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Carol (2015) is good, but it's frustrating. Everything in it is about distance, and this distance, it's not bright, charged, and incendiary, but rather dull, lifeless and corrosive.
The attraction between the two women, Therese and Carol, it's meant to be foreign and impenetrable. As viewers, we are kept at an arm's length at all times. All the shots in this movie are chosen to establish that feeling of distance. Look at how many shots there are of windows in this movie. We're made to be voyeurs, consumers. Both of these women, too, they want, they desire, but are they much more than their desperate instincts? Ham in the glass display case, camera through the shop window, face through the car window, the door window; everywhere, there are windows, and reflections, and images bouncing and fracturing through these see-through prisons.
When there are close ups of these characters, they are inaccessible, chopped up, cut off from being whole. Carol's sumptuousness, it's all artifice, and we're not allowed to glimpse who she is at all. She's like a 17th c Dutch still life, the image is there but the subject isn't; you can't touch, feel, smell anything, it's all for show. Then there's Therese's wide-eyed stare, like a machine. A camera herself for most of the movie, she's hungry, invasive yet aloof.
The most sincere moment in the movie is in the visual sequence of Therese and Carol driving through a tunnel to New Jersey, the frenetic lights collapsing onto their faces through the car windows. As shots are spliced together disconnectedly, infatuation come alive on screen, and the two women delve deeper into something incomprehensible, something close to love. Once they are through, they'll never be the same again. We are closest to them during that sequence.
That was the highlight of the movie for me. During the rest of the movie, these ladies, they're busy filling the deep, black abyss in their lives with desire. The whole movies smells like despair. I suppose it captures the stifling impossibility of sapphic love in the 1950s.
Poor babies. Go forth and be happy.
The Fountain (2006)
The Fountain: Of death and grief
In this film about learning to let go and accepting death, Aronofsky takes a highly unusual path in the visualization of the concepts, and succeeds in so many ways. Aronofsky took a simple story about a man and his dying wife and made us feel the weight of its significance in the grieving man. The woman he loved represented for him, life, but this convergence took him away from reality, and distanced him from his wife during her dying days, both physically and mentally, and the film shows him realizing this among other things as he sorts through his feelings about her death. Aronofsky shows that he can deal with the affirmation of life as well as he has with urban death in Requiem for a Dream.
The film is divided into three story lines about a Spanish conquistador, a present-day man whose wife is dying, and a man in a futuristic bubble traveling through space. The film is grounded in the present-day story; the other two are metaphoric representations. The first storyline is a visualization of the manuscript that the wife wrote about a conquistador, representative of a role the husband fashioned for himself to try to save his wife, attempting to save a Spanish queen, a shadow of his beloved wife coupled with his sense of duty to serve her. She leaves the unwritten ending to be finished by her husband, and he struggles to do so, but at the end, he realizes that the character of the conquistador must die alone, as it was the part of him that lived only to save his beloved.
Grief is a journey, one metaphorically represented by the man's travel toward the dying star through the golden nebula in a bubble. He travels with the dying tree of life, a representation of his feelings and memories about his dead wife. He sustains himself by consuming the dying tree of life, piece by piece. Only by killing his grief, trapped with the feelings about his wife, can he actually be born anew and rendered able to live.
The present-day story is mainly composed of him recalling the memories of his wife's last days. In it, a curious element stands out: the magical elixir from Central America that cures the macaque. Does this make this work a science fiction? For me, it's a reinforcement of the concept that this movie itself is a vision. Perhaps this distances the film away from reality, but it really works here, because the three storytelling elements merge so seamlessly together, due to this fantastic element at even the movie's most grounded level. Is it a warped memory, or even a hopeful fantasy of the grieving husband? Whatever the case, the grief, the guilt, and the obsession over the loss of a loved one come through in abundance.
Beyond the basics of the ingenious narrative that allows for a deep plunge beyond empathy, the film brings other layers of understanding and subjects to chew on long after you've finished watching. Some of the most enjoyable for me were the religious metaphors. Christian, Mayan, Buddhist imageries are presented throughout the film. All of these religious beliefs, and perhaps most if not all of the world's religions, deal with birth, death, and rebirth. The concept of rebirth is different for each, but death brings life, including in Christianity, where Christ's death cleanses the original sin and invites humans back to life beyond death. As is such, the conquistador and the man in the bubble had to die, so that the man can live on. Also in our lives, we constantly go through a process of death and rebirth as we grow older, and the film represents through a grieving process these cycles that mirror that of life and nature itself.
Touching back on the narrative, our traditional sense of time is useless here. The three stories are not real, even in a fictional sense; rather they are memories and metaphors. The only scene that occurs in real time may be the one where the man buries the tree seed near the end (within fiction, of course). The film may be, in a fictional time, taking place in a few minutes, or in an hour and a half, rather than days or centuries. For all of us, our memories and thoughts of things past exist in timeless space among connectors between neurons, where we can revisit large spans of time in merely seconds, and recall the feelings from those times with force and clarity. The film is an expression of such concept of time, and the expansion of the collapsed sense of time we feel in our memories.
