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Menace II Society (1993)
Menace was a brilliant film. There are many reasons to it, but I think what makes it so special is it's sense of style. It proves effectively that a gritty street-drama doesn't have to look bad in order to be realistic. Instead of using hand held cams and grainy film the Hughes' shoot their film with style, influenced by John Woo, and action-comics.
The violence used is also excessive and very graphic. There are brutal beatings as well as bloody shootings, all shot much better than your average action-movie. Like as in Dead Presidents, the directors aren't afraid of over-doing anything. Through slow-motion and impressive camera manoeuvering they're making great, exhilarating action.
Well, besides the violence the movie is great in many other ways. The shootings and bloodlettings are just to make it more realistic, which is pretty much the goal of the movie. In heartbreaking detail the main characters narrate us through youth criminality, drug-dealing, racism and a lot of other nasty stuff. The voice-over works really well, making Menace a sort of black "Goodfellas".
The story is great, in some points resembling some greek tragedy, with a storyline used successfully in other movies like Carlito's Way, Goodfellas, American History X and many others. It's about changing your life in time, before it's too late. If you don't change in time, all your past sins will come back to you. The movie is hilarious, sad, suspenseful and very educational for those who think there is racial equality in USA.
The Hughes' are young, aggressive and untouchable film-makers who intend to show you the real world, and do it with style.
The Insider (1999)
Deep-going account of people under extreme pressure
I wasn't sure what to expect when I was going to see the Insider. I thought it was going to be a good entertaining action-thriller like Heat or Absolute Power, but wrong I was. The Insider proved me wrong about one thing, Michael Mann. Having made so many movies about bad guys getting shot, and sweaty cops screaming at each other, he underlines the facts that made his other movies so good, in the Insider. It's much more difficult than you'd think, and it presents Mann as a professional and experienced movie director, who finally gets a shot at what he really wants to do.
The Insider was entirely about people. There weren't any high-budget action sequences to boost the entertainment value. To make it even less commercial, it was filmed with handheld camera, and it didn't even try to look good, but to describe in detail the lives of the people involved. First I was uncomfortable with the filming style, but I soon realised why it was necessary. There was a certain realistic flair to it that made it even more touching, and it made the viewer either focus on the characters and the plot, or get bored.
The plot was very complex and it would have been very hard to follow if Mann wasn't such a good director. He has a firm grip of the cast, and doesn't let anyone overdo their performances. The dialogue isn't the hip, smart-ass kind you find in a lot of movies, but realistic and free of well thought out one-liners. They actually talk like real people do, and the humour is very low-key. The actors are in on it too, and no-one does more than his own part. The overall style is semi-documentary, touching th viewer on a deeper level, because these are real people.
The special thing about this movie is the way it depicts people. Usually in this kind of genre, the people are just tools used to get the plot moving, and machine guns and cars are the real protagonists. Michael Mann always portrays the people in bigger detail, and shows how the events affect them. In the Insider he throws away all the commercial gloss that remained in Heat (not much, though), and makes the ultimate Michael Mann-film, a humanistic thriller-drama at it's purest.
Besides the stuff above, Mann also delivers some intelligent media criticism, showing how capitalist executives can smother the truth and deceive the public in the name of the dollar. Great movie, but don't leave your brain in the coathanger when you see this one.
The Green Mile (1999)
I guess when you hear Frank Darabont is making a Stephen King prison-movie, you can't avoid comparison with the vastly superior Shawshank Redemption, but the fact is that the only thing combining theses two movies are those three things.
Green Mile is a triumph in camera-work, direction and acting. The movies visual look is outstanding, and the actors deliver good performances. This is much courtesy to Darabont, since Shawshank also was well filmed and acted throughout. No complaints there.
But when it comes to plot it seems Darabont is trying to get away with the same thing he did in Shawshank, mixing a lot of sentimental crap in between, to make the movie more appealing to mainstream audiences. Where Shawshank was one of the rare movies to be overly sentimental, profane and grim at the same time (I still don't get how he pulled it off), and still being touching and entertaining, The Green Mile fails to do so. On one hand there are the graphic disgusting executions, and the tasteless barbeque jokes, and then there's a huge endearing innocent guy who's healing everyone. That just doesn't work.
There's probably more graphic violence in Green Mile than in Shawshank, but also more sentimentality, and besides there's a rather silly E.T wannabe subplot that's overshadowed by all of the other stuff going on. The result is a good-looking, entertaining, but empty movie.
