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Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
I listen to this movie with the same joy as I do a favorite song
I'm not entirely sure what to say about Glengarry Glen Ross without dumbing it down to blind praise. It's easily in my all time top 20 films I've ever seen, and it gets everything right. It has a dream cast and a level of intelligence that's unheard of in movies these days. Need lots of action and cheap thrills? You'll most certainly hate it. Do you enjoy high quality dialogue in your movies? Then it's like porn. Better than porn actually, seeing how you can watch Glengarry Glen Ross over and over and it will always be just as great.
This awkwardly titled classic comes from a play by David Mamet, who also wrote the script. It's a dark, profane, bitter, and cynical story about an office full of sleazy, lowlife salesmen (Pacino, Lemmon, Harris, and Arkin) who's job is to get in contact with cold potential customers (leads), and pass off what's essentially uninhabitable swampland as prime real estate. The job is naturally an exercise in futility, as most of the men are performing very below average, despite their most desperate efforts. The fact that the good leads are being held back by their boss (Spacey) until management sees some results isn't helping either. The situation is a humiliating paradox, that becomes outright desperate when a manager (Alec Baldwin) comes to the office from headquarters and announces a motivational sales contest that will mean prizes for the winners and unemployment for everyone else.
The characters are developed to perfection, and it is their words and reactions to the situation at hand that make this film such a work of genius. Ricky Roma (Al Pacino), has nothing to worry about. He's pretty much always been the top salesman at the office, treating his sales more like tangent-laced seductions, one of which we see working effortlessly. Unfortunately for everyone else, Roma's guaranteed victory narrows down the potential winners. The other guys have varying, but equally desperate reactions to this.
Shelley Levine (Jack Lemmon) is the oldest of the salesmen, and while he was once Roma's equal, he has been seriously slipping in his age and hasn't closed a sale in a very long time. He's in a desperate family situation, which is unspecified, but clearly severe enough that he can't afford to lose his job. He starts by trying to bribe their boss, Williamson (Kevin Spacey), and when that doesn't work, he tries to worm his way into the home of a family who are just as set on buying nothing as he is on selling anything. It's painful to watch, even though the character is unlikeable in many ways.
And then there's Dave Moss (Ed Harris) and George Aaronow (Alan Arkin). These guys have never been near the top, and now their expendability is here to haunt them. George spends the night listening passively as Moss pontificates on everything wrong with their office, which may or may not turn out to be justifying a robbery. Because the next morning, the office is found burglarized. And although Moss was the only one to verbalize his desire to do so, everyone has a reason to. The morning after the robbery, these situations all come to a head and the men are all exposed for the backstabbing scumbags they really are, particularly when Roma's customer from the night before shows up intent on canceling the sale.
The dialogue sizzles. It is some of the best dialogue Mamet ever wrote, which is saying a lot. Every actor sinks into their role, and it's hard to single out a stand-out performance aside from Alec Baldwin's ten minute appearance delivering an unforgettably cruel and venomous speech. Jack Lemmon, most well-known from classic movies like The Apartment and Some Like it Hot, is hard to forget in this movie with a character who is incredibly unlikable, yet still sympathetic. Everyone plays a shade of unlikable in this film, but as far as characters you'll love to hate goes, Kevin Spacey's Williamson takes the cake. He has the easiest job in the office, and he treats his employees like his position makes him more important to the company. He is a complete tool in every way, and when he screws over Roma, you can bet that Al Pacino will dish out the verbal assault to end all verbal assaults ("Who told you that you could work with MEN?!"). It's a completely satisfying moment, as memorable as any of Pacino's best moments from The Godfather, and it's all the better since you totally feel that Spacey's character deserves it.
I could gush over this movie scene after scene all day. It's not so much a movie that appeals to me on a personal level as it is one that plays like a great piece of music. The dialogue is as pleasurable to the ears as great music, and the movie has a stagy yet lyrical quality that sucks you in and doesn't let go. It's one of the most fast-paced films you'll ever see, with two very distinct acts. The movie is over before you know it. Even if it bores you to tears, it'll be over before you realized you were bored. Overall, give the movie a chance. It's the best compilation of writing and acting since 1976's Network.
