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Eden Lake (2008)
Wow. This is a real horror classic. It's also a horror film that doesn't need supernatural monsters. Amoral behaviour and some bad luck provide plenty of terror.
Great acting, direction and cinematography, and an unsettlingly believable plot make watching this a very tense experience. The excellent musical score works amazingly well to reflect and heighten the powerful emotions depicted - fear, rage, hope and hopelessness.
If its technical achievements were all it had going for it, I would fully recommend it, but the movie has a brain as well and puts it over the top.
Excellent film that transcends the genre. Not easy to watch, but very powerful.
Half good, half unforgivably bad
I rated this movie 5/10, which seemed kind of harsh for a movie whose first half I enjoyed so much. I liked the initial introduction to the character, her "agent", even the condensed backstory as flashbacks. I didn't even mind her relationship with the girl and her father (though it really doesn't make sense given that the character is psychotic; she's an assassin for crying out loud,) because it was handled surprisingly well.
As the movie progresses however, little stupid things and inconsistencies start cropping up. You try not to notice because overall things are going well. But when it comes time for the real action, it's a bit of a letdown (the "sheet fight" was dumb, there was too much running through the forest and the maze, and Elektra seems to become incompetent and needs to be rescued a number of times.)
I think the main problem is the inclusion of too many mystical elements and the attempt to humanize Electra too much. The film would've worked better if it were more grounded in reality to provide a more realistic sense of tension. Elektra the character is supposed to be enigmatic - an unapproachable, unfathomable killer. Yet by the end of the movie I felt like I was watching Sidney from Alias.
Not deep but it moves
I've only seen a few episodes so far, but watching this show reminds me of watching one of those nameless European soaps one sees when traveling in Europe... except that you can understand the dialogue.
That said, there's a kind of natural feel to the show and its characters; even if the subject matter isn't all that deep (maybe even a bit sleazy) the plot moves along at a decent clip and can keep you hooked. Plus it's a daily show which is pretty impressive.
Nice to see a local (Toronto) show that's actually about Toronto and doesn't feel like it was made by some committee of government bureaucrats.
Not so good
I like a lot of David Mamet's films and read a number of favourable reviews for this, so I was expecting a pretty good film. Unfortunately, this effort was really sub-par.
The characters were hard to read, their motivations seemed contrived. I wouldn't say the movie was predictable, but the plot twists seemed pretty stupid. Deaths of characters that were probably supposed to be surprising came off as empty and pointless. I'm no expert on the secret service or covert military operations, but a lot of the situations seemed very unrealistic. Would not recommend it unless you're a Mamet completionist.
This film was seriously overrated by the critics. It was loud, the editing was too choppy, the action scenes were poorly choreographed. There were only a couple of monsters, both of which were pretty uninteresting. The only marginally interesting villian was the masked wind-up Nazi assassin with swords. None of them seemed to put up much of a fight. It seemed like a few marines would've done a better job taking them out than Hellboy and the bumbling paranormal agents.
The script was lousy. Cliched, predictable (except when it made absolutely no sense). Humour was incredibly cheesy, and felt like it had been translated from another language losing the, uh, humour in translation.
Recommended only to 10 year olds who've never seen a movie before. Actually scratch that, watch something better instead.
Battlestar Galactica (2003)
I'm dismayed by the number of unfavourable comments I've read here. This new miniseries was smart, well-crafted sci-fi.
It's a dramatic re-working of the original with just the right number of clever hints of the original. A lot of thought went into creating a believable military/space setting. It shows us a much more realistic and detailed cross section of a starship crew than Star Trek.
The acting was overall pretty good too. Characters had intelligent lines and delivered them pretty naturally for the most part. Especially good were Adama, the ex.o. and the new president.
Technically, it looks like a really efficient production that spent its budget on the right things and didn't try to do things they couldn't.
I can't wait to see more episodes.
This movie totally surprised me. I actually turned on the tube to watch something else, but this movie turned out to be on instead. And sure, the title "How to Marry a Billionaire" only made me think of that ridiculous TV stunt a while back, so I was only going to watch it until I could verify how bad it would be. Boy was I surprised! What this movie really has going for it is the writing and the perfectly timed comedic acting. Sure, the story's fairly cliched (true love is better than money, etc., etc.) but the ride is totally funny and entertaining. The three lead actors are all *very* funny in this, and there are some great moments with the supporting cast. Their timing and rapport feels authentic and some of the jokes are laugh-out-loud hilarious (some of the gags are still repeating themselves in my head as I write this).