Darabont is probably trying to make a statement about the death-penalty, but it isn't working the way it's supposed to. Just by having extremely graphic electrocutions of sympathetic characters, and inmate psychos sneering at it, it doesn't make the viewer think it's wrong. I think i actually heard someone laugh at the "barbeque-jokes", and that proves that the movie didn't do what it was supposed to. In the ending scene it's more effective even though the electrocution is shown off-screen, but it is spoiled by excess sentimentality.
The good part is that the movie isn't boring at all. It's very entertaining and the length doesn't seem to be a problem. Conclusion: to say it is an ultimate humanistic prison-epic is wrong, but to say that it's good, stylish entertainment is very close to the truth.
Incredibly BAD movie
As I see it there are three categories of bad movies 1) those that are boring 2) those that are unintentionally funny and 3) those that move you from the bottom of your soul by being so incredibly, mesmerisingly awful. Godzilla falls into the third category, and it's a straight insult towards the viewer by being as brainless and stupid as it is.
Godzilla is one of those "Independence Day"-offsprings that are trying to cash in on the publics craving for special FX and stuff blowing up. Godzilla's sky high budget goes alltogether to waste, and the director has only succeeded in producing a two hour long piece of S**t! The director has made a sloppy job on everything, I don't think he even spell-checked the script. The actors don't seem to know what they're doing, and they don't seem to care either. Same goes for the viewer.
The dialogue is some of the silliest I've ever heard, even the monster is more human than the main characters. The plot consists of people screaming, buildings exploding and high-tech babble, and it doesn't get any better towards the end, either. The result would be a very boring two hours, but there's one more fatal flaw.
The very fact that someone actually thought that this could be entertaining to someone is incredible! The huge underestimating of the viewer is to me very insulting, and the naïvity of the producers is unbelievable. How someone could invest 100 million dollars on this, is past my understanding, just think how many brilliant indie-movies could have been made with that money!
If you want to keep your faith in the future of film industry, don't watch this. If you're expecting another "Plan Nine", prepare for worse. There is no reason for someone to watch this, so don't. You'll end up wasting two hours of your life like me, and believe me you don't want to spend them this way!!!!!!
The Doom Generation (1995)
Apocalyptic Depiction of Youth
Doom Generation is a pretty sick movie in the sense of containing offensive and unpleasant audiovisual material, but the weirdest part is that it's actually very well done. Usually when you're watching violent movies of this caliber, they're pretty bad. This one is deliberately sadistic and horrible, and seamingly pointless in it's endless display of perverse sex and brutal violence, but well done as if it had something to say. Well, what is it?
Firstly, there are apocalyptic symbolics throughout the film (remember the 666 gag, for example?) and all the characters seem to represent the same age group. The title, DOOM GENERATION, gives us a clue of what this film is about, doesn't it?
Secondly, it's a road movie. The point with all road movies is to depict an inner growth in the characters, while travelling long distances. This movie deliberately doesn't let the characters grow more mature, or let the story get sappy. The characters encounter terrible things one after another, but instead of showing any signs of remorse or human feelings, it leaves the persons cold and without any feelings, thus depicting the numbness of the so called Generation X, that the characters represent.
The journey leads nowhere, and so do we, this generation, the director seems to say. A generation so jaded by such an evil world that we're living in today, can't possible go anywhere but further where humanity has gone since it's dawn, to the end. Sure, it's pessimistic, but it has got a point, not a nice one but worth thinking.
A word of warning should be in it's place, if you're thinking about watching this. Not only is it unpleasant in the graphical sense, but also very bleak and depressing, so if you thought "Kids" was shocking, think again before watching this one.
Office Space (1999)
Extraordinarily Perceptive Movie
Office Space was (surprisingly) dismissed as a mediocre comedy, and before having seen it, I was very surprised at that since I knew it was penned and directed by Mike Judge himself.
I am a big fan of Beavis and Butthead, and thus I knew that Judge could never do anything mediocre and unoriginal. A great contradiction, you might think, but the fact is that B & B was a VERY funny and intelligent tv-series, even though most people considered it immature and offensive. The movie was even better than the series, and though critics didn't like it it had a huge audience who loved it, and for a reason.
