ghost, Persephone, The Kid, The Architect, The Oracle, The Twins, and Seraph. They have also featuerd new major characters such as The Assassin, The General, Agent Pace, Agent Grey, Anome and Cryptos.
In summation, this game is a delight on all levels. I personally have never been a huge video gamer....never had an interest nor played MMO's before this....but with The Matrix Online I have a blast. I look cool and kick ass all for a very marginal monthly fee. I've been playing now for over two years and the game is just as exciting as its ever been. I give this game an enthusiastic ten stars and encourage everyone to check it out!
While this film brings to light a lot of things that America citizens had not been previously aware of, what kills it for me is the Naderite impression given that both sides were equally culpable in this farce of an election.
Specifically the Republican myth that "Gore cherry-picked only the counties where he thought he could get more votes," which is sadly propagated in this film. This gets on my nerves, but sadly it has stood as conventional wisdom, still parroted today from those who should know better, including the makers of this film.
Why did the Gore campaign pick Volusia, Broward, Dade, and Palm Beach Counties for hand recounts so soon after the election? Easy - those (with the exception of Broward) were the counties with the highest reports of irregularities right from the get go. Volusia had some crazy computer malfunction that caused the vote totals to swing wildly election night. Palm Beach County had the whole butterfly ballot thing. And Dade County had a very high number of early reports of irregularities.
In hindsight the only thing I would have done differently if I was in the Gore Campaign would be to have swapped Broward County with Duval County, Duval County being the fourth highest county with early irregularity reports.
It isn't clear if Gore himself even made the decision to make the early hand recount request to the four counties. In the excellent book "Too Close To Call" by Jeffrey Toobin, it is shown that Warren Christopher and a couple others from the Gore campaign were the ones who make the quick decision to request hand recounts from those four counties. The Gore campaign was put on the spot. Florida law states that hand recounts must be individually requested from each county. It is understandable that those in the Gore campaign were uncomfortable with individually asking 64 separate counties for hand recounts, especially since the requests have to come within 24 hours after the election.
After the media and the GOP stared to project the "Gore cherry-picked those four counties" meme, Gore said fine, let's do a hand recount of every vote in every county. The Bush campaign said no and that was the end of that.
So in the end, after researching the subject thoroughly, I have concluded that the Gore campaign only made two tactical errors: 1) They should have substituted Broward County with Duval County.
2) They should have been been as adamant about counting overvotes as they were about counting undervotes (overvotes being those votes where people both wrote in a candidate's name and marked a vote on the ballot - which is clearly a no-brainer when it comes to voter intent as Florida law states).
That's all I can find - hardly an egregious crime or something that would make Gore as culpable as Bush. I do believe history will bear the truth of this out, but sadly this documentary still holds this fatal flaw in the interest of appearing fair and balanced.
90 Days in Hollywood (2003)
Saw this on Biography channel last night for the first time. Seeing all these semitalened people follow the cliche mantra of "Why, I'm gonna make it Hollywood, by golly!" makes you kind of wince. I didn't see anyone among the group that I had really cared about initially, although they did throw in that guy from Blade 2 (the large vampire with the Maori tats on his face and the cool, kick-ass war hammer) who is intriguing.