The film's sense of morality is also quite unusual. The history of the conquistadors is that of exploitation and brutality in the name of religion and state, and it loosely parallels the film's concept of science in the thoughtless use of animals for the conceits of mankind. It points to the moral ambiguities that can be spurred on by our resistance to the cycles of life and death. I don't think the movie is anti-science, but rather prompts us to think about our role within the natural order.
The film is shot beautifully as well, adding to its amazing depth. The disassociated feel of the conquistador and the floating bubble story lines is a reflection of the man's inability to deal with reality. In both of these visions, the woman is hardly seen, although her presence is always felt in connection to his obsession over cheating death--she is obscured in the earlier storyline, and exist only in ghostly bits of memory in the latter. In contrast, the husband's recalling of the present-day memories feels incredibly tactile--the close up shots of the pair's intimate moments during their heartfelt interactions reveals itself as the closest reflection of reality. Of course, the excellent and compelling music thread these elements together.
Faithful, but flawed
Watchmen is Alan Moore's renowned comic series about superheros' attempts to save themselves from obsolescence and to save the humanity from itself. By placing them into a more realistic psychological and emotional context, characterizations point out the perversion of the concept of superheros and the cultural implications of their existence.
As someone who very much appreciated the comic book, the movie was a mixed bag. There are some really great (faithful) translation of parts of the comic book, but overall, I would say that the movie suffered more than benefited from the strict adherence to the source material, as the emotional core of the comics ended up becoming neglected.
The biggest failure of the movie was that the nuclear holocaust felt shallow, empty. I generally liked the movie up until that point. The mass killing was served as a linear plot element, not the epic punch to the gut that screamed out the absurdity of the comic book superhero.
Several main reasons why:
-The event is mostly seen through a TV within the film screen, hence making the audience trice-removed from the cataclysmic scale and implications of the mass genocide
-The allegorical pirate story, which mirrors the insanity that drove Ozymandias' actions, is missing from the movie--I did not realize how crucial this was to the understanding of the comic book until I watched the movie
-Matthiew Goode as Ozymandias was not very good--the character Goode constructs is not the super-rational zealot who works toward the "good" of human kind, but rather a one-dimensional comic book villain
Dr. Manhattan's reversal in his decision to help human beings avoid the mass killings felt rather clumsily handled as well.
The movie is not a waste of time, but it has some deep flaws. If you're going to see the movie to be entertained, it will, more likely than not, succeed. But it doesn't quite deliver the impact of the original work--with the core missing, it's merely a pretty shell of what it's supposed to have been.
Nim's Island (2008)
A Writer's Block
Nim's Island is an adventure story about a young girl, Nim, who lives with her biologist father in a small volcanic island in the South Asiatic ocean. When her father goes missing out in the sea due to a storm, Nim asks for help from her favorite adventure novel writer, Alex Rover (Jodie Foster/Gerard Butler), via email. When Alex Rover finds out about Nim's predicament, she overcomes her agoraphobia to come to Nim's aid.
From the reviews I've read so far, it seems that this movie is mostly being judged on its merits as a children's film. Which is fair, because it is a movie based on a children's book of the same name. Its format and tone makes it apparent that it is intended for elementary school level children and it is marketed as a light, children's fare. But based on the narrative and structure, one can look at this movie as more than just a children's entertainment--personally, I see this movie as a statement about being a writer.
If viewed with emphasis on Alex Rover's character, Nim's Island becomes an interpretation of a children's book about an author going through a writer's block and dealing with mental illness. Although it may not be a direct representation of events in the author's own life, I believe that a writer writing about another writer is basically holding a mirror up to their reflections regarding their own state of mind. It's probable that the author of the book was addressing her own mental block when writing about the Alex Rover character. Perhaps she is also poking fun at herself as an adventure story writer stuck at home with a hackneyed domestic life.
Ultimately, the film is about the healing process, and finding equilibrium in one's life. When the film starts, Nim is a confident, adventurous, boisterous young girl with fresh memories of her father. Alex Rover, on the other hand, is a fearful woman with a mental problems whose alter-ego manifests himself whenever she is stressed. Most of the movie has story of one's adventure juxtaposed against the other's--their shared on-screen time is actually very short, appearing together only near the film's end. As the film progresses, you see both Nim and Alex Rover start shedding some of their old characteristics and taking on the other's traits. Their union at the end may indicate that all three (four) characters represent one person, the author. By the end, the truest manifestation of the author, Alex Rover, learns to be a healthier, more complete person.
There are not many negative things I can say about this movie, but there are some plot elements that you must swallow in order to enjoy the movie, such as the film's departure from laws of nature and the characters' disregard for safety and logic--it's virtually the same thing as watching a talking dog in a children's cartoon, but it's harder to accept because the movie is live-action. When ideas are drawn, it's immediately understood that it is an interpretation of something that's based in real life, but this is not the case for live-action films. Once you accept the premise that is movie is meant to represent a children's book, the faults should be easy enough to disregard.
