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I would not think of quarreling with your interpretation nor offering any other, as I have found it always the best policy to allow the film to speak for itself.
My Personal Favorite Movies [party]
2001: A Space Odessey 25th Hour 28 Days Later 28 Weeks Later 300 3:10 to Yuma (2007) The 40 Year Old Virign The Abyss A.I. Artificial Intelligence Alien Aliens Alien� Almost Famous American Beauty American Gangster American History X Apocalypse Now Army of Darkness The Aviator Batman Begins A Beautiful Mind Big Fish The Big Lebowski The Birds Black Christmas (1974) Black Hawk Down Blade Runner The Boondock Saints Bubba Ho-Tep Casino Royale Children of Men Chinatown A Christmas Story Cinderella Man Clerks Clerks 2 A Clockwork Orange Close Encounters of the Third Kind Collateral Crash Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Cube The Dark Knight Dawn of the Dead (2004) The Deer Hunter The Departed The Descent Die Hard Dogma Donnie Brasco Donnie Darko Dr. Stranglove: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb Elf E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Espinazo del diablo, El Evil Dead Evil Dead 2 Face/Off Fargo Fight Club Forgetting Sarah Marshall Forrest Gump Full Metal Jacket Gangs of New York The Game Ghostbusters Gladiator The Godfather The Godfather: Part II Goldeneye Goldfinger Gone Baby Gone Goodfellas Good Will Hunting The Green Mile Gremlins Halloween (1978) Hard Boiled Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Heat Hellboy Hellboy II: The Golden Army High Fidelity The Holiday Hot Fuzz Huo Yuan Jia Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom The Insider Inside Man Insomnia (2002) Into the Wild Iron Man Jackie Brown Jarhead Jaws Juno Jurassic Park Kill Bill vol. 1 Kill Bill vol. 2 King Kong (2005) The King of Kong Knocked Up Laberinto del fauno, El The Last Samuria Layer Cake The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King Love Actually Lucky # Slevin The Matador The Matrix Memento Michael Clayton Million Dollar Baby Minority Report Monty Python and the Holy Grail Mystic River A Nightmare Before Christmas No Country For Old Men North By Northwest Nosferatu O Brother, Where art Thou? Once One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest The Passion of the Christ Perfume: The Story of a Murderer The Pianist Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Planet Terror Poltergiest Predator The Princess Bride The Prestige Psycho (1960) Pulp Fiction Raiders of the Lost Ark Ran Reseviour Dogs Road to Perdition The Rock Ronin Saving Private Ryan Scarface Schindler's List Serenity Seven Shaun of the Dead The Shawshank Redemption Shichinin no samurai The Shining Silence of the Lambs Sin City Slither Spider-Man 2 Star Wars: Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back Star Wars: Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi Starship Troopers Superbad Sweeney Todd: The Demon of Fleet Street (2007) Taxi Driver The Terminator Terminator 2: Judgement Day The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) There Will Be Blood The Thing Titanic Tomorrow Never Dies Total Recall True Lies The Truman Show The Usual Suspects V for Vendetta Waitress We Were Soldiers X2: X-Men United Ying xiong Young Frankenstein Zodiac
The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.
My Favorite Directors [argue]
Apatow, Judd Burton, Tim Cameron, James Carpenter, John Coen, Joel/Ethan Coppola, Francis Ford Cuar�n, Alfonso Darabont, Frank Del Torro, Guillermo Eastwood, Clint Fincher, David Gilliam, Terry Hitchcock, Alfred Jackson, Peter Jeunet, Jean-Pierre Kubrick, Stanley Kurosawa, Akira Lucas, George Mann, Michael Mendes, Sam Nolan, Christopher Raimi, Sam Rodriguez, Robert Scott, Ridley Scorsese, Martin Singer, Bryan Smith, Kevin Spielberg, Steven Tarantino, Quentin Wright, Edgar Zwick, Edward
My Favorite Actors/Actresses [cool]
Bale, Christian Banks, Elizabeth Bein, Michael Brosnan, Pierce Butler, Gerard Caine, Michael Campbell, Bruce Cera, Michael Cheadle, Don Craig, Daniel Connery, Sean Elliot, Sam Fillion, Nathan Freeman, Morgan Ford, Harrison Green, Eva Gosling, Ryan Hanks, Tom Hamilton, Linda Jackson, Samuel L. Ledger, Heath Lewis, Daniel-Day McAdams, Rachel Nighy, Bill Norton, Edward Owen, Clive Pearlman, Ron Pegg, Simon Pitt, Brad Rickman, Alan Roth, Tim Ruffalo, Mark Schwarzenegger, Arnold Tudyk, Alan Weaver, Sigourney Willis, Bruce
My Favorite TV Shows
"Arrested Development" (2003) "Battlestar Galactica" (2004) "Carniv�le" (2003) "Family Guy" (1999) "Firefly" (2002) "South Park" (1997)
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
After Building the Foundation, Nolan Completes His Trilogy
"There are very few great third films. I think in some cases dissatisfaction with third films comes from the sheer exhaustion of the people making it." These words came straight from the mouth of director Christopher Nolan, not just recently in an interview with Entertainment Weekly but also months after completion of The Dark Knight. He was exhausted, on vacation, probably mulling over his plans to tackle Inception next, but wasn't too interested, or at least didn't want to convey interest, in yet another Batman film. This shouldn't surprise those who followed Nolan's commentary as early as when he first wrapped production on Batman Begins. Even then, Nolan noted he was simply aiming to make a film, not a franchise. That, in essence, is why Nolan has yet triumphed a third time in what has become one of the greatest cinematic trilogies of all time. History would suggest the opposite—when a franchise is planned and outlined as a trilogy beforehand, such as with Lord of the Rings and Star Wars—is when sequels are the most effective. But Nolan's artistry and careful calculation with each chapter in his Bat-verse has allowed each segment to have its own identity, while also building upon the foundation of the groundwork laid by its predecessors.
