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Bowling for Columbine (2002)
One of the most thought-provoking films in recent memory,
Michael Moore's scathing 2002 documentary attempts to find answers to the question why American culture is steeped in violence and fear, while the rest of the world seems to be less-affected by violence and crime than America. His interviews with a bank that gives away guns, a high school drop-out who's disappointed he only made number two on the towns bomb threat list, and South Park creator Matt Stone and controversial rock artist Marilyn Manson are baffling, hilarious, disturbing and revealing. Together with two Columbine High School Massacre survivors (a shooting that occurred in 1999 in a Colorado high school for those that don't know), Moore scores against K-Mart, and in one of Moore's trademark ambush interviews, Charlton Heston comes perilously close to unmasking himself as an uncaring racist. Moore digs stubbornly for answers and arrives at startling connections, for instance when visits Lockheed Martin, the world's largest weapons manufacturer, which just happens to be located in Littleton, Colorado -- the location of High School massacre.
The mystery involving the overly violent nature of America lives on, and what Moore is capable of discovering is that there isn't a concrete conclusion to be possibly drawn. Why is it that any U.S. citizens can personally own handguns just as easily as hunting rifles? Nobody, it seems, can find a valid reason for their purpose aside from as a gateway to further violence.
Bowling for Columbine is one of the most thought provoking films in recent memory. In years to come, the film should stand as a watermark for how powerful and riveting a documentary film has the ability of being. It is entertaining enough to grasp the viewer; and is a highly recommended accomplishment.
Basic Instinct (1992)
Not a very realistic premise, but a very entertaining and top-notch thriller.
What can I honestly say about Basic Instinct that has not already been said? The film opened with an enormous bang in 1992 it was one of the most commercially successful films of the year, and it was surrounded by immense hype. It soon became of the defining films of the '90s, because of the grotesque sexuality and violence it so graphically portrayed. But once you get past that, it's a top-notch, highly entertaining thriller. It combines the stylish aspects of the classic Hitchcock production, Vertigo, a long-time favourite of mine, right from the San Francisco setting, to Sharon Stone wardrobe choices and her calculating, evil and cold persona (a substitute for Kim Novak in Vertigo).
Everything about this movie is astounding, it even continues to evoke a "wow" factor today, well into the 2000s, and that goes to show much about its audacity and high-risk dares it took on, and subsequently conquered back in the early 1990s. Sure it's not a very realistic premise but it's an amazing visual and artistic achievement that is pinned firmly into cinema history. It merits a well-deserved status as a modern classic, something you rarely come across today.
Stone is marvelous as the sexy, devious and manipulative femme fatal heiress Catherine Tramell, who was unfairly under looked at the Oscars ceremony in 1993. Her presence is amazing; she steals the show from the first scene, right on to the very end, when it is revealed she was the perpetrator of the murders. She resembles one of the great temptresses of neo-noir, back in 1940s and 1950s cinema. Douglas is also at top-notch as the washed up and perhaps a little too vulnerable detective, prone to falling into Catherine's seductive, saucy charms to her pure intentions. Supporting cast is also wonderful, featuring the screen talents of Jeanne Tripplethorn and George Duzanda among others. The direction by Verhoven (of the equally fantastic science fiction thriller Total Recall) is very inventive he certainly knows a lot about the Hitchockien intrigue. He has all the plot twist of Hitchock, the visual style, its all there, but the copious sexuality was quite Hitchcock's vice in film.
An excellently entertaining, elegantly composed and directed top-notch thriller, however it certainly is not for the faint hearted or immature. I may be a little young to watch it, but I'm mature and understanding when it comes to cinema. You where warned, now see it if you want a dazzling thrill ride.
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
The power of this film astounds me; a must see!
Requiem for a Dream is a very difficult film to describe, simply because it evokes some many emotions, which says a lot about the power the film has. The power can affect the viewer in different ways, and you really need to be willing to put yourself through what is undeniably a profoundly disturbing experience - as a lot of this film is quite graphic. However, since I'm always ready for a new cinema experience, I saw this film, and when it finished, it left me speechless, I was amazed at what I'd witnessed, and glad in the same way.