Judge isn't afraid to dive beneath the surface, and reveal a world where no one is perfect, and to question the very society and the values that we are fed up with. Whether it's about work or adolescence, Judge refuses to compromise, and shows everything how it is. That's where the comedy lies, in the truth. Judge shows the neuroses of office workers, their bosses and their basic human desire for freedom, that finally drives the main protagonist to his own personal revolution against his work, the system, and most of all himself. And believe it or not, all this is hilarious!
Office Space is one of the few comedies that are to be taken seriously, amongst others like "Something About Mary", or "The Truman Show", and therefor I think it deserves a place besides the other more perceptive films of 1999 like "American Beauty", or "Happiness". Besides the screenplay is brilliant, and it will keep you laughing for days! Grrreat.
Good subject (contains potential spoilers)
Having seen a wide variety of spanish movies (Almodovar mostly), i was surprised at this one not being like any one I'd seen. Firstly, this one hasn't got a single transvestite or homosexual in it, and secondly it's strictly suspense, so people with euro-drama-movie-phobia can watch this one, too.
It deals with the subject of snuff movies as a reaction to the public's demanding of more violent material. It may be justified, since movies have been growing more violent through the decades. It's trying to tell us that the people that are showing it are as morally decadent as the ones that are making it. Good point, allthough the movie seems pretty superficial because it's guilty of the same sin.
The movie itself is a very good example of stylish and suspenseful moviemaking, and it's constantly entertaining without any dull moments. There lies the dilemma between theme/movie. The entertainment lies in the plot and in the stylish, graphic violence, and without it the movie wouldn't be as effective, now would it?
The ending sums up the entire movie, and makes it clear to everyone what it's preaching about, but at the same time shows the moral flaws of the movie itself. Maybe the movie is trying to make the viewer feel guilty for watching it, but at the same time it acknowledges the need for violence in order to make the movie work. That's pretty contradicting isn't it? Perhaps the movie is trying to prove how morally corrupt the world is today by presenting itself as a evil product of modern society. That's acceptable, but at the same time it proves it's own helplessness in front of the public demand, and that's not very useful.
It's a tough subject, granted, but if the viewer is able to put that aside he/she will find an excellent movie, a spanish Scream, if you will, in the footsteps of Hitchcock, De Palma among others. If you are a fan of thrillers, this is one of the decades best.
One thing I can't understand is the understating of this movie. Critics claim that it was supposedly too long, and that it was bleak and relentless without a point. This only proves the age-old "USA vs. Sexuality"-dilemma really exists.
If a movie shows a considerable amount of skin, some people are going to hate it, but to say that 8mm does this without a point is a huge error. First, let's examine the surface of the movie. The subject, for one thing, is very controversial, and to make a movie about snuff is very risky, if you're planning on a blockbuster hit movie. This pretty much eliminates the accusation of the movie being sole entertainment.
The visuality is all together very dark, and sex is presented in a non-exiting manner, which proves that the movie isn't just another skin-flick, and anyone watching 8mm as a porn movie, should have his/her head examined. Also, the violence in the movie is ugly and non-appealing, reminiscent of another understated film, Fight Club. In other words, it doesn't exploit what it is against.
The plot is said to be prolonged and boring. If they had ended the movie where Tom Welles escapes the porno lair, having killed Dino Velvet, what would the film had proven? That snuff is morally wrong? That there are weirdos out there to take advantage of us? Please, those are old subjects, which needn't be reminded of. The story needs to go on in order to justify the sex and violence shown in it.
As Tom Welles kills Machine in the scary ending scene, Machine sums up the whole movie with his death line, and the ending shot of Welles' anxious face reveals to us the real message. Which is? Killing a man is wrong, whoever gets killed, and whoever is the killer. Every rapist, serial killer, mass murderer, is still a human being and no human is more worth than another. An old subject too, someone might say. Well, why does USA still have the death penalty? That's something a lot of people don't think of.
In bringing this message forth Joel Schumacher and Andrew Kevin Walker have done a nice job. Walker was all ready familiar with the subject in the equally controversial "Se7en", and Schumacher had touched the subject of social criticism and alienation in his most overlooked film, "Falling Down".
Mickey Blue Eyes (1999)
Mickey Blue Eyes was one of those movies that was made because there was a craving for such a movie. After the very funny and successful Notting Hill, the public wanted Hugh Grant, and that's what the got. But what about the film?