If Batman Begins is about becoming a symbol and The Dark Knight (TDK) is about the personal sacrifice necessary in being that symbol, The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR) is about living through as that symbol to the end. In TDK, Wayne lost all that would have preserved Gotham outside of the presence of the Batman figure. His personal loss of Rachel and Dent resulted in Wayne becoming a shut-in, eccentric Howard Hughes character, and Batman becoming the face of villainy throughout the city. However, despite criminal activity being seemingly expunged, a new evil approaches Gotham from another part of the world in the form of Bane.
Bane poses as the best possible villain alternative in a post-Joker world as he is the complete antithesis of the Joker. While both seek to uproot society and give Gotham "back to the people," Joker wanted pure madness and anarchy while Bane seeks personal control and tyranny through fear. Bane is, for reasons which won't be delved into thoroughly in respect to spoiling TDKRs plot, a deadlier and more unhinged second coming of the kind of threat our caped crusader faced with Ra's Al Ghul. The Joker was a loose cannon, Bane is a weapon. Each hit Bane delivers is calculated and precise, but unlike Ra's Al Ghul, he isn't hindered in his actions by any moral code. He is, without hyperbole, the perfect villain for Nolan's Batman—the realization of every evil Batman has fought, but a perfect collision of forces that prevents our hero from being prepared for anything like him.
As a result, the stakes are high here because Bane isn't simply looking to kill Batman, but destroy an entire city and uproot civilization in the process, therefore destroying the symbol of Batman and "breaking his spirit." Much like this summer's The Avengers, you truly feel the threat has consequences on a world-wide scale. This isn't to suggest the film doesn't have its strong character moments, but the film never lets you catch your breath either. For instance, the few personal scenes between Michael Caine's Alfred and Bale's Bruce Wayne becoming increasingly heart-wrenching throughout.
On that note, there are many wonderful performances in Nolan's finale (as if anyone would expect anything less), but Caine is perhaps my favorite. Watching the accumulation of everything Alfred has had to endure for a trilogy finally spilling out on screen is heartbreaking. The entire film is full of such dedicated and emotion performances.
Many other reviewers will discuss the other roles at length, but I'll dedicate a paragraph to Bale's Bruce Wayne/Batman. Our protagonist goes through a complete physical and mental transformation between the film's opening and its dynamic conclusion. As stated earlier in the review, we open with Wayne as a crippled recluse hiding from the rest of the world in solitary, but in the wake of his new nemesis, he has to overcome obstacles that challenge him like never before on an emotional and physical level.
However, all of this wouldn't be possible if it wasn't for the visionary guidance of Christopher Nolan. He lets his stories carefully and meticulously set the stage for the action. TDKR isn't necessarily action-packed, but it is an emotion wallop, and the action only picks up when all of the right cogs have been adjusted. This is why the action here is memorable and that's why Nolan continues to succeed in this genre.
So, at the end of a seven year journey, fans can rest easy knowing that Nolan's vision for his Bat-verse has been completed, and with much success. In a few years, Warner Bros. will reboot the franchise and the dark knight will rise once more. It's inevitable and WB has confirmed its intentions. The bar for such a project will be almost insurmountable but regardless of what endeavors will be made, Nolan's trilogy will remain a classic among comic book, superhero, action, and film buffs alike. Christopher Nolan balanced more and more content with each of his Batman outings, but unlike Spider-Man 3, he doesn't let the structure fall apart in the final chapter. Instead, he builds upon the already strong foundation and completes his design. Sure, there will always be threads left hanging here for movie fans to ponder over, such as the unstated fate of the Joker. However, for every one of its occasional missteps or minor shortcomings, TDKR has a dozen successes. After all, why do we fall?