The director, Darren Aronofsky (of 'Pi', 1998), clearly knows the effects of certain addictions, and explores three peoples lives (that are in some way connected) from New York City, who have addictions of their own, and how these addictions cause the their simultaneous downfall. Most of them where blessed with a fairly good future in life, however this was completely destroyed after they began to rely on certain drugs to get along. These people are Harry (played by Jared Leto) and Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) are a couple of small-time drug users who get an idea to become dealers themselves. Marion (played by Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly) is Harry's girlfriend, who gradually gets hooked on their product. Sara Goldfarb (played by Ellen Burstyn) is Harry's mother who receives a call telling her she's won a contest and will appear on a popular television game show. She becomes obsessed with losing weight to fit into an old red dress and becomes hooked on diet pills, after several other diets she experiments with fail. These four fall so far so gruesomely into misfortune, basically ruining their lives...and how this happens is shown so very explicitly, yet it has a purpose, it isn't in any way trying to be pretentious or over the top, and it effectively displays the effects their addictions have had on them.
One of the many things that makes Requiem for a Dream great is its and extremely original visual style, ranging from those amazing signature looks, from rapid-fire montage editing to dizzying shots with the camera strapped to the actor's chest, to show the viewer what the actor may have been seeing during that certain scene. Another film that does a bona-fide job of holding the film up is the dazzling, emotionally powerful performances, especially from Burstyn, who received a richly deserved (!) Oscar-nomination for her performance, in fact, it may be her best performance, along with The Exorcist (1973) and The Straight Story (1999). Hers is the most touching character, the one who takes the highest fall, and the supporting performances from Leto, Connelly and Wayans, who all I believed merited Oscar nominations for their own great performances. I could honestly go on and on about what makes Requiem great, and powerful, but I really don't need to, I felt the whole movie was amazing.
All up, I will said Requiem for a Dream is an amazing experience, it had a profound impact on me (but it is all worth it), and I'm sure it will on you, if you see it, which I recommend you do some time soon! Definitely suitable for the most ardent fan of drama.
See It if You Liked: Kids (1995), Basketball Diaires (1993), Girl Interrupted (1999).
The Shining (1980)
A legendary horror film, from a legendary director
'The Shining' is one of the finest horror films ever made, and one of Stanley Kubrick's most amazing achievements (however there was many more). It was the only horror movie Kubrick ever made, which may be positive on our part; because he was always motivated by a style that seldom had seen reproduction from other filmmakers, this allows one to look at the product from a neutral perspective, canceling out all standard comparisons to other horror movies, especially those that were also tailored from Stephen King novels (although King himself thinks Kubrick's adaptation of his novel was butchery, for some reason?). To say that the picture is one of a kind is accurate, but one in a million feels even more appropriate. It is in that small handful of the scariest horror movies ever made, and it distances itself from the typical 'slasher' genre, which is now very tiring, because no remake in made in the 2000s can beat out the original 1970s/1980s version.
Another equally amazing thing is, after all this time, is how well Kubrick used his actors, music and visuals to underscore the themes of the story itself. The technical details are prototypes in themselves, helping the story build massive tension; the long hallway shots, the eerie musical score, the use of words written backwards, the implication of a blizzard, and the tall, wide staircases establish a sense of uncertainty for both the audience and the individuals in the movie. Each of the characteristics are also evidence of the haunting craftsmanshipthe photography of the hotel, for instance, creates a portrait of breathtaking beauty long before the breakdown of the characters' lucidity chars our attraction to it.
The performances are just brilliant, but with the exception of Shelly Duvaull, while her performance as a caring mother is good, her mousy screams get very overacted, and tedious after a while. But Jack Nicholson was AMAZING in this film, his performance was strong, believable and terrifying. It is easily his best performance to date!
Overall, everything in The Shinning works brilliantly. Full of brilliant psychological scares and flawless imagery.