The film itself is an utter failure, a potpurri of ingredients that don't mix, accompanied by an amateur director who doesn't seem to be in control of his material. The film begins as a mediocre romantic comedy, with scenes that audiences can't identify themselves with, and actors who have NO chemistry between them.
Well, you think, every film takes it's time to get started, but this one never does. The Mafia part of the movie is too cliched and superficial to even be remotely funny, and James Caan never seems to get into his part. Poor guy, he's had plenty of good parts through the years, that in Godfather for example...
The plot is incoherent and tries to mix romantic comedy, black comedy, drama, action and tragedy, thus confusing the public, not allowing them to get in the mood. The jokes are easily predictable and Hugh Grant doesn't even deliver them properly. Besides there are some offbeat characters who don't make sense, probably meant to be funny.
Somehow all this still is very rewarding. This movie is a failure up on the shelves with Showgirls, Godzilla, Casino Royale and many others. Film connoisseurs will spot the mistakes and talk about them for hours, or directors will watch it as an educational video how not to make movies. That's the pleasure you get out of this movie. I think very few will appreciate it for the romantic Hugh-movie it's supposed to be.
Meet the Feebles (1989)
Before I'd seen this movie, I'd heard and read a lot about it. People were saying how sick yet intelligent it was. Well, I had no reason to doubt them having seen Braindead, Bad Taste and Heavenly Creatures, so I went ahead and bought it. It took me completely by surprise. I hadn't expected anything this good. I mean, there were zillions of funny jokes, intelligent criticism against mass media, and the photography and the puppets were beautiful. The film even had great symbolics, each animal represented a certain type of character (for example, a gossip journal reporter was a crap-eating fly), and the ending song reflects ironically upon the entire movie. Meet the Feebles will certainly make you laugh, maybe puke.
Evil Dead II (1987)
A bit disappointing sequel
Evil Dead II opens with compressing the first half-hour of the original into five minutes, and then goes it's own ways. Despite it's title and appearance this is a remake, not a sequel. It was a bit disappointing to me because I, naively, had waited for another horror movie, and instead I get a clumsy, and confusing slapstick comedy, which doesn't seem to make much sense. It isn't all bad, though, Bruce Campbell is funny as the main character Ash, and he does his best to make the visual jokes as funny as possible. Unfortunately, most of the funny parts are unintended, and therefore a bit clumsy. But for those who liked the first Evil Dead, and payed close attention to it there's a lot more in store. Funny references and inside jokes towards the first Evil Dead are plenty and most of them are pretty good. SPOILER For example, when Ash hits a monster with an axe, you only see the shadows of the blood and gore, which was shown so graphically in the original. This kind of reflects upon the whole movie, not as gory, not as scary, but done with slightly more taste and style than it's predecessor, allthough that isn't very much. If someone who didn't see the original saw this he/she probably would hate it, but those who have will probably notice the same (and more so) tongue-in-cheek attitude of Evil Dead I, and the numerous inside jokes. Recommendable for the fans of the original, others beware.
Die Blechtrommel (1979)
Grotesque yet beautiful
Having read the greater-than-life novel by Günther Grass, this film is an interesting viewing for many reasons. Reason number 1: the most important reason is of course, how on earth did they manage to get anyone to play Oskar? The director has shown us a stroke of geniosity by casting a 12-year old boy as Oskar, who besides is a brilliant actor (I wonder whatever became of him). Reason number two: how could anyone ever visualize the grotesque and chaotic scenes in the book? Once again the director comes up with something brilliant, he makes the scenes as graphic as possible, he doesn't care about the MPAA, he doesn't care about movie-watchers with heart problems, and he's not afraid of overdoing anything. He puts as much force and effort in the scenes as possible, and they come out brilliantly. Reason number 3: How does he capture the moods of the multi-layered book? He simply stays very faithful to the books text and uses camera angles, lighting effects and music perfectly to accompany the visions of Günther Grass. Those are the most apparent reasons and because of those, the film is brilliant. The only flaw is leaving the story unfinished (although, the ones who never read the book, won't notice that). Altogether, an interesting, stylish and rewarding film experience.
Hokuto no Ken (1986)
I rented this anime with good expectations, which were about to be crushed by confusing, pointless and stupid. Besides it was too violent, i usually like violent movies, but this one was spoiled with all the blood and gore. There wasn't even any nudity to contrast the never ending bloodletting, so that made this movie pretty boring. I can't say the animation was bad, but the fighting scenes lacked the style and expertise of the much better anime, Street Fighter. Rent that one instead.