On a side note, it was very welcoming to see Jodie Foster embrace the physical comedy involved in the role--she's no Charlie Chaplin, but it's an interesting excursion for her, acting-wise. She effectively used comedy to balance out the fear in her character.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable movie, and I highly recommend it to most adults as well as kids.
How to butcher a musical
Let me start out by saying that I love Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and Alan Rickman, based on each artists' body of work up until now. Despite this, I hated this film. This is the worst musical I've ever had the displeasure of sitting through in my life.
It would have worked well as a non-musical, but oh, the pain of listening to the actors sing... Singing is an entirely different process of expression in comparison to acting, especially if coming from certain acting methods. The lack of emotional conveyance through the actors' singing, due to their inexperience and timidness, make this a very bland and badly sung musical production. There is not enough irony, emotions, and insanity to make this enjoyable to watch. I do not believe Burton was successful in capturing the same spirit of the original production, which he intended to emulate.
When the musical burst onto the scene in 1979 and through the 80's, it was a revelation at the time due to its original concept. What new concept does Burton bring to the table by making a movie out of this musical? Nothing. Process is different, but the intended product is the same. There is no value added, other than the camera angles, of which Burton does not take full advantage.
His choices in shots and camera angles in this production actually work against him in that they accentuate the blandness of the production. I've always thought Burton's camera angles are average at best, and it shows here. Yes, he chooses some fancy shots, and yes, and he may be an innovator, but he doesn't understand drama in directing. All he appears to want to do in most of his films is put pretty pictures on the screen using technology and beautiful sets, while attempting to tell a good story. It works, sometimes, but not always.
One thing I did take away from watching this is that this film gave me an insight to Burton's film making, by questioning why he made this into a musical. According to him in the DVD special features, he was trying to convey his experience of watching this on Broadway into a movie. I take from this that he makes films because they are satisfying from a sensory perspective. It fits. There are no ambiguities, subtleties, layers, complexity in his films. What he wanted to say is laid out, bare, naked, to fully be understood at one level of understanding for all. A visual thinker; his goal with his films is to give us viewers an insight into his dreams, nightmares.
He loves working with actors with certain look/feel to them, because he is an assembler of sets, colors, actors, designs who puts together pieces to make people see his way. There aren't any difference, artistically, between a claymation figure and a Johnny Depp in a Tim Burton film. Because of this, I would liken him to an illustrator than a true artist--he wants viewers to see, but does not provide any deeper understanding and thought process. One exception to this is his film, Big Fish--which was a shocking, and brave venture beyond his comfort zone for the director. Since then, however, he has become more timid in his artistic choices, rather than grow from it.
As much as I am critical of his current approach to film making, I do love his original visions--there's nothing else quite like them.
Mr. Burton, would you quit with the remakes, and give us more originals?
28 Weeks Later (2007)
Irritating waste of time
Where do I start. It fails as a horror film, as a drama, and as a sequel. This sequel basically took the first movie, 28 Days Later, and stripped it free of anything positive. Then they added some military firepower. That's it in a nutshell. The first movie had a bad script, but good cinematography, excellent music, likable characters, fun direction, and at least a coherent premise and story. This one has a worse script, headache-inducing cinematography, bad music, main characters you wouldn't give a damn about, boring direction, and no semblance of a story--they actually detract from an important premise from the first movie.
As a horror film, there is absolutely no tension. This just inundates the audience with a bunch of shaky shot amongst the running infected, and shots of the US army gassing and firebombing everyone in London. It doesn't even attempt to draw fear, nor any anticipation--it just lays out some blood (not even a lot), some far away shots of the dead, and some shots of skeletons. "Here, be scared. It's not scary? Too bad."
It fails as a drama because of a bad story and terrible characters. It manages some jumbled story about a family that not only makes no sense, it draws no empathy nor any sympathy. The main characters, the kids, are the most irritating couple of kids I've ever seen.
It fails as a sequel because of the liberties they took with the original premise. My biggest gripe is that they just completely abandoned the premise that the infected will not be active during daytime, probably for the sake of making it easier and cheaper to shoot. Great way to alienate fans of the first film.
Although the comparison is somewhat asymmetrical, I think this movie's more of a war/survival film than anything else. Any real threat of death does not come from the infected; it comes from several different military attack strategies. I don't think that's what the producers were shooting for, but that's what they ended up with. On a side note, the film makers obviously had nothing positive to say about the competence and morality of the US army. I welcome political discussions in films, but these guys are waaaayyy in over their heads
I truly wanted to just stop watching in the middle. It's boring and painfully long. I cared for none of the characters, wanted them to just die off as soon as possible.
Many of the reviews for the film draws a comparison between this film and Silence of the Lambs. I'll start there as well. The similarity in plot is glaring--an inexperienced law enforcement officer uses a serial killer's fascination with their vulnerability to solve a crime.