Raging Bull (1980)
The pinnacle of the DeNiro/Scorsese collaborations.
Martin Scorsese is the epitome of the modern filmmaker. My idol if you will. The guy puts his all into everything he touches. His energy and attention to detail are rarely matched. And he consistently churns out one solid movie after another, with even his lesser works [(Gangs of New York (2002), Shutter Island (2010)] standing out above almost everything else that comes out in terms of quality. While his movies are consistently solid even if not always perfect, more than a few have stood out as timeless, essential classics that will forever go down in film history. Goodfellas (1990) and Taxi Driver (1976) are widely noted as being arguably the greatest films of their respective decades. His greatest masterpiece, Raging Bull (1984), follows in this tradition. It's the best movie of the 80's.
Scorsese brings us the life of middleweight boxing champion Jake LaMotta, one of the least likable protagonists in cinematic history, in a way that makes us fully sympathize with him. That alone is a testament to Scorsese's power as a director, but it's also no coincidence that Scorsese's holy trinity all star Robert DeNiro. Without DeNiro, there'd be no Raging Bull, literally and figuratively. This is a passion project between two friends that went a long way, and that passion shows in every beautifully crafted image. And Robert DeNiro's performance is the stuff of legends, easily one of the top five performances ever caught on film. If LaMotta had been played by anyone else, he most likely would have come off as a soulless thug, not worth caring about. DeNiro plays it differently.
Jake LaMotta is a born champion in the boxing ring, with a knack for fiercely annihilating his opponents. He is becoming a true star in the sport. Life should be good. But it isn't, and it never really has been. Jake LaMotta is a completely insecure and self-destructive individual with a brutal temper. His friends and family, though they care about him, are always on their toes and watching what they say around him. His emotional instability causes him to destroy his relationships with everyone close to him. He truly thinks that he loves his wife, Vickie, and she honestly wants to see the good in him. His brother Joey stands by him, isn't afraid of him, and tries to keep him in line while managing his boxing career. But when Jake begins to suspect that Joey and Vickie are having an affair, the rage that leads him to the top in the ring begins to seep into his personal life, worse so than ever before. It may even mean the last straw for the eternally patient Joey.
The story works because it explores the soul of a hopeless misanthrope without judging him. You feel like you better understand certain people after experiencing Raging Bull. Jake is as three- dimensional as characters come. Despite his inability to be a good person, his desire to do good is always clear. So is Jake a bad person? More a pathetic one. He's his own worst enemy, and that's why we can't completely fault him. This is what Scorsese and DeNiro clearly understood. The movie doesn't tell you what to think of him, and DeNiro doesn't play it any certain way. Raging Bull simply is LaMotta's life, and DeNiro is LaMotta.
Contrary to popular belief, Raging Bull isn't really a "boxing movie." The boxing scenes occupy only a few minutes of screen time, and there is no big match to determine the fate of the characters. It's a character movie, and boxing is the only thing that keeps the character going. As far as the fight scenes go however, they are as good as they've ever been done. The black and white cinematography compliments them very well. It emphasizes the splattering blood which appears as black and thick as Hershey's syrup. Also different from other boxing dramas is the lack of crowd participation in the fights. Rather than focus equally on the drama in and out of the ring, Scorsese's camera puts you right in the ring with the fighters. Every punch is felt, and as brief as they are, the scenes leave you feeling bruised. They're as raw as it gets.
I could pontificate on this movie's endless list of quality attributes for pages and pages. I'll close by saying that Raging Bull is quite possibly the greatest movie from the greatest living filmmaker. It's cinematic art at it's highest form, a tone poem, a character study, and a biography all flawlessly rolled into one majestic package. Unless you're offended by raw language and uncensored depictions of the uglier side of life, there's essentially nothing to complain about when it comes to Raging Bull. 10/10.
The Shining (1980)
Scariest film of all time, and Kubrick's most accessible work, if far from his best.