The Ice Storm (1997)
Beautiful and touching, yet utterly disturbing and depressing
In 1994, author Rick Moody wrote a excellent, detailed and bittersweet novel about two dysfunctional middle class American families (no, its not American Beauty) living in suburbia caught up around the time of the infamous 'Watergate' scandal and the civil rights statement, as well as freak mid-winter ice storm. Two years later, Chinese/American director Ang Lee adapted the novel into a film, 'The Ice Storm'. However, the film remained quite marginal and hardly noticed, it was a major box office flop, yet critics seemed to love the film, I'm in the with critics, once again. It is nice to see now, that with Ang Lee's Oscar winning hit (what many even consider a masterpiece), Brokeback Mountain, everyone wants to check out his other films, this being no exception what so ever.
Many of the people in Ang Lee's films are on the verge of somekind of breakdown, or are learning more about themselves and their sexuality, as is a case in this film. Almost everyone gets caught doing something associated with a taboo, or something they shouldn't be doing in this film. Set just before and on Thanksgiving (that most depressing and overwrought of Hallmark-driven holidays, perhaps especially in New England, where the whole hypocritical business originated), the film is cold. It's filled with images of visible breath puffs, frozen ground, and ice, delicately dark gray or crystal clear mementos of existential paybacks and endless cycles of pain. The moral design is a familiar one in movies and novels, in which carelessness, malice and guilt always come with extravagant emotional price tags.
The ice is almost everywhere. At times, it has a metaphorical meaning which is overstatedthese characters are frozen in harsh, fragile existences, and don't you forget it, they are stuck. But it's also great-looking and adds beauty to the film and the mess the characters are in; it clicks in the wind on tree branches and those chimes favored by people with porches, breaks open in those metal ice trays, makes driving treacherous, cracks when people walk over it and glitters in sunlight. Elena and Ben, like most everyone else in the film, might be understood to be living under ice, inside it, too close to its transparent surface. The two families are the highly dysfunctional and anti social Hoods and the Carvers, neighbors who need, compete with, and resent each other. They're all afraid to be found out as unhappy or under-resourcedto be forced to imagine alternatives. Their affluence is devastating.
Elena Hood, is finding it hard to confront her husband, Ben Hood on his affair with Janey Carver, a cold and distant woman who doesn't like her real husband. The kids, (especially the promiscuous Wendy Hood) are all discovering more about their sex lives, and soon experimenting with it, however a majority of it is shown, because that's just the way it should be, it's style over substance, remember that one. Wendy Hood connects almost all of the kids together, as she has relationships with almost all of them.
Everyone in The Ice Storm is either uptight, on the verge of breakdown, shrill and too aware of their various audiences. The film captures this sense of "verge-ness" perfectly. For all its aesthetic and thematic chilliness, it's about melting and depressing, too. And that's how you're left by the surprisingly dramatic but admirably underplayed finale, feeling just a bit melted. The performances are amazing, and it was Christina Ricci's first mature role, and I must say she handled it fantastically. Among the rest of the talented cast is Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Toby McGuire and Elijah Wood. The direction is also fantastic, which easily makes Ang Lee one of the most talented active directors today.
Overall, the Ice Storm is disturbingly bleak and depressing however all of that is totally relevant with its plot and all. It is an almost flawless film, making its way into the list of one of my favourite films, an unforgettable experience is what this film gave me.
See It If You Liked: American Beauty, Blue Velvet and Brokeback Mountain
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
A refreshing, beautiful work of art
2001: A Space Odyssey is a meditative quest, an inspirational sci-fi film that defies its genre in scope and attitude; it is a film of tremendous visual impact and innovation. It was done before Star Wars and at a time when sci-fi films were mostly low-budget productions. It one of Kubrick's finest films, and it is a refreshing break from the typical science fiction films you see today, this one has so much depth and there is a message, it isn't just about explosions or implosions.
The film, ultimately, is about the need mankind has to transcend its limited thinking and move into dimensions that are greater than its narrow aims. It is not a pessimistic film as some have suggested, neither is it an optimistic film; it is a film based on self-discovery and intellect and contemplation. It is one of the great original works of cinema, maybe even the best; it is a film that is not even a bit dated as I took my VHS copy from 2001 out of my movie collection and viewed it once again in a few weeks ago; still to be awed by the spectacle, the accuracy of its scientific statements, and its mystery.