However, the two films have very different flavors--I guess that's the best way I can describe it. Both have their strengths--Silence of the Lambs has a better structure, pacing, arguably the better cinematography, set design...it is also a more traditional thriller. Because the killer is yet to be caught, there's an imminent threat and constraint on time throughout the movie.
Antibodies is more of a psychological drama than Silence of the Lambs. In its core, the film is about a man's struggle with his competence: competence as a father, a husband, a Catholic, a cop, and as a town leader of sorts. It is more subtle, and uses a man's transformation and his growing fear as a means to progress the story, rather than successive uncovering of clues or what-not.
The film questions morality, human nature, Catholicism, divinity, etc. in a pretty interesting way--almost reminds me of The Exorcist in its thematic expression of sin, evil, and guilt. By the way, it comes off very clear to me that the film maker is a Catholic, even just in his exploration of guilt and sin. The ending makes it obvious. Don't let that put you off (if you're the type that would get put off by it), however, as it's not overwhelming--it's done in a very tasteful and subtle way that builds up the character than really anything else.
Film structure is not as good as SOTL (but that's a really high bar to be compared to)--the opening is pretty awesome, but the movie lets its pacing loosen for a little while after that. The construction and editing does get tighter as the movie progresses--the lead-up to the ending is suffocating as the tension reaches its peak.
Acting is very competent from the two leads. I generally like the job that the rest of the cast has done as well. Cinematography is very good.
The only thing that I still haven't made up my mind about is the ending--whether I like it or not. I guess what happens to the main character makes sense to me thematically, but I just didn't like the execution. The CGI was distracting and the helicopter was a bit overly-dramatic for me.
Overall, I do recommend it. It's a very good, solid film--highly above average both in its genre and in overall film industry.
The Wicker Man (2006)
Wow, the script-writer must have been jilted by women quite a bit. Or have suffered some serious maternal abuse in the past. This is the most gynophobic movie I've ever seen.
I've never seen the 1973 original, but they morphed the original Christianity vs paganism concept into a serious anti-feminism rant--women can't be trusted, women will crush men's if given the freedom to do so, women are prone to insanity, etc etc. The writer firmly seems to believe in the principles that prompted the Salem witch trials back in the 1600's.
What a ridiculous movie. Highlight of the film is when Nick Cage starts running around in a full bear suit punching women around. Seriously.
Most of the problems in this horribly flawed film came from the screen play. Meandering nonsense. Overall look and feel of the movie wasn't horrible, although director failed to capture the eeriness and the suspense that this film I felt was intended to produce. They hired competent actors/actresses, who really didn't get to do much acting in this except for Nick Cage. He was struggling by himself to make this thing float--I would feel bad for him, except he was the producer for this abomination.
I'm really sorry that all these actresses partook in a production with a really misguided message.
I've got to admit, it was funny. Unintended, but funny.
The Paper (1994)
I have never liked Ron Howard films until now. I was shocked to learn that this was his work. I find them rather boring and lifeless, dry and without a personal stake in the story and its characters. The literalness in his shots and film structure is cumbersome in his dramatic works, but in a comedy like this, it works--it emboldens and accentuates the humor, rather than making the film boring to watch.
This film captured the chaotic energy of the newsroom floor and got me swept up in it. The ending had me cheering and laughing along with the characters. The film felt very personal, and it was easy to tell that a lot of love went into the production. The script was amazing, and the acting, superb.
Yes, the plot is contrived. But that's not the reason for the storytelling in this film. The story is about its characters. Every character is incredibly well-drawn and each actor is very much immersed and invested in their characters. Seeing the characters react and interact brought huge involuntary smiles to my face. The characters came alive, and as a result, the story made sense! What an awesome ensemble cast. It's my favorite so far in film. They make it evident that the paper is a force in itself, an idea, that drives these characters and consumes their lives. I think the film offers a view into the lives of these people--from their point of view.
I am a cynic who was once a romantic--once in awhile, something triggers a breakdown of the wall I've built up and warmth flares through my soul in the realization that there are others out there with genuine love for creating something tangible out of their love and passion for art and humanity.
This is one of those things. Not quite realistic, as some pointed out--but you can feel the joy and love behind this film that is rare to find. It shows that a film doesn't have to be preachy to have something meaningful to share with the audience.
It's about an unlikely pair connecting through music, and understanding each other through music. Every musical performance felt like they were baring their souls and it felt like the same connection and goodwill pervaded throughout the audience, the girl, and the guy, and every other character on the screen. The shy, somewhat sparse dialogue in between the music were full of things unsaid, but understood.
This film gave, and I, as an audience member, gave back--sharing in the warmth as long as it lasted. I'd also like to think a small ember of hope glows in my mind even long after the viewing.
Le temps du loup (2003)
Pointless and Indulgent
Following an unnamed disaster, a mother and her two kids joins a group of people hoping for a train to come by at a station. That's the extent of the plot in this film.
I was bored out of my skull.
I've seen some indulgent "art" films, but this is one of the best examples I've seen. Five minute shot of family chewing on cookies, five minute single take of the family walking along the road and five minute shot of a burning building...on and on.
