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Into the Wild (2007)
I have a review to write, but i have to tell you it's been a while since i've been so overwhelmed when the credits roll. I can't say i would be a fan of Sean Penn the man, but i've always admired his skills both on a off the camera. I think, with 'Into The Wild' he truly finds his level, and it's fair to say this is his masterpiece.
'Into The Wild' is a gripping real life story about a young man who had it all coming to him, speaking in terms 'the normal world' suggests. Yet, he chose something else. His dreams and ambitions striked me as eerily familiar, i've had similar thoughts about my life. This story could've been a turkey if it would've headed to the familiar Hollywood direction where the adventure is romanticized. Fortunately, truth is stranger than fiction.
This is a film about love, happiness, loneliness, passion, and the road to wisdom. For all these emotions you need more than one person, and that's what the main character finally understands, when he is deep in the wilderness. For those of you who dismissed this film as being bad moral guidance, bad influence for teenagers, you have missed the message, OK? You can read all the Thoreau and London you want, but if you are blind and deaf, it won't help you. The bible is a good example.. Chris finally understands what he's reading, when he answers the question 'what else is there?'
An astonishing film in every way, story, direction, acting, cinematography...best of the decade so far, and naturally, ignored by the academy.
Futurama: Bender's Big Score (2007)
Like going home for Christmas
I must admit i had huge fears about the reincarnating Futurama...in retrospective, i don't know why. It hasn't been that long after all, and the team has stayed pretty much the same. From the very first scene i felt right at home. No neat hyper modern animation tricks, no bullet time camera spins, just the familiar Futurama, which is all i wanted.
Bender's big score is a surprisingly plot-driven movie, reminiscent of the few more serious episodes. Have no fear, though, the gross humour is still present. Even with the horrid singing numbers (i was looking for anti-depressants) and the obsessive re-introduction of nearly every character that ever appeared on the original series, this is a rewarding event for sure, especially for us die hard fans who waited so long. It could have been better as a movie, but i don't want to get too critical, i'm just glad futurama is back! It just won't die!
The Break-Up (2006)
Surprising romantic comedy
The Break-Up is a sort of an anti-romantic comedy, if you will. Gary and Brooke meet in a baseball game, wink and exchange a few words, and immediately the movie skips the whole love affair and moves on to the fighting part of the relationship. What? Huh? Who took the mushy parts away? The Cynical Old Brain decides to ignore this odd occurrence by already projecting the happy end following the crying game.
Jennifer Aniston fights, Vincent Vaughn looks bored, tired and somewhat uninterested of the whole affair. And he's fatter than normally, if that sort of thing should bother the chubby viewer and his potato chips. Suddenly he responds, and the world stops. H-hey, isn't He supposed to be the funny, cool and comfortable guy? I mean, he's really acting his heart out here! TCOB is vibrating and wobbling of disbelief towards Vaughn's surprising acting talents and has to use all of it's power to convince the viewer and his potato chips of the sucky ending of the movie. 'It's a romantic comedy, dude! It can't be good, that's, like, against the law or something'.
After much dispute and a couple of fake orgies Gary and Brooke finally seem to be making some progress in their difficult situation. Brooke asks Gary to join Her in a concert, Gary agrees, but fails to show up for what ever reason. Next time Gary sees Brooke, she is crying her eyes out. Gary, in shock, makes Brooke some dinner and thinks 'yeah, that'll do it'. However, as the viewer chokes in to his potato chips Brooke REFUSES Gary's peace offer!!! This can't be happening! Just to make a note, at this point the reviewer seems to have lost the line between sarcasm and actual positive reviewing.
In any case, the couple does depart, and at the end scene lies the final surprise (excluding it being the end scene). Vince Vaughn seems to have lost weight, and He has an awkwardly realistic conversation with Jen when they stumble into each other on the street, and depart again. The end credits roll, the viewer is in shock. Three surprises in a romantic comedy! Outrageous! Richard Linklater's Paris films are still ahead, but this is a good attempt to do something different with the clichéd genre. Jen is way too good looking to play this part, by the way. What kind of a person would seriously consider leaving her AFTER She makes the Telly Savalas walk by through the living room?
6/10 - A valiant effort
Miller's Crossing (1990)
Coen brothers' masterwork in pacing
Miller's Crossing is composed like a classical symphony. Beethoven and Mozart knew what was the key element in creating a masterpiece. Speed and stillness, peace and violence, noise and quiet work in a flawless harmony. The action scenes do not come often, but when they do they are shocking, hilarious and astonishing. I felt my jaw drop watching Leo defend himself against breaking and entering thugs. The scene didn't go at all the way i thought, and even though i was aware i was watching a Coen brothers' film, i was feeling all those emotions above. It's been a while since i've been surprised like that.
I like the fact that the main character plays a tough guy in the world of tough guys, but we the viewers get to take a peek into the real Tommy, who is a human being with emotions. He simply is a gambler. To the very extreme. He knows of nothing else to do, so he just keeps going and tries his best to survive playing with death every day. And make it look cool, of course. Never reveal your true state to your opponent.
A bit of a disappointment was the Steve Buscemi was in a bit part only, but Albert Finney was great on the other hand. John Turturro makes his Coen debut and is immediately interesting. Some of the dialogue went a little over my head, since (old gangsta style) English isn't my first language and i had no subtitles available, but i think i got through it all right. The plot twists and turns did not surprise me to the level the action sequences did, i've seen a lot of plot twists already and haven't been surprised in that department for a while.
A solid effort that is a little behind Fargo and O Brother, Where Art Thou? in humour, dialogue and overall atmosphere (music & cinematography), but is still the third best Coen Brothers' feature in my opinion.