A spaghetti western... with a lizard as the lead
Rango is not only in love with the spaghetti western, but with movies in general. There's a scene in the opening that plays tribute to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a "bat scene" later that winks at Apocalypse Now, and numerous nods to Sergio Leone's westerns throughout the course of the film. Rango is a passionate movie that's passionate about movies.
This in no way suggests that Gore Verbinski's latest doesn't stand on its own two feet. To date, it's by far the most interesting and unique film I've seen in 2011. While it does play tribute to many predecessors, it doesn't let the homage make up for its lack of narrative. John Logan's script is full of character and wonderful, delectable dialog that dances off the tip of the tongue. As with "True Grit," I found myself wanting to quote the film after I saw it, displaying my movie "geekiness" for all to see and judge me by. Logan, to my surprise, also injects the film with a level of surreal that makes it more interesting compared to many of the other mainstream animated films being released today. In fact, I dare say the script and narrative is quite daring. Younger children may not only be confused by the path it takes in terms of storytelling, but also miss much of the banter and humor in the film. I haven't said this about a non-Pixar animated feature for what seems like some time now, but Rango is quite intelligent. It doesn't speak down to its audience with the obvious. Sure, there are somewhat predictable plot twists and turns (anyone who has seen a handful of the aforementioned spaghetti westerns of years past will notice similarities to Once Upon a Time in the West, The Man with No Name trilogy, etc.), but the story is presented in a very interesting manner.
Despite the fact that the film is computer generated, much of the "puppetry" in the film reminds me of the Jim Henson films of the 80s. The creatures are so full of life, so detailed, and so wonderfully molded into their roles. The animation style--thanks to the imaginations of James Ward Byrkit, David Shannon, Eugene Yelchin, and Mark McCreery--has a strong and significant impression on the film. Rango, quite frankly, looks unlike any other animated film I've seen. Additionally, the style helps to compound the surreal nature of many of the films events. John Logan's script and the visual/art style work together in perfect conjunction.
As far as direction goes, Gore Verbinski's fantastical style that dominated the look and feel of the Pirates films is here is in prime form. In fact, there's a scene that involves our lead lizard and rolly pollies that reminded me of a certain Davey Jones' Locker sequence in At World's End. The action set pieces show off all of the experience Verbinski has garnered over the course of directing the swashbuckling series. I haven't felt as exhilarated by action/adventure scenes since I last watched an Indiana Jones film. I constantly caught myself grinning like a fool during the more frantic moments of the movie.
When it comes to the voice acting, Rango is sublime. Bill Nighy, in particular, does outstanding work as Rattlesnake Jake. Ned Beatty is perfectly cast and comfortable with voicing the Mayor of 'Dirt.' Without spoiling anything, the biggest revelation for me was who lent their talents to bring a voice to the Spirit of the West.
One thing that ultimately separates Rango from the majority of films I've seen so far this year is that it's memorable. It's been a day since I've seen the film and I'm still chewing the film over in my mind. Rango is a number of things--a feast for the eyes, stimulator of interesting vocabulary, etc.—but it's primarily a fresh experience despite having an assortment of familiar themes and plot devices at its disposal. It's fun for all ages and rewards older movie buffs just as much, if not more so, as its younger viewers.
A final note: As a demystified final buff, it's become a rare occasion for me to desire to give a film an immediate second viewing after finishing the first but I instantly wanted to do so with Rango. I hope others, movie maniacs and general audiences alike, get this urge and amount of enjoyment out of the film.
Related Recommendations: A Fistful of Dollars, Once Upon a Time in the West, Tombstone, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Coraline.
Toy Story 3 (2010)
It doesn't matter if you're young or "old;" whether you grew up with the films or are new to them; Toy Story 3 is movie magic at its finest and a winner across the board.
I must first ask my fellow IMDb'ers to excuse my abundance of sentimentality in this review, but as a twenty-something child whom has just returned from seeing this film, many emotions are coming to the surface.
Like many whom probably rushed out to see Toy Story 3 on opening weekend, I grew up with the first two films. Toy Story came out during the perfect time in my life, while my connection with my own toys was at its most personal and passionate. The film touched me then in a way that not many animated films have since, or at least until Toy Story 2 came along in 1999 and warmed my heart once again. Now I'm 11 years older and have grown somewhat, physically and mentally, over that time.
Despite Pixar's consistency to outshine any other studio in the animation department, I still found myself doubtful as to whether or not Toy Story 3 would appeal to me now the same way the first two films did when I was younger. I clicked "Like" to "Move out of the way children I've been waiting 11 years to see Toy Story 3 " on Facebook, but I still wondered whether I would be moved. Yet once I found myself in a packed theater with some strangers and some of my best friends whom I've grown up with over the course of my childhood, I couldn't help but transport back to that same kid I was in 1995.