When you view this film for the first time, it is perplexing, and will have you ruptured, it is quite hard to interpretate what it's actually trying to tell you. However it is open to interpretation, there have been many answers and questions, perhaps more questions than answers. It is mainly about man, and who we continue to kill to protect our territory so we can survive. The question is, will our evolution into the Star Child (seen at the end of the film) change anything or will mans nature remain the same? See how it raises more questions than it answers.
2001 has had an amazing impact on Hollywood and pop culture and has spawned countless rip off and spoof versions over the years. Because it will always stand as the greatest of all sci-fi movies, and perhaps the one that holds the best plot...even if it will take you forever to work out what it's actually about it.
My only complaint what so ever was the pacing, the film can become considerably slow at times, however that is understandable because Kubrick was trying to depict an accurate journey in space, and understandably couldn't be rounded of too quickly....and sometimes it's nice to just watch the beautiful cinematography unfold in front o your eyes and let it dazzle you.
Overall, 2001 is brilliantly conceived work, and is a visually, breathtaking work of art, it is certainly one of Kubrick's greatest. It may contain flaws, but hey, what film doesn't? It will retain its status as a artistic masterpiece for god knows how long.
Now and Then (1995)
An all star cast, Now and Then is a touching friendship film!
Somewhat reminiscent of the classic Stand by Me, Now and Then is a delightful, touching movie about four girls trying to come to terms with death, loyalty, and independence during the 1970s. Their reunion in the 1990s enables them to put the past in perspective and to reconfirm their need for each other.
Produced by Demi Moore, who also plays the adult version of one of the characters, ''Now and Then'' concentrates on the bumpy, bittersweet transition between childhood and adolescence. Loss of innocence, sexual awakening, the first glances at adult betrayals and disappointments -- that's all here, and played quite nicely by two corresponding quartets of actresses. Highlited with amazing performances from Christina Ricci, Thora Birch, Gabby Hoffman and Ashleigh Aston Moore.
Overall, the flick not particularly deep, but it's a good-natured, sprightly comedy that ought to find its most appreciative audience among preteens.
See It If You Liked: My Girl, Stand by Me, The Breakfast Club
Stand by Me (1986)
Amazing, a must see coming of age film!
We are all haunted by childhood's end, by the important things we must leave behind on our long and arduous journey into adulthood: the intensity of our loves, fears, and hurts; the talismanic rituals and games; the laughter and bravado; and the deep bonds of friendship. All of these things are explored in this charming coming of age story.
Stand by Me is one of the sweetest and most affecting films ever made about the darkness at the edge of town that must be faced before four young boys can move on to the new challenges that junior high school will bring them. This film, adapted by Raynold Gideon and Bruce A. Evans from Stephen King's novella, "The Body," is beautifully written and performed. The Oregan landscape scenery plays a part in en-chancing a lot of the film.
The direction by Rob Reiner is amazing. He makes the film so absorbing and beautiful, he certainly knows how to bring a tear the eye, and at the same time laugh along with heart warming scenes.
The cast is brilliant, they are one of the most talented bunch of child actors I know. But I must give credit to the late River Phoenix (who plays Chris Chambers), may his talented sole rest in peace.
Overall, Stand by Me ranks upon one of my favourite films of all time. With its exceptional 1950s soundtrack, scenery, acting, directing and writing, the film is a touching examination on friendship. A True Classic!
See It If You Liked: Now and Then and The Breakfast Club
A highly entreating and intelligent teenage slasher
PLOT: A psychopathic serial killer is stalking a group of teenagers in a quite and peaceful American town, just like in the movies, first threatening them with scary phone calls.
John Carpenter's 1978 classic 'Halloween' is responsible for Scream, and before you watch Scream you're probably going to wonder whether this is another one of those unoriginal Halloween knock-offs with over the top gore. Well, I must let you know that it is far from that. Scream is a 1990s style teenage slasher movie with just enough tongue-in-cheek understanding of its own silliness to make it gruesomely fun without being insulting or boring and full of nonsense. It's a hip, stylish and expertly filmed, original slasher.