I dunno why more TV movies aren't this good. I'd certainly stay tuned to more of them if they were. The cast all seemed to be having a great time; you'd have to be totally humourless not to crack a smile. So as long as you don't expect *too* much, you'll have a great time wasting a couple hours. Kudos to anyone involved for putting in the extra effort.
Sunset Blvd. (1950)
Wow, this movie was a lot wierder than I thought it would be. Not being around at the time, it's a little tricky guessing exactly what the effect of such a movie would be on the audience of the day. What I found most interesting were the contrasts shown between the practical, "modern" film community of 1950 and the old silent film celebrities and their more outrageous tendencies.
Gloria Swanson gets right into the role of the delusional star from another era, going slowly mad in her oversize mansion surrounded by souvenirs of her past.
The Falls (1991)
Not like any documentary you've seen
This is a very interesting film. Unlike most other documentaries, I don't think "The Falls" attempts to be objective. The point of the film seems to be to critically examine the inner workings of a tourist trap, namely Niagara Falls. And it does so ruthlessly, in a very haunting, often disturbing yet inexplicably compelling way.
The critique however, is not rammed down our throats with narration; instead, we are merely shown a series of images, sound clips, slow-motion sequences, racks of cheap souvenirs and their vendors cast against the natural history of the falls itself. It becomes a very uncomfortable experience to watch how man has transformed a natural wonder into a tacky amusement. The shots of the whales and dolphins doing tricks at Marineland are particularly disturbing.
Whether or not you agree with the cynical view of "Niagra Falls the tourist trap" put forward, there is no denying the fact that this film contains some incredible photography and ingenious editing. A hypnotic experience that far surpassed what I would've otherwise expected.
RoboCop: Prime Directives (2001)
Robocop is officially ruined
Oh my goodness, this is awful stuff. Robocop does not appear to survive the translation to TV. Nor does it survive the crappy writing or an apparently shoestring budget. This is a Bad Idea.
From Robocop I expect:
1) gruesome TV-unfriendly violence; 2) expensive effects; 3) smart, entertaining, subversive writing; 4) plausible near-future technology.
Sadly this show had none of that. What's REALLY disappointing, is how the technology in the old 1987 movie looks MORE futuristic than the stuff in this show made in 2000. I mean, come ON.. even with a TV budget. And that idiotic laughing villain with the $.99 Halloween mask?
I'll think of it like Star Trek 5: "it never happened".
Retrospective of a Jazz musician
Can't say I know much about Jazz, but this is a wonderful little documentary about a guy named Bix who was a legendary Jazz trumpet player. What's especially nice is the way the documentary had so many interviews of his contemporaries. The way they describe his playing and their experiences of playing with him, you know the guy must have been something special. A touching portrait of an artist.
Aliens, The Thing, Predator: all in one economy-size package!
Yup, you've seen it a hundred times before. Alien monster on the loose, people trapped in remote location surrounded by industrial equipment, only this time they're being stalked by an unusually cheap-looking creature.
To be fair, I sure am glad the "disease of the week" movie seems to have bitten the dust. I'll take a "Survivor" sci-fi movie over a rare-disease-afflicts-family-member melodrama any day. Survivor is especially fun to watch if you're Canadian as the cast is full of our kinfolk: a couple of "Traders", some guy I recognized from beer commercials, rounded out by an experienced American lead to save the day. Wonder if it was shot here, maybe other Torontonians will recognize some friends in the credits. Bottom line: keep the sci-fi movies of the week coming!
American Psycho (2000)
Living through the 80s could make ANYONE psycho
Not a bad film at all. Christian Bale is GREAT. Stylistically it is a very, very interesting movie. The satire of 80's culture is definitely fun to watch if you lived through it. The dialogue is bang on and the cultural references bring back many painful memories of the idiotic trends (pet pigs anyone?) The humour is especially sly at times. For example, all the guys have such similiar haircuts, its futile trying to tell them apart, yet you don't really have to in order to understand the story. It's the little jokes like that that do it for me. In addition, the mostly off-screen violence was especially well done.
The one problem with the movie is a loss of momentum. It begins ferociously with Bateman displaying his incredible self-indulgence and force of will. Gradually this slips away as the movie's clarity becomes unfocused in parallel with Bateman's deteriorating psyche. I think the director could've improved things for the audience either by distancing the narrative from Bateman's perceptions, or by fusing them together more tightly. Unfortunately, she sort of sits on the fence, so we're left doubting her direction. There are also a number of awkward scenes that really didn't have much point.