Toy Story 3 is movie magic at its finest. Unlike many animated sequels that come out today (I'm looking at you, Shrek), this third chapter retains all of the charm and intellect from the previous films without ever coming off as cheesy or cheap. Almost all of the characters from the previous films return and although Jim Varney sadly isn't filling Slinky Dog's shoes anymore, Blake Clark does a great job of bringing the character back in a way that would make Varney proud.
Pixar has stated before that they don't make sequels to their films unless they have a story that is on par with their predecessors and that's proved through Toy Story 3. There are moments in the film that will make you laugh, smile, cheer, and (yes) even tear up. It doesn't matter if you're young or "old;" whether you grew up with the films or are new to them; Toy Story 3 is a winner across the board.
Pixar has certainly done it again, against all odds. If the past decade has been any indication, they'll only continue to captivate us with their cinematic magic. To infinity and beyond! Related Recommendations: Toy Story 1&2, Where the Wild Things Are, Monsters Inc., UP, Wall-E
The Descent: Part 2 (2009)
The Descent Part 2: A descent into disaster.
Goodness. What a horrible, horrible follow-up to one of the best horror experiences of the past decade.
Where the first film was suspenseful and claustrophobic, this film displays constantly open cave dwellings and is repetitious to the point were no suspense can be truly built. I swear this takes place in an entirely different cave system, despite the film claiming it's supposedly the same exact one. Not even the revisited stomping grounds look the same.
The original film also used light sparingly in an attempt to actually make the audience feel as if they were trapped in a cave with the cast of the film. This sequel constantly shows bright surroundings, with light coming from unseen sources--particularly overhead, making it feel as if these characters aren't inside a cave system in the first place. Apparently the cave dwellers like to place small lava lamps and glow sticks around their territory because they... rave? I'm not sure where all this light was coming from! Strangely our characters can't seem to see what's going on even with all of this illumination and they keep bumping into each other in the "dark." Maybe there were budget problems but that doesn't excuse the lousy script and characters. Shauna Macdonald tries her hardest to keep the film afloat (she's pretty solid with what she has been given to work with), but I imagine this would be like what Sigourney Weaver would be doing had she been trapped in an AVP film. She seems like the only honest character in the film, suffering from the events of the prior nightmare, but the supporting casts around her are nothing more than bumbling idiots.
You don't feel anything for any other member of the cast. Despite David Julyan's score swelling in some of the fateful scenes, I felt almost no emotion behind any of the events this time. None of the deaths or tragedies make an impact like the deaths of those in the original movie. In fact, one scene at the end tries to tie up a major story thread from the previous movie, but it simply comes off as tacky and against the grain of the characters we have come to know.
The final nail in the tragically shoddy coffin is the ending, which is also funny whether intentional or not.
Related Recommendations: The Descent, The Thing, Eden Log, Pandorum, REC, Cube, Pitch Black
The Crazies (2010)
The Crazies neither drives audiences ballistic nor restores their sanity
Even outside the fact that The Crazies is actually a remake of a 1973 George A. Romero film, I have a feeling most audiences still have the "infection" flicks of the past decade still fresh on their minds. Over the past ten years, we've endured quite a few and several have even packed quite a bit of wallop (28 Days Later, Planet Terror, etc.). While I feel Breck Eisner's 2010 redux of The Crazies isn't anything new in this regard, I still found myself entertained over the course of the 100 minute runtime.
This may have something to do with the fact that I grew up in a small town in southern America not too unlike the isolated Iowa setting of the film and I can recognize the small town obsession and paranoia of larger political/governmental interests heaving themselves on the livelihood of small town folk and invading their way of living. That idea has been exaggerated in a worst-possible-scenario with The Crazies. The remoteness of the society works to the advantage of the film quite well. Perhaps even too well as some audience members may wonder where the rest of the world is when all of this is happening. The American media of all shapes and forms would have had a field day reporting over anything vaguely resembling this mess.
The direction is impressive with much attention to detail taken from behind the camera. It's especially comforting that the director didn't depend solely on violence. Eisner even cuts away from some of the more graphic "impact" moments, coincidentally making more of a psychological impact on the audience.
The film moves with brisk pace as our heroes struggle to survive the unthinkable. Eisner, like Romero, is astute at making Hazmat suits and the traditional gas mask into terrifying images. The very presence of such an image confronting you effectively sends a feeling of utter helplessness into the audience—as if you are caught in the middle of something far beyond your control. Our central characters seem vulnerable and "exposed" at every turn as a result while scary military men in full bio-garb follow close at their heels.