Stanley Kubrick, whose legendary, chilly style is so distinct that you can tell a Kubrick film no matter what genre he tackled. The Shining, inspired by (I won't say "based on") Stephen King's classic novel, is Stanley Kubrick's stab at straight horror. A master of making the audience uncomfortable even in his non-horror films, Kubrick fully disregards all the normal conventions of horror and films a genuinely frightening story in his own unique, deeply dark and often downright uncomfortable style. With a classic performance by Jack Nicholson that is simultaneously hilarious and bone-chilling, and a pervading sense of dread brought on by the gorgeous use of location, no movie has the power to truly, deeply disturb me every time I watch it like The Shining. It's a perfect horror film.
The story involves the dysfunctional Torrance family, Jack, Wendy, and their little son Danny. The intense Jack is a recovering alcoholic and aspiring writer who takes a job as winter caretaker at the isolated, prestigious Overlook Hotel, the disturbing past of which doesn't bother Jack in the slightest. Upon arrival, the troubled Danny discovers that he has psychic powers; he can see things from the past and future. This power is called "shining," and it seems to be in full effect in the hotel. Danny is terrified by what he sees, and rightly so. Unfortunately, he is too young to understand what he's seeing, so he can't warn his parents.
He doesn't really have to, as the hotel's demons, or perhaps simply the claustrophobia and isolation, seem to be taking a more sinister toll on Jack. Stuck with his family whom he can barely tolerate for nearly a year in a place with no alcohol, his temper gets gradually worse. When Wendy becomes scared of the hotel and suggests leaving, Jack is furious to say the least. He then meets (or does he?) the former caretaker from the hotel's sordid past who kindly suggests a harsher, more permanent way of dealing with his family issues.
The Shining is an enigmatic film. We can never tell whose point of view we are witnessing the events from, or if we even are at all. There is as much to suggest that the Overlook is simply haunted as there is to say the characters are claustrophobic and hallucinating. This consistent ambiguity results in a deeply unsettling tone where for much of the time, we aren't sure what we're afraid of. The simple idea of three people alone in a giant isolated hotel is creepy, and as the camera follows the characters around the Overlook, we sense danger around every corner.
As far as scares go, the film isn't all atmosphere. Say what you will about hidden messages and menacing camera-work, The Shining's relentlessly visceral nature alone is where its powerful immediate impact lies. There are some legendary shocks here. The elevator scene. The baseball bat/typewriter scene. The room 237 scene. Special mention should go to the two little girls for being among the only horror characters to literally keep me sleeping with the lights on. Kubrick pulls these scenes off with the most masterful sense of timing, pacing, and atmosphere. There is gore in the film, but it is used sparingly and to maximum shock effect.
The performances are odd, but looking back, I couldn't picture anyone else in any of the roles. Nicholson is basically playing himself in a lot of ways, and as over-the-top and hilarious as his performance is, it is also truly scary. Nicholson the actor seems to be really enjoying acting insane; his fun rubs off on us, and we laugh with him, and at his over-the-top nature; but his insanity is never doubted, and his sense of fun rubs off on us making us feel almost complicit in Jack's rampage. Shelly Duvall is rather annoying as his wife, although I think that was what Kubrick was going for. It's more believable that he'd want to chop her up than if she was a stronger person. For the record though, she is very good at conveying deep, helpless terror when the scene calls for it (with the help of Kubrick's intimidation). Danny Lloyd does good as Danny, which is remarkable as at such a young age, he didn't know he was making a horror movie; he's as believable as such a young actor can be, and his performance works because his innocence is the real thing. Scatman Crothers steals every scene he's in as the hotel cook who befriends Danny; he's just such a charming, likable guy who brings a little relief from the grimness of the storytelling, without taking away from it; his role proves darker than mere comic relief. I should also mention that Philip Stone's performance as "Grady" makes a more terrifying impression in two scenes than most actors do in whole movies. For such a polite gentleman, there is something so off about the mere presence of his character, that you never feel comfortable; the mere expression on his face during the bathroom scene still keeps me uneasy late at night.