7/10 - very good
The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
One of the last great taboos left in this world must be virginity, and dare i say, especially male virginity. Often a man's measure is in the sex stories told in poker nights, just as wisely suggested in the movie. The reactions of the characters to Andy's virginity is, if comedic on purpose, still realistic. Andy's ventures into the world of sex have been described with the intention to make us laugh, but incredibly enough, with a certain kind of a respect that does not become cheesy at any point.
Steve Carell's first lead is a success, and the supporting cast is top notch as well. I would agree, Catherine Keener is hot grandma :), Paul Rudd is very funny as always and the little more unknown supporting group did a good job. The Pakistani/Indian jokes are kind of starting to wear out now, though. The best jokes, in my opinion, are put to the table during the first hour of the movie. The second hour is more about delivering the plot and the message. The love story is all too familiar despite the subject, and the certain awkwardness of that familiarity is my biggest minus for The 40 Year Old Virgin. The biggest plusses are actually earned in the 'meaningless but hilarious' scenes (as often in comedies), which the film is full of. This time the winner is the the guy in the 'We sell all our stuff on EBay' store trying to buy the crazy shoes. T40YOV seems to somewhat reach for the same feel good, if anarchist atmosphere of Office Space, but in the end does not quite climb up there.
Recommended for people with normal+ brain capacity who enjoy silly comedies rather than/in between serious drama.
rating: 6/10 - good light entertainment
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Heaven & hell in the ring
Million Dollar Baby is a pretty straight forward, simple story that people interested in films have likely seen a number of times before. It is, if you will, an old school Hollywood movie. No fancy computer generated effects, no loud music, no fast cuts. More concentrated on the story and acting, it's goals are certainly admirable.
The first half, let's call it heaven, is near overblown in how conveniently everything just falls to the right place, yes, even the very early goings where Clint does his typical 'no, i'm not interested' routine. The second half, call it hell, not entirely surprisingly, is where you really get the almighty Academy's attention. A lot of pain, suffering, crying and ill-turned relations are involved. Even Clint does a crying scene, which sort of surprised me despite the subject matter, after all, wasn't he the guy who during the filming of The Bridges of Madison County said 'they don't wanna see me cry' to his co-star Meryl Streep. All and all, it didn't raise as much emotions in me as it probably was meant to. I wasn't gripping my pillow weeping, or eating the fifth bucket of ice cream by the end of it. Later on during the day i was mumbling a theory while preparing salad, saying to myself, 'what if the story was purposely told in an overblown fashion, because it is after all coming from an individual's memory of the events...usually memory tends to make things just that little bit grander.'
It's the acting that raises the level of this film. Without the great work of Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, and especially Morgan Freeman who has only been better than here once during his career, in a movie called Shawshank Redemption, this film would have been just as average as the average guy on the morning bus. Mr. Freeman certainly surpasses the pointless character from his previous collaboration with Eastwood, Unforgiven. Hilary Swank is a very able actor as well, and i wish her a great career. Thanks to the good acting, Million Dollar Baby manages to lift itself barely out from the Swamp of the Abandoned Blue Jeans, where everything looks alike. Maggie's family was just extreme stereotypia, and the most annoying part in the entire run.
From the technical aspects Million Dollar Baby does not bring anything new or exciting to the table. Clint uses shadows a lot to create atmosphere, but at times (in the gym where first Dupris then Dunn step out of the shadows exactly the same corny way to teach all sorts of wise lines to Maggie) it gets borderline silly.
rating: 5/10 - OK
The first successful finnish amateur film of the mobile phone generation
After listening to the rumors about this movie for about two months, i decided to download it myself to see what the fuss was all about. The guys who's brainchild star wreck is advertised the movie in radio and TV claiming it to be the most seen finnish film in the year 2005 based on the amount of downloads from their home site (of course you can add p2p on that number as well).
First and foremost, i find it astonishing that a group of nobodies can pull off a project like this. I salute them, even though i'm aware they have worked on star wreck for quite a while...they're still not professionals.
When you look at the starship effects, it's difficult to believe the above to be true. These ships can compete with the ones seen on the TV-series any day. Naturally time has passed, and the effects can be created without the kind of money needed back in the day, but it's still amazing this whole thing was pulled of virtually without money.
The sets and uniforms look good, too. The Star Trek ships look very good on the inside as well, the Babylon 5 ship a bit more stale, but in the same sentence i must admit i did not watch Babylon 5 when it was on TV, so it's possible that's the way it should look like.
After all the praise we must unfortunately move on to the things that did NOT work for the benefit of this movie. The acting, let's face it, is amateurish. That's not the real problem, however. The problem is the way the crew decided to deliver the comedy. Comedy is a difficult form of acting, even the masters of the craft know it. At times the acting in Star Wreck goes just silly, and beyond. It may be less obvious to non-finns who are watching this with subtitles, only understanding the witty writing (which i thought was great, by the way), and missing what the actors are actually saying and how. At points i chuckled, but at times i felt a bit ashamed, to tell you the truth. A good example of the diversity is how the same actor first annoys the hell out of you with the character Sergei Fukov, and then delivers almost like a pro as Festerbester. Overall i felt these actors could've pulled off a bit more serious version of this movie, or a poker-face spoof in the spirit of Leslie Nielsen and Charlie Sheen. As it is, the silly faces and shouting, and near slapstick just doesn't work.
Finally, i see many of you IMDb browsers did not give this film a fair rating. I've decided to treat this movie as i would any other, despite the many redeeming factors. After all, it's the end result i'm reviewing here.
rating: 5/10 - shows promise