There are some issues that prevented me from loving the film, though. The script could have used a little work as plot holes were easily noticeable and characters were either very thinly developed or, at times, made ridiculous decisions. Like another recent "zombie" film, Zombieland, occasional over-the-top actions of some of the characters seemed out of place. There is very little, to no, character development in the film and most of the roles are simply caricatures we've seen in countless other movies. Thankfully Timothy Olyphant (whom has been on my radar since Deadwood), Radha Mitchell (who's becoming somewhat of a scream queen, isn't she?), and a surprising performance from Joe Anderson add credibility to such events.
Many twists and turns the film takes aren't very surprising, but The Crazies manages to keeps atmosphere flowing throughout most of the films scenes. While protagonists investigating barns and being captured by increasingly menacing foes becomes rather monotonous towards the films conclusion, the film just manages to get away while not overstaying it's welcome.
Eisner is apparently in the mood for more of this horror remake mayhem since he's already in discussions to potentially direct remakes of The Brood and Creature from the Black Lagoon. As for The Crazies, this venture does its original quite a bit more justice than many of the others we've received as of late. For a visually pleasing and entertaining horror movie, The Crazies neither drives audiences ballistic nor restores their sanity.
Related Recommendations: 28 Days/Weeks Later, Children of the Corn, rec, Quarantine, Planet Terror, Dawn of the Dead, Carriers, The Stand, The Crazies (1973)
Shutter Island (2010)
All it Takes is One Line of Dialogue to Make an Impact...
There is one line of dialogue, right at the end of Shutter Island before the credits roll, that elevates the emotion of the film and makes it much more powerful. For those of you, like me, who read and enjoyed the novel before seeing the film and felt that the trailers and advertisements for this film were leading you to believe there wouldn't be any narrative surprises in store, think again! Scorsese's film features that one brief piece of dialogue at the films conclusion that results in an entirely different perception of the final act. The rest of the film, however, is very faithful to Dennis Lehane's already great story.
Shutter Island represents exactly what one should hope for when seeing a novel being interpreted to film. While it certainly does the source material justice, it also adds small changes that make for a distinctive experience. Even if you've read the novel multiple times, you'll feel like you're reading the book for the first time again while watching. Scorsese perfectly recreates the menacing atmosphere of the island on film. Every location is foreboding and drenched with hints of unseen danger in dark corners. The lighthouse, the caves, the civil war fort housing "the most dangerous patients," and the island itself--every locale seems large yet claustrophobic and isolated at the same time.
I often experience claustrophobia myself and there are certain films that really capitalize on that personal fear and make it more relevant and eerie to me. Neil Marshall's The Descent was one such picture, and this is another. An confined island is a terrific horror location and it comes with its own type of fear. The utter desperation to escape from a persistent and confined nightmare is something Teddy (Dicaprio) is receiving in high doses, and so does the audience.
As with Scorsese and DiCaprio's previous collaborations, this is a movie that must be seen. Here they explore the horror/thriller genre with gravitas, with no small part played by Laeta Kalogridis in supplying the screenplay. While most modern pictures of its kind lack character or any real sense of suspense, Shutter Island doesn't go for cheap gags. I concur with Ebert when he says one of the key elements to this film is that it releases its tension through suspense instead of mindless action sequences. That's not to knock a well-deserved frenetic scene of violence every once in awhile--it works to the advantage of some films like Evil Dead II and Planet Terror--but had Teddy and Chuck gone running and gunning through the facility's faculty, the mood this movie keeps in check so well would have been lost.
However, that mood isn't sacrificed and "spooky" is punched up to full force. A considerable amount of that spooky is generated by a "best of" collection of actors that have mastered the art of creepy: Ben Kingsley, Jackie Earle Haley, Ted Levine, and Max Von Sydow just to name a few. Had Tom Noonan been thrown in the cast as well, my "Top Five People I Would Not Want to Be Left in the Dark with, Especially in a Room with No Doors or Windows" list would have been completely exhausted. On that note, is it just me or has Sydow mysteriously not aged since The Exorcist? Was there a secret pact made between Lucifer and Father Merrin? Whether he sold his soul or not, he's quite ominous in every single scene he is present in. All of this great talent in front of the camera doesn't mean anything though if you don't have a faithful orchestrator behind it. Luckily you have Scorsese leading the lens and he points the movie in the right direction, even if this isn't among his very best works. His style works amazingly with suspense laden projects and at times he even seems to channel Hitchcock and Kubrick, though there's always something distinctively Scorsese about the presentation. I found the editing in the opening scene, with Chuck and Teddy approaching Shutter Island, to be very odd and frantic, though I think the audience will know why Scorsese displayed the scene the way he did after completing the film.