The score, the cinematography, the editing, the lighting, the sound... I could never stop praising this film. It is my idea of a perfect horror film, perfectly blending claustrophobia, gore, psychological terror, ghostly imagery, and mind-bending weirdness to create a film that's as nightmare-inducing as it is brilliant. 10/10 The Shining is rated R for disturbing images and terror throughout, some violence, nudity, and language.
The Other Guys (2010)
Funniest movie of the year! What a surprise!
And I thought Will Ferrell's ship had sailed years ago. None of his movies since Anchorman have been much better than average, and his personality has since gotten quite old. I was blown away by this film on that level. Will Ferrell actually was funny. Though his usual style of humor was there, he never goes overboard with it, always staying true to his hysterical character. Even funnier is Mark Wahlberg, who actually manages to upstage Will Ferrell in the comedy department. His chemistry with Ferrell, his constant angry outbursts and thoroughly agitated personality result in some of the biggest laughs of the summer. Wahlberg might just have a career in comedy as a result of this.
The plot is rather weak in many ways. Ferrell and Wahlberg play a couple of police desk drones who live in the shadow of two badass hero cops who the city worships (two of the funniest cameos ever... I won't spoil them). When an unfortunate accident occurs, frustrated tough guy Wahlberg convinces Ferrell to join him in trying to take their place. What follows is an endless stream of gags and one-liners, as well as a convoluted and somewhat unnecessary financial thriller subplot that tends to drag the film down when it's emphasized too much. But it's hard to find fault when a film makes me laugh like this one did.
The Other Guys knows that its success relies on the quality of its jokes, and fully delivers. A running joke involves Ferrell, an effeminate dweeb, getting all the attractive women much to Wahlberg's dismay and confusion. Their take on how Hollywood portrays explosions is great, and we get a true sense of the god complex that seems to affect most movie cops (see the movie and you'll know what I mean). The jokes range fro brilliant, to not-so-brilliant but well-timed and executed, sometimes silly, sometimes downright bizarre, and sometimes lost among the laughter. It would take a second viewing to catch everything, because this is truly one film where you WILL miss lines from laughing.
The storyline is flimsy and the action sequences are poor, but that's just the film snob in me talking. I see comedies to laugh, and when it works, it works. The Other Guys is the funniest film to come out this year. 7/10.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
I really wanted to love it. But I can barely even bring myself to like it.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has made me question just how well I fit in with my generation. According to other members of my generation, it is the movie to end all movies, and the best movie... I'm sorry... most EPIC movie ever. I'm partial to The Godfather myself. Scott Pilgrim is a film that I was looking forward to as Michael Cera has made me laugh numerous times in the past, and Edgar Wright is easily one of the more talented newer directors working today. Combined with the eye-popping visual effects, I couldn't see how these things could add up to anything less than a fun and entertaining film. Fun, to a point. Entertaining? Well...
Scott Pilgrim's first problem is the plot. The plot is self-conscious and repetitive, as well as overly laid back and easygoing. Scott Pilgrim has to defeat his new girlfriend's seven evil ex's. That's the whole plot, and at no point do we get the sense that anything is at stake for these characters. I know that probably shouldn't matter in an effects-driven popcorn movie, but with nothing to root for, or no suspense of any kind, I found the film to get boring after the first thirty minutes. That is approximately when the first evil ex shows up. They fight. He defeats him easily. Too easily. The fight isn't all that exciting as a result. And with six of these to go, the movie became a tedious experience before it was even halfway over.
Not to say the film doesn't have it's good points. Michael Cera, though not as witty as he can be, is still somewhat likable. And while the script lacks structure of any kind, it is jam- packed with hilariously quirky dialogue and brilliant sight gags. The filmmaking is generally good throughout, and as a director Edgar Wright hasn't lost his talent. Unfortunately, the poor storyline ultimately overshadowed these elements for me.