One can make a point about seeing beauty in everyday "things"...yes, but after an hour and forty minutes of it, all I saw was gray. Performances were good, but everything was so stripped down and bare that I just couldn't connect with any of the characters.
Ending was sort of an interesting one, but it is basically a slight escalation in the continuously desolate situation the characters are faced with. Nothing is resolved, and the desolation and despair will continue on.
It has some interesting views on society and human nature, but again, so few and far between that whatever message this film tries to make falls to pieces.
El laberinto del fauno (2006)
Beautiful, without much substance. Too much graphic violence. Mediocre acting.
True, it's an interesting concept in theory--creating a child's point of view of brutality by creating a film about a child retreating to her imagination during wartime.
But the film's message and its characters, the two things that really matter to me in a serious film like this, are so banal that I cannot find myself liking this movie.
This film's message is that abuse of power is wrong and that war is bad. It is just so black-and-white, without much thinking involved...it's like saying "stealing is bad". It's so obvious, and the film is so serious about the message...very single-dimensional, and to be honest, rather off-putting for me.
Characters were pretty cartoonish as well, with no complexity, no depth. Again, not interesting. It could be due to the movie being shot from a child's point of view--but I don't think lack of more complex characters enhanced the film.
As for its concept of contrast between the dark, gritty reality with the child's imagination...it had potential to be interesting. I didn't like how they carried it out, however--the film makers decided to create the contrast using graphic violence, which is rather off-putting and pointless, rather than sad or heartbreaking. Yes, I do admit that it takes a lot to make the adult movie audience these days be shocked by violence. But by creating better characters, I think it's still possible to make a greater emotional impact without using the overtly graphic violence shown here. By the way, the violence is such that a man passed out in my local theater during a scene in this film, and had to be carried out in an ambulance. I'm not kidding.
There are definitely good elements in this film, such as good direction. Undoubtedly the show's center piece, there is a fantastic scene with a flesh eating monster that is taught, wondrous, eerie and beautiful.
The look of the movie feel similar to the Lemony Snicket movie--only difference is that this film used darker tones in set design. Personally, I would rate this movie at the same level artistically and conceptually as Lemony Snicket, although I think Pan's Labyrinth is meant to be more than that. I do have to give it lots of credit for their awesome visuals, as its budget of $18M (vs. $140M for Lemony Snicket) is pretty incredible. But in the end, it's good set production that deserves acclaim, not the overall artistry of the film.
The ending felt forced...did not connect with me, personally. I walked out feeling that overall, I did not gain much from the film. My distaste for the violence and the lack of character depth really put me off, which erased any positives. I could see how people would walk away with positive review of this film, but it's definitely over-hyped.
The Sleeping Dictionary (2003)
The Sleeping Dictionary
The positives: It's shot pretty well. Has some interesting peripheral characters. Likable main character (albeit weak).
The bad: Plot/story. Editing. Characters wasted. Jessica Alba.
I'm a fan of sappy movies, but this movie is cringe-inducingly bad. I don't understand how anyone can hand over $12M to this Guy Jenkin. And before I go any further, I just want to say that I don't dislike Jessica Alba--I really wanted to like her in this film. However, Jessica Alba in her fake accent and her model poses made me miserable. She has absolutely no screen presence in this movie, and she ruins every scene she's in. Needless to say, the romance does not come off as believable(not even a tiny bit).
All I saw throughout was the actors flapping their wings, trying to get this thing off the ground with what little they were given--but sadly, all this movie does is sink. There is no emotional connection, no emotional conflict, and nothing is gained. It's a pretty empty movie.
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
X-Men: The Last Stand
This movie was disappointing, to say the least. I'm not a fan of Bryan Singer, but I respect him, and I think he did a great job with the X-Men series. I was prepared to deal with his departure from the franchise--but I really wasn't prepared for how bad this movie was.
The main reason, is the script. It's absolutely horrible--it numbs you with familiar phrases you'd expect from a campy 50's sci-fi movie(with no redeeming values), makes you cringe with the soap opera dialogues, and leaves you scratching your head over the lack of sense and discontinuity.
If there weren't for some of the good CGI scenes, this movie would have no redeeming value in a directorial sense. Ratner doesn't know what to do with the actors, and he has a very vague idea of how to choose shots and scenes. I really miss Singer.
My request for Mr. Brett Ratner: Please stick to making your Rush Hour movies--I don't care if you make Rush Hour 4, 5, 6, 10 or 20. But please, just don't ruin other potentially good movies.
To me, this is X-Men, badly mutilated. Don't get me started on the misuse of characters--some appear out of nowhere, others disappear without warning. Not only horribly executed, but these were wrong choices for the franchise, in my humble opinion.
Overall, poorly planned, poorly executed movie. Sad, as the movie that came immediately before this one in the franchise was one of the best super hero/comic book films I've ever seen. I didn't expect this to match the quality of X2, but man...