Directed by Wes Craven, king of teenage horror (e.g. A Nightmare on Elm Street) has delivered a winner. He has managed to make a movie that is both genuine scary movie and arch parody of scary movies. It's the film's very self-awareness that makes it different from all the rest. Instead of following the time-honored horror rules that it so carefully details, it leads them - the virgin is immune from death, we are told, but what if she gives it up? Well, you can guess the rest. Craven also owes a great deal to Kevin Williamson's first-rate script, a witty and smart piece of horror comedy that makes him worthy of the career he gained after this.
The performances are some of the best I've witnessed in a horror film, Neve Campbell (how come we don't see more of this girl?) manages to pull off a tormented, innocent teenager with a lot on her plate. The rest of the cast brings up some memorable performances, especially Rose McGowan who plays Tatum, my favourite character. Among the rest of the cast is Friends actress Courtney Cox, Matthew Lillard, David Arquette, Jamie Kennedy, Skeet Ulrich and how could I forget Drew Barrymore, electrifying cute Scream queen (sadly she dies about 10 minuets into the film).
Overall, Scream is a great entertaining movie. However, you must keep in mind that it isn't meant to be taken seriously, as there is nothing too universal or groundbreaking in the film. Despite that, on its own merit it's a classic slasher film. And you can see the films legacy in its dozen of boring imitators (Urban Legend, Valentine and I Know What You Did Last Summer).
See It If You Liked: I Know What You Did Last Summer, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Urban Legend.
Blue Velvet (1986)
One of the greatest American films of our time.
Anyone who has ever lived in a small community where normality is assumed probably also suspects that beneath the surface of everyday life lurk malevolent happenings. Blue Velvet is about the moral rot underlying the seemingly hopeful and idealistic American Dream, the loss of innocence and the human psyche at its worse.
Blue Velvet explores the dark side of human relationships built upon power and perversion. This film, written and directed by one of my favourite directors, David Lynch (Eraserhead, Mulholland Dr., The Elephnt Man) is one of the most hallucinatory, interesting movies ever released in the history of cinema. It elicited a wildly divergent critical and commercial response upon its release ranging from laudatory praise to complete damnation. It is not a movie for everyone. Those who savor exotic experiences are sure to find it both frenzied and exhilarating. I found it the later, Blue Velvet is a visually stunning film, it has beautiful, haunting and unforgettable images cleverly combined with dark nightmarish scenes some of which may never leave my mind. Any film that manages to accomplish that upon the viewer deserves considerable praise.
The performances are exceptional, and brutally honest. Especially the ones that come from the leading man Kyle MacLachlan. All of the actors seemed to fit their characters perfectly, especially Dennis Hooper (a MAJOR Oscar snub), who is terrifyingly abnormal and pure evil as one of the best cinema villains to grace the silver screen. Laura Dern and Isabella Rossellini are both among the top notch, exceptional cast. The film is filled with complex and unusual characters and the fact that the cast could pull them of in such a way is extraordinary.
What is so stunning about Blue Velvet is its visual appeal. Laced with arresting beautiful and horrifying images that range from realistic and surreal. The music on the soundtrack demonstrates the eerie effects of many songs (including Roy Orbison's "In Dreams", in a karaoke scene from hell), which can transport us and have great impact on us, into realms of nostalgia and fantasy. And what is so scary about this film is that despite its heavy dosages of surrealism and fantasy, the film is very realistic while it showcases surrealism at the same time. What is so scary is this kind of underworld could exist absolutely anywhere, and was is even more chilling is that it already does.
Despite its countless inferior imitations and stylistic features that have been borrowed, stolen and reused over and over again, the film will remain the pinnacle of them all. Blue Velvet should be watched multiple times for the viewer to fully digest and appreciate the experience of what is an unprecedented, flawless and remarkably original masterpiece that has changed the face of cinema. Undoubtedly worthy of a ten out of ten.
See It If You Liked: American Beauty, Lantana and Mulholland Drive