Maybe it's because I don't play video games. Maybe I just need to read the comics. Or maybe I'm just becoming less fun of a person as I mature. I want to like this movie and take the same joy from it that my generation does, but I simply can't. I'll stick to films with stories and social relevance and enjoy being the outcast. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World gets a generous 5/10 because I feel giving it anything lower would just make me look bitter.
Pet Sematary (1989)
A solid adaptation of one of the most horrifying novels ever written. Daring and deeply unsettling.
Few horror experiences can compare with reading Stephen King's Pet Sematary for the first time. If anybody has the art of terror flawlessly mastered, it's Stephen King. The man can make even the most hokey concept terrifying, through his mastery of word use and his deeply intricate characterizations which make the horror feel more close to home. One of the finest examples of this is Pet Sematary. On page, it's as scary as can be. Naturally, it would be quite difficult to fully capture the novel's full terror in a film, but with the help of Stephen King's faithful screenplay and competent direction and acting, Pet Sematary is as scary an adaptation as we could possibly want.
Pet Sematary is a relentlessly brutal horror story about a close, loving family whose world is gradually torn apart in the most devastating and horrible manner imaginable. King spares none of his characters the worst possible fates, even fates worse than death. I won't spoil anything for those who don't know what that entails. Suffice to say, you may want to sleep with the lights on for a few nights after this one. It's rough, bleak, unforgiving stuff.
As a fan of the book, all I can say is, well done. It's as realistically faithful to the book in all the ways it needs to be, and some of the scares translate very well to the screen. The character Zelda, for example. Terrifying in the book, just as scary in the film. And the story's most tragically horrible event is as shocking and upsetting as it was in the book. As in the book, death is dealt with in a disturbingly frank manner. Psychologically, this is as harsh as it gets.
Naturally, the film does pale in comparison to the book and isn't without its flaws. Stephen King's style isn't easy to translate to the screen as a lot of his plots are driven by what the characters are thinking, and King taps directly into their minds and tells us how they rationalize some very bad decisions. Since this isn't nearly as easy to accomplish on film, the characterization suffers. The acting makes up for it for the most part. It's nothing spectacular, but the actors are competent and as likable as they should be.
Overall, despite the flaws, I highly recommend Pet Sematary, though I'd read the book first. I wouldn't recommend it for anyone who can't handle extreme grimness or a little graphic gore. 8/10
The Way of the Gun (2000)
Violent, exhilarating, and maybe too smart for it's own good. An underrated masterpiece.
Way of the Gun is one of the most underrated films I've ever seen, and is one of my personal favorites. It was ignored in theaters, and the reviews were divided between those who thought it was a masterpiece, and those who found it to be a slow, pretentious bore. I'm proudly in the former group. This film is written by the same man who wrote The Usual Suspects (who makes his directorial debut here), and though the straight-forward narrative is a big departure from that film, it is just as good. Fantastic dialogue, strong characters who are developed by the actors expressions rather than pointless exposition, and a storyline that doesn't in any way insult the viewer's intelligence. It also happens to be one hell of a good action flick.
The film follows two drifters known only as Parker (Ryan Phillipe) and Longbaugh (Benicio Del Toro) who live life on the road, supporting themselves through petty crime. One day, they stumble upon an opportunity to score big money fast. A woman, Robin (Juliette Lewis) is being paid one million dollars to act as a surrogate mother for a wealthy "businessman" and his wife and is nearly due. Acting too quickly and without the necessary information about who exactly they're crossing, Parker and Longbaugh kidnap Robin in a hail of gunfire, evading her two shady bodyguards (Taye Diggs and Nicky Katt). They realize too late that the intended father of the unborn baby is a money launderer for some very bad people and can't pay the unreasonably high ransom without putting his own life at serious risk at the hands of his employers. The man dispatches his designated problem solver (James Caan) to clear up the situation as neatly as possible. However, the secret loyalties, and the hidden, often sinister motivations of everyone involved quickly sends things spinning violently out of control.