Still, for all the things this movie could've been, it didn't come up too short. Definitely worth a rental and I'll be on the lookout for her next picture.
The Ninth Gate (1999)
Earnest attempt to adapt the book
First of all, if you haven't yet seen the film, go read "The Club Dumas" by Arturo Perez-Reverte first. The book is a terrific read that really shouldn't be spoiled by watching the film.
That said, the film does seem to try to be a faithful adaptation of the book, and I rented it just to see how Polanski would realize it visually. For the most part, he made sensible decisions about how to streamline the story for the screen. And having been to Europe, I must say that watching the film really gave me serious flashbacks; the guy certainly knows how to put you in a crowded Paris street, or on a back road in the middle of nowhere in Spain. "The girl" (Polanski's wife!! u b*****d!!) is absolutely perfect for the job, although I do wish more of the conversations between her and Corso (Johnny Depp's character) had been included as they give the premise a bit more substance and were some of the most interesting parts of the story. Without reading the novel, I think most viewers will feel the movie ends unexpectedly and inexplicably.
Fleshy and Bloody
Lots of flesh, lots of blood. Interesting pre-Robocop Verhoeven work. Has a kind of stilted, dubbed-from-German feel even though it's in English. I wonder if he was still getting the hang of North American-style direction and dialogue. Pretty good movie otherwise, in particular the crass, careless and rather chaotic portrayal of medieval times. Definitely worth your time if you like seeing flesh, blood, or the times depicted with Verhoeven's ruthless skills.
All About Eve (1950)
I had read comments about the quality of the writing in this film but I really had no idea to what extent this would elevate the experience. The fact is, it leaves me with no other choice than to give it a perfect 10. Unless you see this film, I don't think you'll have the necessary frame of reference with which to to base any expectations on. It's an incredibly engrossing, moving and often comedic experience, but time and time again what knocks you over is the absolute finesse with which this script was crafted. The fact that the acting and direction are flawless and surprisingly natural-seeming (most old movies usually seem stiff or people seem to "act" too much) only enhances it that much more. With this film, you can really imagine the *people* the actors are portraying.
"All About Eve" shows some similarity to one of my other favourite 50s films "A Face in the Crowd". Both are studies of fame and celebrity. Eve shows how a person will corrupt themselves in order to attain it, whereas A Face's premise is that fame corrupts those who find themselves in the spotlight. Both have themes that are perhaps even more resonant in our celebrity-obsessed culture now than when they were made. Interestingly, Eve predates A Face by several years.
And possibly most interesting of all is the honest and often raw way in which women are portrayed, the strength of their character and the power they wield. The male contingent is practically relegated to the back seat. One might be hard pressed to find a movie quite so "liberated" today. So what more can I say? If you love movies and you haven't yet seen it, you've suffered long enough; don't wait another day.
kind of like an imax film
Good graphics, good gore special effects, awesome decapitations. About an hour and a half of useless boring talking head crap that should've been cut or infused with decent writing. Semi-interesting but ultimately flat story. Reminded me of "Payback" (Mel Gibson takes on the mob) minus the humour. This guy was UNSTOPPABLE.. I mean, why didn't he just take on the whole Roman army himself? Totally unbelievable.
The special effects are awesome, the fight scenes are stylistic masterpieces. I have been to Rome however, I have seen the Coliseum, and I don't think it would ever look quite so "gold". Actually, everything looks "gold" in this film, giving the film a somewhat tacky commercial sheen. I wish he'd done something a little more rough around the edges like Spielberg did in Saving Private Ryan. The one dimensional story never approaches the emotional impact of Kubrick's "I am Spartacus" climax either.
Still, I must admit that this would make for a very nice Imax experience. The set design is impeccable and the background detail is meticulous. If you ever fantasized about visiting ancient Rome, this is as good as it gets.
The Sugarland Express (1974)
Incredible underrated gem
I've always thought Sugarland Express to be the mother of films like Badlands, The Blues Brothers and Thelma and Louise among others. The direction and cinematography are way ahead of their time. So much so that it at times looks like a modern film with amazingly accurate historical set pieces.
Apparently it didn't do very well at the box office, despite its critical acclaim, however this film and "Duel" are probably the most experimental of Spielberg's works and in a lot of ways the most interesting. The plot is great, the acting is great; it's a thoroughly entertaining piece.