Beck: Lockpojken (1997)
Swedish Cop thriller
This movie is NOT bad, as the user ratings might indicate, but it isn't one of the best Beck movies either. I liked the older ones with Gösta Ekman a lot, they were brilliant, but this one seems a little sillier and more influenced by american Tv-series. This series of movies is about an old police officer called Martin Beck. The older ones were based on famous detective novels by Sjöwall & Wahlöö, but these newer ones are entirely made up. That can be a good thing or a bad thing, unfortunately, here it's a bad thing. This movie doesn't show any signs of the innovation and the originality of the older Beck-movies, but instead it offers a lot of clichéd characters and a predictable plot. This film's virtues are, of course, an exciting, entertaining and stylish direction by Pelle Seth. Too bad he doesn't get much depth into his characters. In the later Beck-movies, these characters develop and everything becomes better, so don't let this uneven cop thriller fool you.
Night and the City (1992)
SPOILER Many people have said that this is a bad film. I must disagree with them. I think this is a pretty entertaining drama, and it has a good ending. I especially liked the main character, Harry Fabian. If you liked the King of Comedy, then you know what i mean. I loved King of Comedy, and i found certain similarities between the main character Rupert Pupkin, and Harry Fabian. Theres a bit of that funny tragicomic appeal in both of them, they're both hopeless losers, and unlikable. The irony is that the extremely naive Rupert, gets his own comedy show in the end of King of Comedy, but Harry Fabian, the tougher one of these two gets shot and loses all his money. This movie does suffer from many flaws like tepid characterisations, silly plot and mediocre direction, but the main character saves the film from being total trash.
This movie is definitely one of the scariest movies I've ever seen. It's about this childlike, pity evoking man (brilliantly played by Peter Lorre), who also happens to be a psychotic child killer. The city in which he lives is, of course, panicked by the mysterious child-killings, and both the criminals and the police starts to haunt the man down. I won't reveal more then this, but I will say this: Just because it's an old movie, don't let your guard down. This movie is one of those rare movies, which are so good that you'll never forget them.
I can't believe they made another "oh-war-is-terrible" film about Vietnam. And that it won the Academy Award! This film was about the same thing that all good war movies are about, but this one is very unoriginal and boring. And just listen to that ending speech by Charlie Sheen, I think it was unintentionally funny, that's how corny it was. The film wasn't all bad, though. It had some very strong scenes, especially the Vietnamese village-part. They could have made this film much better, but because it was going to be a mainstream film, I don't think they had the guts. If you want to see a great War movie, go see Apocalypse Now or Full Metal Jacket.
Taxi Driver (1976)
You talkin' to me?
This film is great! Some people haven't understood it properly (Leonard Maltin), but nevertheless, this is very good. Pretty moody and dark so sensitive people should probably skip this one, but otherwise I recommend this with all my heart. Robert De Niro is great
Better than Casino Royale
This movie is great! It's a very funny parody of James Bond movies, and has a wide range of Bond-related gags. Dr. Evil is frickin' hilarious. Many people consider this a lame comedy for kids, but when you look a bit closer, you can notice some very intelligent jokes in it too (Andy Warhol at the party in the beginning, for example, or the whole 60's scenery for that matter). I heard they were making a sequel. That sucks because they used up all the good idea making the original. But knowing Mike Myers, and his work, you just might be surprised.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
A Great film
The Coen Brothers did it again! Just when I had lost my hope of seeing a new, GOOD, American movie, I went to see this. It absolutely blew my mind! Now I've seen all the Coen-films, and I'd have to say that this is one of the very best. It's about this guy, "The Dude", excellently played by Jeff Bridges, who gets an unexpected visit from two thugs who soil his carpet. This event triggers a kidnapping-drama, filled with black humor and crazy characters. I'd recommend this film to everyone with an open mind and a twisted sense of humor. Perhaps thats why I liked it so much.
The King of Comedy (1982)
This movie rules!
Along with "The Truman Show", this is the most brilliant show-business criticism film I've seen. This film also features Robert DeNiro's best performance (well, he was also very good in "Raging Bull) and one of Jerry Lewis' serious roles. I've seen this about 7 times and I'm still not tired of it!