With a body of work so impressive, Shutter Island is among captivating company. The good news is that Shutter Island carves out a place of its own in his resume. While no Goodfellas or Raging Bull or Taxi Driver, I have no problem placing Shutter side by side The Last Temptation of Christ and Bringing Out the Dead. The cinematography is bright and gorgeous. Scorsese doesn't rely on the over-grainy, ugly presentation that most modern horror or suspense-riddled thrillers rely on. He uses lush, bright color during daytime and dream sequences to flush out a distinct feeling of terror.
Shutter Island isn't just a pretty face, its also got a great story to boot and this is why I've been anticipating the film for so long. As mentioned earlier, I've been exposed and digested the source material myself before seeing the movie. I was worried the trailers for the film were giving away too much through their spots on television and on the silver screen, but Scorsese has added enough to the film for the story to feel fresh even for those "in the know." You are transferred in the films paranoia and phobia once the camera pans through the mental facilities open doors. Lehane is one of the luckiest authors on the planet to have his work adapted to the big screen by talents such as Eastwood and Scorsese, but his work is brilliant and deserving of such treatment.
At the risk of spoiling plot points for potential viewers who have not read the book, I'll leave a Related Recommendations section concealed in "Spoiler" tags. Discussing this story at any length can be quite revealing.
"That last breath of humanity will vanish as soon as the blood does."
Daybreakers is a superbly fresh and entertaining vampire experience. The film takes place in a dystopian future only a decade from now in which an outbreak in vampirism has turned the known world on its head. Contrary to the typical vampire film setup, vampires make up the majority of the world's population here and humans, who are either being framed for blood or are in hiding, make up only around 5%. In a way, the setup somewhat reminds me of the film Equilibrium, with vampires added into the mix.
The film finely balances sci-fi, horror, and action and I also really appreciated the utter desperation present in the film. So many action movies go so over-the-top in their action heroes that you never feel like their in any danger of being defeated, but here all odds are against our protagonists and, as events unfold, their situation grows gloomier and gloomier.
The entire cast--which includes Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill, William Dafoe, and Claudia Karvan—is on top of their game here and play the material straight, which is very refreshing. Especially Sam Neill, whom I've always been a fan of since I saw Jurassic Park as a kid, is great here and he really manages to steal the show in his scenes.
Also refreshing is the amount of bloodletting and thematic material present here. Make no mistake, Daybreakers is a "hard 'R'" and full of violence and grotesque sites like starving vampires turning into monstrosities that are hard to look at. The film also had ideas and much to say about a struggling society in the face of low supply to meet high demand.
I wasn't a huge fan of Undead, but the Spierig Brothers have truly crafted something special here. I do wish the film was a bit longer as I wanted to know more about the society the story took place in, but that's a testament to the film itself. If you're seeking a more adult vampire film with enough substance to excuse its style, I recommend Daybreakers.
Related Recommendations: Equilibrium, Gattaca, They Live, Aeon Flux , Blade, Blade II, The Matrix
Pandorum: A terrifying and atmospheric, if flawed, sci-fi odyssey.
Anybody wanting an intelligent, insightful, or mesmerizing motion picture should readjust they're expectations before walking into Pandorum. There are a few themes here that are interesting and the characters aren't dumb (some are engineers and scientists, after all), but chances are you've already seen these archetypes in countless movies already. As for whom to recommend this film to, if you enjoyed Event Horizon and/or Alien³, there's no reason why you wouldn't find anything to like in this film. However, contrary to what many people have said, Pandorum seems to resemble another film, Eden Log (a French sci-fi/horror picture), much more than either of the previously mentioned. As in Eden Log, our central characters wake up with no memory of how they came to be in their isolated environments. Likewise, they also have to explore an isolated world around them were horrible things have occurred and monsters seem to be looming. Even more interesting is that both films feature protagonists caught up in the mix of highly mysterious projects entitled "Eden." Our two main characters are Corporal Bower and Lt. Payton, played by Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid respectively. The two wake up disoriented and contained (i.e. trapped) in a small hypersleep chamber designated for the Elysium (the name of the large vessel of characters are aboard) crew of Flight Team 5. Unaware of what has happened to the other crew members the two begin to analyze their situation and Bower, being a technical/mechanical engineer, notices electrical surges throughout the ship signal that the nuclear reactor core in the Elysium is about to overload and shutdown. The two begin a makeshift mission to try to save the ship, with Bower climbing through ducts and exploring the wasteland left of the craft and Payton guiding him over a comlink and a crank-generator powered computer terminal. If you've seen any of the Alien films or played the videogames Doom or Dead Space, this should sound quite familiar.
Oh, yeah, and there's monsters aboard, though I won't reveal what these "monsters" are for potential viewers that don't know yet.