Way of the Gun opens with a bang and continues for an action-packed twenty minutes before slowing down and taking time to focus on the characters and the plot. The middle hour of the film is what lost many viewers. This section of the movie is very quiet and subtle, revealing many deep character traits in the least-contrived manner you'll see in an action film. The dialogue is incredibly realistic, and in no way dumbed down to explain things clearly. The characters know what they're talking about, and they actually communicate with other characters as opposed to the audience, which gives the film an often voyeuristic feel. The viewer absolutely must pay attention to everything said in the film or they will be completely lost as to what is happening and why. Many plot twists occur. Aside from Parker and Longbaugh, nobody is who they appear to be, and everything is far more complex than it appears on the surface.
The final, and possibly strongest act of the film is where things really speed up, and the film becomes in exercise in pure mayhem. Bullets fly in all directions, loudly and frequently and the blood flows freely. The gun battles in this section are among the biggest highlights of the film. They are loud enough that you could put the film on mute and still probably hear the shots clearly, and the choreography is fantastic. Unlike most action films, this movie doesn't over-stylize it's action sequences. There is no slow motion or MTV-style editing. The action is as realistic as any film I've seen in recent memory. Also, if you can't stand the sight of blood, DO NOT see this film. The third act is about as violent and bloody as a film can be without being slapped with an NC-17 rating. Standout scenes include a gory, wince-inducing moment involving broken glass, and a horrific field surgery sequence that takes place in the middle of the seemingly endless hails of gunfire. This isn't cool, Tarantino-style violence. The violence here is gritty, brutal, and in-your-face.
The cast does a wonderful job at bringing the script to life. Since most of the dialogue is plot-related, the characters true personalities are brought out by their subtle actions. Ryan Phillipe and Benicio Del Toro give their characters, who have little background info, flawless chemistry. They communicate with their looks more often than their words. Taye Diggs gives his character the perfect amount of coldness, and James Caan stands out as a man who emotionally speaking, secretly has more at stake than anyone else in the story and his character is probably the most interesting out of all of them.
Way of the Gun will divide viewers, and one has to pay close attention to catch everything. When people aren't getting killed left and right, the film becomes slow-paced on a level that many will find maddening. However, those looking for something that won't insult their intelligence will find everything they could possibly want in a crime picture. I found this to be a truly exhilarating experience, and one that any fan of film should check out. 10/10.
Way of the Gun is rated R for strong violence/gore, language, and some sexuality. Sex - 4/10 Violence - 10/10 Swearing - 10/10 Drugs - 3/10
The Mexican (2001)
A heavily flawed, but nonetheless fun and enjoyable journey to nowhere
I love this movie, flaws and all. It's a fun, albeit pointless story with some good funny dialogue, enough violence and gun play for the guys, romance for the girls, and entertaining, if not Oscar-worthy, performances from an excellent cast. I'll be honest, in spite of the pacing flaws and overall pointlessness, I really can't say I didn't enjoy the hell out of this movie because it delivers a little bit of everything.
The story follows Jerry (Brad Pitt), a mob errand boy who has a knack for screwing things up, resulting in him always being in the mob's debt. He is ordered to fly to Mexico to pick up a priceless, legendary pistol known as "The Mexican," and bring it back to the states. Not quite comprehending the fact that his life depends on the assignment, Jerry's overly emotional girlfriend Samantha (Julia Roberts) isn't happy that he's blowing off their romantic trip to Vegas for it, and breaks up with him. Shortly after retrieving the pistol, Jerry manages to royally screw up everything, and as a result, the mob sends a hit man, Leroy (James Gandolfini) to take Samantha hostage until Jerry gets the gun back. Samantha and Leroy soon become good friends, and over the course of their separate adventures, Jerry and Samantha realize they still love each other.
The first thing anybody should know about this before they watch it is that it isn't really a romantic comedy. The majority of the comedy is in the first thirty minutes, and Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts don't spend nearly as much time on screen together as the misleading ads suggested. The film is not as much of a romantic comedy as it is a messy mixture of comedy, crime/gangster thriller, romance, action, adventure, and drama, never content to settle on a single tone. One minute you're chuckling heartily at some goofy, innocent dialogue about love and romance, and the next minute, someone's being shot to death in a very bloody fashion. It isn't necessarily a dark movie, but it's by no means a lighthearted one either. The constant shifts in tone will put many people off.