I'm just going to try to forget that this movie ever came into existence. I hope a repeated viewing of X2 can rub out the bad taste in my mouth.
Non ti muovere (2004)
A mediocre movie highlighted by Cruz's characterization
This movie deserves a D in editing, and D in musical accompaniment. Horrible.
Cinematography is competently done, but doesn't stand out.
Story's a soap opera, and some interesting choices in characters' past fleshes out the story, especially in regards to the character's connection to their fathers.
But it's quite compelling because of the acting--specifically, Cruz's acting. It's subdued, yet heartbreakingly beautiful. Her demeanor, her clothes, her walk...there's something fragile, and yet strong in everything she does. A character who was so beat down over and over again over the course of her life, yet continues to function. I must say that was one of the most compelling piece of acting I've seen.
Her male counterpart, the main character, is a once again, competent.
All added together, it makes an interesting film--but probably only because I'm totally fascinated by Cruz's acting.
Knafayim Shvurot (2002)
A Family Falling Apart
Thoroughly depressing movie about a horrible mother and her messed up children. I hated the mother's character, who rolls around in self-pity after her husband's death and is constantly absent in her children's lives. All she does is work, mope around absentmindedly, whine, and try to get into some doctor's pants(9 months after her husband died), all while her family's falling apart. It's very difficult for me to think of a film character I disliked more than the mother in this film. Also, I thought the whole story became contrived due to the ending and the silly and unnecessary romantic angle between the mother and the doctor.
This film has no energy, and in being such, succeeds in letting the viewer feel as depressed and frustrated as the characters themselves. It's funny how a 87 min movie feels like 2 hours or more...
Despite all that, the four kids are wonderful in this movie. I especially liked some of the scenes involving the two older children, including a counseling session with the son, the meeting in after-school hours between the son and his friend Iris, and most of the scenes with the daughter. There are some beautifully shot scenes in the son's bedroom and the abandoned pool. The concept behind the characters, and how they are coping with their father's death were good. But I can't watch this again. There would be no redeeming qualities, second time around.
Road to Perdition (2002)
Overall, recommended. Though I really wished it wasn't Tom Hanks who played Mike Sullivan. His steely hit-man look is achieved by furrowing his eyebrows. Should I be convinced that this is the look of a guy who's been killing people all his life? Let's face it. Tom Hanks make his characters likable. That's his thing, his gift. And it was totally wrong for this movie. This movie should have been like dark chocolate--bitter, dark, mysterious, with a tinge of sweetness. Instead, with casting of Tom Hanks, it became a milk chocolate--with a biteful of aluminum wrapper on the teeth to go with it.
Otherwise, it was quite good in many aspects. The camera work is done beautifully--the way scenes flow, it's difficult to remain unimpressed. There is also one striking scene which everything that happens is seen through between Mike Sullivan's two feet. The look of the film, created by the use of light and shadows, dark and neutral color tones, are visually satisfying. The score is quite good, although it doesn't quite hit the mark in some scenes. The main score is one of my favorites in film.
Good supporting cast--Paul Newman was great as the crime boss. Jude Law plays a slimy, balding hit-man with a taste for taking photos of those recently deceased from violent crimes.
As for the other main character, the kid playing the son did a decent job. He does not overdo his part, for which I'm quite glad.
The story does leave something to be desired. Predictable and hackneyed plot, with pretty weak story development. I have not read the original source material from which this film is based on, but I understand that the film took quite a few liberties with the plot anyway, so you can't really blame the book. But it's not really that bad, especially when you take the whole movie as a package.
Just as a side note--keeping in line with the title of the film, it would have been better if the final twist on who killed who did not happen. After all, the kid learned more about his father in those six weeks they spent together than he has ever before--and during those six weeks, all that the father was concerned about was revenge. Not the welfare of his son, but revenge for done deeds. What a lesson for the kid. If the movie was truly about father-son relationships, it would make much more sense to continue the cycle of violence.
Bottomline, it was a high 7. Satisfying, solid film.
Sin City (2005)
I thought about Sin City a bit...and realized how chauvinistic it is. All three male characters' motives are to save some damsels in distress--Willis saves Alba, Owen saves the Old Town girls, and Rourke saves(helps) Wendy. Even the seemingly strong female character needs rescuing(Rosario Dawson). The only exception to this is Miho, the Japanese assassin, but she's not the brains behind the operation; Clive Owen is. Other than that, I think the movie's concept is OK--in a city choke-full of sin, the good guys divert their energy into saving their perception of goodness--which is women, apparently.
Of course, the intended audience of the movie are 20-something males, and the movie/comic book plays to feed their interests of violence, underdogs, and women. So I can't say I expect anything else in the contents. But I wouldn't want it any other way. The product came out well.
Another thing--the format of the movie is more along the lines of a comic book, rather than a movie. Due to that, the pacing of the movie was a bit lagging.
But the awesomeness of the way the comic book visuals were translated into film blows away most of the doubts I have about this movie. It is absolutely gorgeous. The black and white, with red splashes and shocks of yellow are so striking, so well-shot, that I can't say enough good things about it.
