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American Psycho (2000)
Frightening and fascinating
This is hard to watch at times. Patrick Bateman's cruelty is what is at issue: how is it motivated, from whence does it come, is it in everyone? At times this film seems to suggest that the unrestrained mayhem and viciousness displayed by the main character are present in all humans; and the social masks we wear are merely thin disguises for the aggression, greed, and cruelty which operate below the surface. The movie presents society as a tightly rehearsed dance of protocol, virtue signaling, discreet conformity to social norms. In one scene characters display business cards with subtle differences in what appears to be a critique of how restrictive society is that the only thing left to choice, the only mode of self expression is a water mark on a card, or raised lettering. When Patrick Bateman snaps it is a horror show of epic proportions. This is not easy material to render and the director deserves a lot of credit. Sexuality is presented as naked aggression, animal-level conduct divorced from sincere emotion or communication. Characters in this movie exist in profound isolation, unaware of their motives, operating at a level of seeking or maintaining status. If a darker vision of modern society exists on film I am not aware of it. Even Kubrick's 'Eyes Wide Shut' had a few moments of familial contentment, and an expression of love, which you won't find here. Not to suggest this movie needs any of that. It is a psychological study, a dark one at that; and if you are inclined to ponder the depths of what is inside the human animal this movie is "food for thought."
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Distinct characters, witty dialogue, bullets & blood
Tarantino's love of genre, his deep understanding of the importance of genre to storytelling on film is evident in 'Reservoir Dogs'. It is hard to believe this is his first movie: an argument can be made that it is still his best. The casting is excellent: Lawrence Tierney as the mob boss, Madsen as the psycho, Keitel as the career criminal (who wants to get tacos after casing the jewel heist). This film gets better with repeated viewing. High-priced talent would not have made this a better movie, in fact movie stars probably would have diminished its brilliance. (Tarantino's casting acumen is also evident in 'Jackie Brown'). The story is told episodically, delving into each character's connection to this heist. As events unfold, and people die, the stakes are raised to a boiling point. Deception, betrayal, mis-placed loyalty, depraved violence ensue in a truly satisfying drama.
Doubles vies (2018)
Enjoyable French film
The characters in this movie discuss the potential demise of the traditional publishing business in the face of digital media and the shifting patterns of media consumption. The characters are an actress, a writer, an editor/publisher, and the owner of the publisher. Multiple affairs among the married or otherwise involved characters create a tangle of personal relationships which never seem to reach a crisis point. The character's attitudes toward the affairs are very French: accepting, sophisticated, not wanting to know too much about their partner's outside sexual activities. The ending is a nice one. The movie never delves too deeply into any one character, as there are multiple story lines, and multiple relationships to balance. In the current movie marketplace, which is dominated by super hero films, any movie about real-life issues, and real human relationships is a welcome offering, hence I give this a generous 8 out of a possible 10.
Captive State (2019)
No script. The work of an incompetent fool.
When I say there is no script I mean there is no begining, no middle, and no ending. This movie is a series of scenes which barely hold your attention. We never see the alien force. We have no reference point for who the 'bad guys' are. We only see the collaborators who spy on the general population. I felt robbed by the filmaker. Selling tickets to this atrocity is an act of misrepresentation. It is fraud to sell tickets to this "movie". It is not entertaining. This director should be forced to surrender his Director's Guild card; he should be expelled from the writer's guild and be forced to return to film school.
Reds is Boring.
Movies need to be entertaining, period. Shampoo is entertaining, see that. If you're a film student see 'Reds' so you can learn what doesn't work. First of all the subject matter: communists are by definition idiots. Communism failed causing the death of milllions in Russia and China, and creating human suffering everywhere it's been tried. Misguided, naive, stupid people are not interesting. Imagine a movie that tries to lovingly tell the story of Hitler, Goebbels, Himler, Goring and the Nazis and the origins of fascism in Germany: that is what Beatty tried to do here. The Soviet Union was a monstrosity. Communisn resulted in misery on a scale the world has never seen. Watching this film the can never take the characters seriously, knowing that what they were fighting for was so abominable.
Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)
Audiences need to recognize and believe the behavior and choices the characters exhibit or else they check out.
In 'A Streetcar Named Desire' Marlon Brando was a violent brute who stripped off his shirt in a moment of passion. We could recognize his character as rooted in reality. In this movie, for no reason, Chris Hemsworth's character apparently spends his entire adult life walking around half-naked, even in the freezing rain. His preening and hip swirling are behavior that we see in strippers or in rare private moments of seduction; but it makes no sense in the context of this movie. It is indulgent behavior by an actor who has no idea what he is doing. (I couldn't help but wonder what an actor like Viggo Mortensen would have done with this character). In years to come, Hemsworth will cringe when he looks back upon this performance; and, if he is rich enough, he will try buy every copy of this movie so he can destroy them. This is a perfect example why people who play Super heroes should not be cast in roles that require an actor: his choices render his character idiotic and unrecognizable to people who live in the real world. A character this self-involved and narcissistic would not compel the loyalty of others absent the ability to provide them lucrative employment. Good directors don't let actors run amuck in indulgent performances. This movie worked up until Chris Hemsworth's character appears on screen. The vacant idiot child/girl who falls under his spell is also problematic. Her choices are those of a sociopath and hence we never understand the intense unrequited loyalty of her sister, Dakota Johnson. The purpose of flashbacks should be to fill-in gaps of understanding for the audience with biographical information that helps us gain empathy and a deeper insight into the psychological underpinnings of a character; and of course they should be entertaining. That is one of the great weaknesses of this writer. The flashbacks do not give us key information to help us care about key characters. The problems with this movie are too great enumerate. It is mildy entertaining in parts and mind-numbingly boring in others. I left this movie with awe for the rare and enormous talent of great writers who can keep us spellbound by characters who grip us with their humanity. As mediocre as this movie is, it is still better than 85% of the movies in theatres currently. At the very least I thank God that no characters had super powers and no aliens came down from outer space and no cars turned into robots.