The dialogue between Julia Roberts and James Gandolfini is a lot of fun to hear, and it's quite insightful on the subject of relationships. Their scenes are the heart of the movie, and provide the emotional core. The performances here are excellent. Julia Roberts is excellent and really brings her over-dramatic loudmouth character fully to life. James Gandolfini is perfect as the gay hit man with a heart of gold. He is believable as a soft-hearted gay man as well as a cold-blooded killer. Brad Pitt's journey in Mexico is the more slapstick of the two, and also the more mean-spirited and violent. Brad Pitt is very funny when he needs to be, but his performance feels rather awkward at times, and in many scenes, he talks with his hands as if he has no idea how to deliver his lines. He's still a fairly likable character.
Although they would be just fine as their own movies, these two stories manage to give the movie a little something for everyone. It would be a great date movie for patient couples. I use the word patient, because the movie is needlessly slow at times, and would have greatly benefited from an editor. This is the biggest flaw in the film. Many shots of nothing happening in certain scenes, as well as various pointless moments in general could have been easily cut. The film's 130 minutes could have become 110 or even 100 without in any way diminishing the entertainment value or effecting the story for the worst. This is some of the most lazy editing in any movie I've seen. Another problem is that the stories really don't go anywhere. Although you'll come away most likely having been entertained, you won't be able to help but wonder what the point to everything you just saw was.
The Mexican was originally intended to be an independent movie, and perhaps it would have been better-received if it had stayed independent. When a story this quirky and different attracts the two biggest stars in Hollywood, it only sets itself up for disappointment. That and the slow editing. But flaws and all, The Mexican is a fun and enjoyable journey to nowhere. It's funny, it's violent, and it's got entertaining characters, and in spite of these flaws, I really love this movie, and recommend it to anyone willing to endure a few slow stretches of an otherwise fun time. 8/10.
The Mexican is rated R for Violence and Language. Sex - 3/10 Violence - 8/10 Swearing - 10/10 Drugs - 2/10.
Ken Park (2002)
A vile, ugly, and sick movie which nobody should subject themselves to for any reason.
I was a fan of Kids and Bully, so my curiosity peaked when I learned that this similarly- themed film was banned all over, and was so controversial that it couldn't find a US distributor. I tracked down the film online and what followed was as painful a viewing experience as I can remember.
The film follows the lives of four random kids and their home lives. The kind of home lives that Jerry Springer wouldn't touch. One kid has a girlfriend who he has sex with on a regular basis, and she is completely unaware that he is cheating on her... with her mom. Another kid lives with an abusive father who constantly berates him and pushes him to become a man... until he decides sex with his son may be the best answer to that. Another young man lives with his sweet and endlessly loving grandparents. The kid is vicious and ungrateful in a way that would make him seem less than human. The fourth character, a girl, is a seemingly innocent religious girl who likes kinky sex. When her Christian fundamentalist father finds out about this, she is forced to marry him.
The film is an all-out assault of unpleasantness. The stories are presented in a cold, bleak manner that rivals Kids for chilling realism, and in this case, that isn't a good thing. The stories are completely pointless. Graphic, taboo, and shocking for no reason other than to make the viewer suicidal. Though the theme of twisted home lives may seem like perfect material for a chilling message movie, Ken Park manages to reduce the concept to nothing but shock tactics. Rather than providing a logical explanation for the disturbing events, it simply presents them in as explicit detail as possible which diminishes whatever the film was trying to say. Rather than show some development of ANY kind to what the relationship between the boy who has sex with his girlfriend's mom and his girlfriend, we are instead treated to a long, pornographic scene of the young man giving her the tongue. Instead of shedding some light on why the kid living with his grandparents truly hates his guardians so much, we instead get a hardcore scene of the kid masturbating while strangling himself. Did we really need to see every last detail of this (right down to the on-screen ejaculation)?