A couple of other highlights of the film--the soundtrack was quite unique. It went well with the movie. Also, Elijah Wood is beautifully creepy as the cannibal version of Charlie Brown.
Sin City is not flawless--but the originality with which this film was produced and directed just lifts this film high above most other films I'm seeing these days.
Batman Begins (2005)
A good summer blockbuster movie. Nothing more. No interesting elements what so ever. It had potential, especially because of good casting. Did nothing with it, except with Bale and Caine. It did have decent cinematography--created a dark atmosphere, only if for the 2nd half of movie. The movie also did an OK job of explaining Batman's training process and how his gadgets came about. The biggest cause of problems was the script, which had a quite a few illogical plot elements. It attempted character development, ended in failure. Irritating silly quipps, and clichéd placement of reoccurring objects and non-consequential characters.
Oh, there are lots of noisy scenes to show off its budget--the car chase scene, and the final scene with the exploding monorail...but really, no substance. The movie also awkwardly tries to fit Gotham into modern era, and it does not work. Flashback sequences are not well done.
But my biggest issue with the movie was...what was Batman's motivation? According to this movie, it's fear...but what happened to the guilt, which they slightly touch upon in the beginning? What happened to his desire for revenge? What drives him to stalk the nights of gotham for criminals? I got this from, on a random search on the web: "For the sake of his role in Batman's origin, Joe Chill cannot be an individual. He can not be a person who Bruce Wayne can track down and confront, as this would allow closure on the Wayne murders, and negate Bruce's need to fight a personal war as Batman. Because Bruce will never identify and confront Joe Chill as an individual, Chill becomes the embodiment of all criminals. So, to Bruce, every mugger is Joe Chill. Every Criminal is subject to his vengeance." In this movie, Bruce Wayne gets closure, through Chill's trial and death. This is, in my opinion, a major, major flaw in the characterization of Bruce Wayne. He has no reason to be angry anymore, really.
And where to start for other plot oddities...the silliest one is where Bruce Wayne, to avoid executing one criminal("I will not be an executioner"), ends up killing 100's by blowing up the whole place. And of course, he feels no remorse, or even recollects these events. It really seems as though no thoughts went into writing this script.
Another thing...underutilized villain, the Scarecrow--who is a cronie, a rather weak one, rather than a nemesis. Also, wasted use of Rutger Hauer, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman.
Many mentions about how this is better than the 1989 Batman...in concept, it's not. It's a good popcorn flick. Burton's Batman was truly driven by something. This Batman...i don't know where he's coming from.
Basically, bad script. Forgettable movie, except for Bale's portrayal of Wayne.
Taking Lives (2004)
Hmm...let's get the bad over with, first of all. Bad script. Laughed out loud couple of times at really bad dialogues. Bad premise. Horrendous soundtrack. Components of the movie fit together like a five year-old in a men's suit. Jolie was a bad casting decision. Waste of acting talent in more than one peripheral character. The whole movie was awkward.
Not worth talking about clichés and plot holes, because I really don't feel like writing a lengthy essay. The film does nothing to motivate me to actually want to pick apart and analyze these things...
The parts which salvaged the movie for me were...mostly Ethan Hawke's performance during the latter part of the movie, even though it wasn't the greatest acting job I've ever seen.
The movie wasn't interesting enough to keep me actively involved in the details of the plot, so the movie mildly surprised me with a couple of plot twists. It also had a couple of scenes that jolted me awake with things popping out of nowhere. Also, the beginning sequence was quite good. Of course, it was pretty much downhill from there, but there were some ups along with the downs.
Cinematography was pretty decent...am I grasping for straws here? You know the movie's bad when one of the special features of the DVD are "gag reels". Anyway, if thrillers are your cup of tea, then this movie may be worth spending 1 hour and 40 minutes watching. Maybe.
Sin noticias de Dios (2001)
A strange cocktail of a movie...I like it
Two agents, one from heaven and the other from hell--each tries to coax a loser of a boxer into their respective domains. Later, a conspiracy brings them together to save the boxer's soul. All for what? Cleopatra's nose. An inch longer, and it would have changed the course of history. Negligible, but consequential. Of course.
Very strange, but likable movie. Much of it doesn't make sense. And the movie doesn't really explain anything. But it's not supposed to make sense.
Don't ask why. Heaven is a black and white version of Paris. Both heaven and hell are ran like corporations, with directors, officers, and agents. The language of heaven is French. Language of hell is English. Spanish is the common language used in between the two. The director of hell has a swiss passport. Random. Violence. Humor. B/W. Color. French. English. Man. Woman. Good. Evil. A cocktail. Too much random ingredients makes it impossible to get intoxicated off of, but it's enough to get me buzzed.
Purhaps the randomness alludes to...nothing is predetermined, but our decisions are influenced. Nothing is really clear cut, and things happen for no reason. It's a mess. But such is this world. This mess, on a macroscopic level, forms a harmonic balance of life and death, and good and evil.