To Pandorum's credit, however, there are a few unforeseen plot twists before the credits roll. Some audience members may roll they're eyes at the ending, but I find it's a rather nice addition to the experience. Instead of a big, epic final battle with an Alien Queen, you get a heavy plot-reveal in the finale that causes some reflection upon the film. While it may be no masterpiece, Pandorum is not a bad film. 2009 has been a surprisingly good year for sci-fi thus far (Star Trek, Moon, District 9) and this certainly doesn't detract from that. In terms of horror, Pandorum should be a breath or fresh air for those who've endured films like Halloween II and The Final Destination for the past few weeks. In fact, I'd say Pandorum is the second best horror film of the year thus far, not quite matching the entertainment value or overall quality of Raimi's epic return to the genre (Drag Me To Hell).
In terms of film-making, this is a rather well put together film. The cinematography looks great with the exception of a few action sequences that go overboard with the "quick-cutting," but over-all audiences won't have to worry aboard an abundance of shaky-cam or other cons. Also, everything here is properly lit. Those who had trouble with their eyes focusing on images during Eden Log won't have that issue here. This film also doesn't meander around in complete darkness for as long.
Director Christian Alvart obviously has a lot of talent and I'm glad he directed this film as opposed to someone like, say, producer Paul W.S. Anderson. He really knows how to handle suspense and build up intense scenes. Like Neil Marshall, he can place his actors in tight, unattractive situations with monsters crawling right beside them (or vice versa) and have the audience holding their breath. Hopefully he'll garner more work in the future.
As we now know, Pandorum has tanked at the Box Office. While on one hand that's disappointing, it's not all together terrible news as the film might garner some sort of cult status in the future. In interviews only a week ago, Quaid discussed the possibilities of not only a sequel, but a trilogy following Pandorum. Not only is that seemingly impossible now, given the films performance, it additionally doesn't seem necessary. The film ends with a complete sense of closure. There's no need to see what happens after we leave this world, and such a story wouldn't resemble the experience in Pandorum in the slightest anyway.
All-in-all, the latest spacey sci-fi/horror epic has everything you could want in a "genre" picture. It's not original (admittedly, this is simply a collage of other, better films), but so little is in the 21st century. The film does feature a solid cast that deliver solid performances, thick atmosphere, several scares, a few unexpected twists, astonishing special effects and set pieces, and quite a bit of gore. If you are a fan of the sub-genre and these type of movies, you'll definitely want to check it out.
Runtime: 106 minutes (1 hr. 46 min.) Related Recommendations: It! The Terror from Beyond Space, Eden Log, Ghosts of Mars, The Descent, Event Horizon, Alien, Dante 01, Solaris, Solyaris, Aliens, Alien³, 28 Days Later
Babylon A.D. (2008)
Another Film Slashed and Ruined by FOX?
I have a feeling that the messy execution of "Babylon A.D." was the fault of the studio (FOX has been doing this kind of thing a lot recently) and not the director. The fact that Kassovitz has turned his back on FOX and claims this cut of the film isn't his says a lot about the production of the film (Kassovitz' intended version of the film was 15 minutes longer). I'm interested to see his director's cut because, despite it's many flaws and storyline that runs rampant and direction-less, "Babylon A.D." had its moments. I would recommend all parties that are interested to skip out on this one and wait for a Director's Cut when it hits DVD. While the action is here, we've already seen plenty of movies this past summer that executed special effects ad action a much smarter fashion ("Iron Man", "The Incredible Hulk", "The Dark Knight", "Hellboy II: The Golden Army"...). This is by far one of the most disappointing movie experiences of the year for me, thus far. The only thing this film managed to instill in me is a longing for another Riddick film from Vin Diesel. All-in-all, "Babylon A.D." is very much a dumped film in a dumped week at the ass end of summer.
A Disappointing Third Horror Film from a Promising Director
"Mirrors" is the third horror feature directed by young and aspiring horror maestro Alexandre Aja. Now, as a fan of the horror genre I enjoyed both of Aja's previous films quite immensely, despite their flaws, and was greatly anticipating Aja's take on the supernatural side of the horror realm. Asian horror films are a major target of movie studios nowadays and their remakes flood the market with mostly poor results. "Mirrors" itself is a remake of the Korean horror film "Into the Mirror". While Aja's remake is more interesting than quite a few of the more recent Asian remakes (such as "The Eye", "Shutter", and "One Missed Call"), it is still highly flawed and ultimately disappointing, especially since it's from a director I've come to admire. Let's start with the acting department.