The film is profoundly disturbing, but due to the lack of any clear message, the film simply leaves you feeling worse about being alive rather than make you think like most disturbing movies manage to do. This is the most disturbing movie I've ever seen, made all the more upsetting by the lack of a point. The claustrophobic and chilly atmosphere this film creates would have been a positive had it been for a film with a script that had more on it's mind than shocking the audience to the point of requiring therapy.
Porn disguised as art is still porn. After seeing this film, I wanted to physically assault Larry Clark for being a disgusting pervert and for subjecting me to this ugly garbage called a film. Saying the name of this film leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, and so does writing about it. I'm writing it to warn you to stay the hell away from this film. Do NOT let your curiosity get the best of you, avoid this child porn trash like the plague. 1/10.
Ken Park is not rated, but it would be NC-17 for lengthy scenes of pornographic sex acts, endlessly lingering shots of complete nudity, hardcore grisly violence, general brutality, drugs, and language (should language even be considered a problem among everything else here?). Sex - 10/10 Violence - 8/10 Swearing - 10/10 Drugs - 9/10
Strange Wilderness (2008)
I can't for the life of me remember a less funny comedy
Even the worst comedies tend to have a moment or two that make me laugh in spite of myself. And most comedies that are REALLY bad are made entertaining on a different level. Meet the Spartans had two moments that made me smile, and one that made me chuckle, and the film was so horrendously awful that it was fascinating. Strange Wilderness was a whole new experience. It is a comedy without a single successfully funny moment, and isn't even entertaining because of it. I feel like a war vet for having sat through the whole thing.
The movie follows a the brainless crew of a failing wildlife show as they try to save the show from cancellation by embarking on a road trip to South America to find big-foot. A premise that could have been funny, considering the endless possibilities to be found in road comedies, but ultimately degenerates into one forgettable, poorly-acted skit after another that at no point comes close to even resembling a coherent story. Most bad comedies are criticized for having no plot. With this one, it's actually true.
I couldn't see a drunk person or an immature 13-year-old laughing at a single moment in this film. Every joke fails so miserably it's depressing. The talented cast displays no energy whatsoever. The jokes consist of the usual one-liners, sexual innuendo, and slapstick, none of which works for a second. They just say the one-liners like they're reading them to get it over with, and they perform the slapstick with no effort to make it funny. The film feels honestly like it had no script, and that everyone just got high and made up the plot as they went along. Characters who you didn't even notice were in the movie are abruptly killed off, and their deaths do absolutely nothing to advance whatever story the movie has. The absence of a story can be good, but Strange Wilderness is as flat and lifeless as any movie you're likely to see. It's boring.
The cast is wasted (most likely in more ways than one). Steve Zahn is generally great, but his idea of acting here mainly consists of frantic screaming and clueless mumbling of some of the lamest comic dialogue imaginable. Allen Covert does absolutely nothing. He just stands there and waits for the movie to end. Jonah Hill is particularly bad here. He uses a Southern accent so bad that if I were Southern myself, I'd develop a complex about it. And Kevin Heffernan, so funny in Super Troopers, is as boring as the rest of the film as a recovering alcoholic. If you're gonna give a character in a sketchy comedy a gimmick, make sure you include some jokes involving it. The filmmakers simply assume that the fact that he's a recovering alcoholic alone is funny. I could go on and on, so I'll stop.
I could go on and on with what makes this movie as bad as it is, but I'd just end up repeating myself using different words. As a fan of stupid comedies, including some particularly bad ones, I will say that Strange Wilderness is the single least funny, least enjoyable, and most boring, annoying, depressing, and abysmal comedy I have ever seen. Freddy Got Fingered sucked too. The difference between this film an that one is that Freddy Got Fingered had a few laughs. Don't even watch this movie just to see how bad it is. It WILL NOT entertain you for a second, and there are many better things you could do with your time. 0/10.
Strange Wilderness is rated R for non-stop language, drug use, and crude sexual humor. Sex - 7/10. Violence - 7/10. Swearing - 10/10. Drugs - 9/10.