An interesting relationship develops between the characters of two leads, Cruz and Abril. An affinity for one another, based on a unique pretense--very interesting. Fun to see Penelope Cruz in an interesting role--she provides a good interpretation of the character she plays.
The movie flows like a playful thumping of the piano keyboards by an infant--random and cacophonic, but endearing.
Red Dragon (2002)
Movie worthy of being the prequel to 'Silence of the Lambs'
As a big fan of the movie 'Silence of the Lambs', I was very excited to see in the preview that 'Red Dragon' had recruited the acting talents of Edward Norton and Ralph Fiennes. I had little fear that they would disappoint me, and upon finishing the movie, I can say that my guess was right.
The movie is about the investigation of a serial killer(Francis Dolarhyde, played by Ralph Fiennes) by the reluctant FBI agent who put Lecter behind his glass cage(Will Graham, played by Edward Norton). Pressed for time before the serial killer sets his eyes on another family to slaughter, Graham is asked to consult with Lecter to try to help understand the motives of the serial killer. But rather than freeing him of the responsibilities of the case, Graham becomes more involved with the investigation with Lecter's involvement. With his efforts at investigation, Graham manages to anger Dolarhyde, who sets his sights on destroying Graham and his family.
Almost everything about 'Red Dragon' was perfect. The director, the actors, and the music score was especially excellent. The pacing and all the aforementioned qualities kept me engrossed in the movie at all times. One of the things that helped me appreciate the movie was that 'Red Dragon' shares many of the unique qualities of 'Silence of the Lambs'. Other people might dislike the obvious similarities such as the fact that both movies introduced a serial killer who wanted to become something else than what they already were, and that both has a hero/heroin who wants Lecter's cooperation during their investigation into the serial killers. The similarities are also present in the investigations themselves, which are the plot and the pace of both 'Red Dragon' and 'Silence of the Lambs'. The cycle of bribes and visits to Lecter, Lecter's hints, and discovery of new revelations seem familiar. But the prequel also has the good character developments and interesting twists that helps it to distinguish itself from 'Silence of the Lambs'. Even the old character of Hannibal Lecter shows a different side of himself in dealing with a rival who put him away, rather than a inexperienced female intern in the FBI.
The main fault in the movie, in my opinion, lies in the somewhat weak script. It was ok enough to hold up most of the movie without much problems, but it fell short when they needed to develop the character of the serial killer. The story involves a needless romance between Dolarhyde and a blind woman(Reba McClane, played by Emily Watson), which seems to create a deviation from the insane man who is consumed by a desire to become a god. Maybe they meant to show the side of the killer that is still in reality, who still wants to care for someone--but the romance is abrupt and short, which makes me doubt that it would have any positive effect toward the man gone crazy enough to start killing whole families just to have an audience when he kills his women victims.
Another little complaint that I had was that there could have been a better ending. Unlike the shocking twist at the end of the 'Silence of the Lambs', the ending was somewhat predictable. Although I think it could have been sufficient to end the movie, personally, I thought it could have been more interesting.
But overall, it was an excellent movie. I had an enjoyable movie experience that'll stay in my memory for sometime. My neck muscles are still tense from watching the movie. Definitely go see it.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
Nice action, horrible storyline
Note: There might be spoilers ahead
I didn't feel that I wasted my money to see this movie...because I got a discount. Basically, this movie was a simple adventure movie with good action scenes that are far and few in between, held together by a lame plot.
The highlight of the movie was in the very beginning of the movie, in the first fight scene. That scene left me with an impression that the movie would be good, and that impression was completely gone about the time the movie had reached its 1/2 way mark.
The not only did the plot suck, but character development was unripe, and the jokes were completely predictable. I hated the subplot involving the father...Jolie does a good job of looking the part, but she can't convince me that the character cares enough for her father to try to bring him back to life with the risk of destroying the world (--;).
Another thing, what the heck is up with her and that other tomb raider. I could see them flirting, but come on, does that convince me that Croft cares enough about the guy to try to bring him back to life too? Especially when he has shown himself to be someone who can't be trusted.
Lara Croft's relationship with the other characters, along with the actions she chooses to take in different situations, made her a weak character, built up on contradicting evidences. I really didn't like the character, even though I wanted to. That's what really gets me about the writers of this movie. They don't spend enough time to try to invigorate the plot; instead, they spend too much time creating unbelievable and weak characters.
What made it worse was the horrible ending scene. Maybe they ran out of money...but those spray-painted orange spheres doesn't quite seem like it's made by the same civilization that built the 1st tomb. It looks more like a cheap amusement ride. And am I supposed to feel a sense of danger from seeing heavily armed guys falling into the water beneath because they got hit by one of the circling arms? I really wish the writers would have been more imaginative.
Basically, one would go see this movie for the hype, Jolie, the few action scenes, and for the sake of the actual game. If you have a lot of time, and have some money, it's not a bad flick to watch...the producers spent enough money on this to be somewhat entertaining.