Kiefer Sutherland carries the film by himself at times, most notably the first 30 minutes or so. Once the film continues, Kiefer's acting bounces in and out of believability. Sometimes his acting feels forced and other times his reactions are laughable. The rest of the supporting cast does virtually nothing to help Sutherland. Sutherland's wife, played by the beautiful but immensely untalented Paula Patton, is perhaps the most irritating character during the 110 minute journey. I must mention, however, Amy Smart's brief role in the film. She is easily the most intriguing character inside of Ben Carson's (Suthland's) horror story, yet she is only in the film for a brief time before she is (in rather gruesome fashion) taken out of the picture.
One of the films' most notable flaws is its a times' extremely weak executed CGI. In one scene, Sutherland is tricked by a mirror and believes he is "on fire". The resulting scene is one of the most ridiculous and laughable in the film. Several other effects scenes in the film seem rushed as well and come off as ineffective.
The story is also disappointing since many threads are left hanging and the ending, while trying to be clever, is ultimately unsatisfying. Half of the film seems to be in a mental hiccup and much of the movie's runtime could have been cut down in order to better service the story and attention of the audience.
Despite my major disappointment, I must say Aja's directing and style wasn't a problem. Every scene shot within the confines of the "Mayflower" has haunting and creepy. Aja states his biggest inspiration while working on "Mirrors" was Kubrick's "The Shining" and it becomes evident with how he manages the atmosphere within the burned building. Aja also gives us a few scenes of great gore, but this is easily the most tame of his works yet. Thus, another disappointment since many horror fans will be expecting much more bloodshed.
The films' score was one of the biggest surprises for me and will probably be missed by many viewers. I found myself listening to Javier Navarrete's score during many of the more uninteresting scenes.
All-in-all, "Mirrors" is a heavily flawed film that held much promise. In the end, Aja relies to much on cheap gimmicks for scares and doesn't spend enough time on other important elements of the film. Although I'm undoubtedly frustrated in his latest effort in the horror genre, I will still line up for whatever Aja makes next since I believe this could have been a thorough learning experience for the still young director.
Related Recommendations: 1408, Stir of Echoes, A Tale of Two Sisters, The Ring, Ringu, Dead Silence , The Haunting, The Shining
"One of the Best Sequels Ever Made"...
... and there's a reason the summary headline is in quotations-- it gets thrown around a lot when referring to this film. Rightfully so.
Perhaps what separates 'Aliens' from all of the other sequels that followed 1979s 'Alien' is that it has heart. Not only are we entrenched in the stark, gritty and imaginative future that Cameron has built for us- we are emotionally connected to it. And how's that so? Well, it is the product of much hard work and imagination. Whether you appreciate the sequel as much as the original or not, 'Alien' never attempts to copy or even "outdo" its predecessor. Instead, director James Cameron respects what Ridley Scott accomplished in the first film and takes it in a completely new direction while maintaining the dynamic presence of Weaver's Ripley as a key means of continuity.
The characters are the heart of the film and the unfamiliar world in 'Aliens'. We even become attached to a android (who would have suspected that, especially after 'Alien'?). In just a few scenes, there is more humanity established in Michael Biehn's Cpl. Dwayne Hicks than in any other buff and brawn character in the future sequels.
Another key factor to the films' greatness is its special effects, crafted by the (late, sadly) Stan Winston. I have a feeling that even years from now, moviegoers will still look back on this film as one of the greatest technical accomplishments in cinema's special effects history.
As a adolescent boy, 'Aliens' was my favorite entry into the series. It was full of testosterone, centered in atmosphere, and riddled with some of the most imaginative and coolest characters and creatures ever placed on film. It still remains a favorite to this day.
Not Exactly a Genre Film...
It seems that 'Alien', or the entire mythos that this film started, has a bad rep nowadays. Many people forget, with the recent 'AvP' films and whatnot, that the original 'Alien' film was a glorious piece of cinema.
I've heard 'Alien' referred to as a horror film, as well as a sci-fi film. Well, I guess in its simplest form one could refer to it as a genre film. However, 'Alien' deserves much, much more than that. It's a masterpiece of suspense. A Space Opera. A terrifying force and the source of countless inspiration for films to this day.
Like many "Generation Y" fans, I grew up on 'Alien'. I think the first time I watched it I was either 6 or 7. Although I can't pin-point the age I was, the mark it left on me was unforgettable. For better or worse, no other film would manage to rock my imagination and shock my nerves so much afterward. The direction from Scott is masterful, as well as the performances of the entire cast.
What's interesting is that even though Sigourney's Ellen Ripley would become the main protagonist for the films following, this film shows no sign or bias to her character. Each actor has a chance to flourish in this film, including a curious cat named Jones and the ship itself- The Nostromo.
As long as there are aspiring filmmakers intent on making thrilling and suspenseful movies, 'Alien' will always be a standard to look up at and live up to. This film is a titan, a teacher, and a masterpiece that defies all genre.