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The Wrestler (2008)
I don't really think this is a spoiler, but you decide
I saw "The Wrestler", last night, and it was compelling. From a screenwriter's point of view, I would have to call it an 'alternative screenplay'. It does not follow the traditional formula for a story arc. Many of the scenes do not build up to any tension; yet they are filled with subtext. I like the way the wrestlers are showed as buddies, before they going in the ring (note: the wrestlers shown as extras were all professional wrestlers). I think Mickey Rourke did an extraordinary performance because he was NOT playing himself, as so many people have stated that he was. He played a likable and sympathetic character, despite his faults. In reality, he is not likable, at all. That is what makes it a good acting job. The alternative part comes in when his character never goes through any change - regrets, yes, but he does not change. And, without spoiling anything, I must say I was moved to tears by the ending.
Hired Gun (2009)
I cannot agree with the first reviewer of "Hired Gun". In an time when most films we see are either vampire films or teen slasher films, it is refreshing to see a good action film. Shane Wood is in good form as the titular gunman, despite an injured ankle. Why do I think this film is excellent? It is a welcome change from the run of the mill zombie film. It has a purpose, a story arc, and it has heart. It also has Shane Wood and Michael Madsen, a madman to be sure, without whom the film would not have been possible. Thumbs up to Shane Wood, and I hope he continues with a successful acting career. Few actors work harder at it. He is dedicated, well-prepared, and a workout fanatic. He cares about his work and his family, as well. All though he has been working in film for a while, as stunt man and a special effects man, this acting gig should be a new beginning for Shane; one that I hope will be a fruitful one.
The Strangers (2008)
No Spoiler for "The Strangers"
I am not going to write a spoiler for "The Strangers", because so many people have already told you the entire story that it would be pointless. However, I do have a point to make. The idea that this movie was inspired by real events is really a meaningless proposition, because all kinds of gruesome events happen, every day. My point is that, if you want to see a good film in this genre, you should see the American remake of "Funny Games". It is intellectual and witty and far more frightening. I don't even think that "Vacancy" measures up, although many have mentioned that film in this forum. Without writing a spoiler, I will say that the only reason I give it a 2, is the scene when Scott Speedman shoots someone. That was an authentically surprising moment; probably the only moment in the film that really works. Otherwise, I recommend that you watch "Funny Games", and see what happens when a good director, writer, actors, story, cinematography, and editing come together to make a great film.
Funny Games (2007)
Funny Games 2008
SPOILER ALERT! So, you think it is pointless that writer/director Michael Haneke remade his 1997 German film "Funny Games" into the 2008 American release? Did you ever consider that there are people out there who did not see the 1997 version? Well, guess what? I never saw it, and I am an avid film aficionado. Seeing the description of the film, I might not have watched it. When I saw the cast, specifically Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, and Michael Pitt, I knew I had to watch it. These are actors who are imminently watchable, and it is not the first venture into the horror genre for any of them. However, "Funny Games" is unlike any other horror film I have ever seen. It is a scathing indictment of how Americans have become nonchalant voyeurs of violence. The direction may be shot for shot like the original, but conceptually it is unique and scary. My heart was beating fast with fear, in many places, as I wondered what was going to happen next. The violence is almost never shown on film. It is almost always shown off screen or in the aftermath. So, we are not voyeurs to the violence in this movie. This only serves to heighten our fear. The acting was as brilliant as I expected it be from this superior cast. Not having seen the original, I found Michael Pitt talking into the camera to be quite amusing; not that it has never been done before, but it was done with alacrity. I thought the use of the remote control to rewind a crucial scene and change the ending of the scene to be an amazing twist; again, not having seen the original. The end of the movie, which I will not reveal, chilled me to the bone. There have been other remakes. Gus Van Sant's brightly colored, shot for shot remake of "Psycho" was unnecessary and boring. It added nothing to the movie. The remake of the French/Dutch film "The Vanishing", which was not shot for shot, was made by the original director with the same aim to bring it to an American audience. However, it was a poor imitation of the original, and was given a sappy "Hollywood Happy Ending". I am glad that Michael Haneke was allowed to make an American remake of "Funny Games" that is true to the original, for those of us who did not see the original. I, for one, will watch it again.
"Dispara!": In Spanish, it means "Shoot!"
This DVD, called "Outrage!", is the Spanish film "Dispara!", which means "Shoot!". I have the original Spanish language VHS, and no English language dubbing can do justice to the original Spanish version. Why even change the name? "Shoot!" has so much subtext. She's a sharpshooter to begin with. She goes after the men who raped her with her rifle... It makes sense to call it "Shoot!". Antonio Banderas - pre-movie star - is so good, here, as an earnest reporter. He is stuck in the predicament of falling in love with a circus performer who will move on. The real star is Francesca Neri, the Italian actress who seems to do her own riding and shooting. Everything about this movie looks authentic, including the brutal rape and murder scenes. If you are looking for a happy Hollywood ending, go elsewhere. These characters are doomed from the first "shot". -Sheshetta
Forget "The Matrix", this is "eXistenZ"
Forget "The Matrix". Now, really forget it. It's a different movie. "eXistenZ" lives in a world, or really nested realities, all its own. Cronenberg is a master of mixing up reality with non-reality and physical with non-physical. I think one of the beauties of "eXistenZ" is the ugliness of the Virtual Reality world created by Geller's (Jennifer Jason-Leigh) half-mutant amphibian/half plastic game pod. The icky porting into it with an umbilical cord into the spinal column is so Cronenberg. I liked the way he had the characters (and us) believing they were out of the game when they were still in it... those pesky nested realities. It hearkens back to some of Philip K. Dick's visionary short stories, as well as Cronenberg's own "Videodrome" (especially with the "Death to..." sequence). I also liked the use of some of Canada's best actors who have since become more well known, such as Don McKellar, Callum Keith Rennie (by way of Sutherland, England), and Sarah Polley. In fact, Cronenberg played a character in Don McKellar's 1998 film, "Last Night", which also starred McKellar, Rennie, and Polley, not to mention Sandra Oh. I liked the way some of the characters in the Virtual Reality did not respond unless they were fed the correct line. That was brilliant, and I have not seen that done anywhere before or since. I also liked the gun made out of a jawbone that fired teeth for bullets. Cronenberg is brilliant. Take a pop over the Amazon's sister site, IMDb.com, and look at Cronenberg's filmography. There isn't a bad apple in the bunch, and you would do well to watch them all. "Naked Lunch" and "Dead Ringers" are just two out of many that would stand out if you liked "eXistenZ".
The Happening (2008)
It's Blowing in the Wind
I think this is M. Night Shyamalan's best movie since "Signs". Frankly, I don't understand all the controversy about "what the problem is". It is the planet, using the wind to manipulate the plants which are spreading toxins they have made to eradicate their worst enemy - humans. Humans have been systematically destroying the planet and the planet is fighting back. Why should the characters know all the answers? We expect our protagonists to be smooth and know everything and to save the day. Why do we not accept that the characters are flawed and human and do not know all the answers? The cinematography, the soundtrack, and the editing all help to escalate the sense of panic in the story, which is what makes a good story. Learn a little about screen writing before you criticize one of the best screenwriters of our time.
Don't Be Such a Sissy!
People said the same thing about "The Blair Witch Project"; that is, the hand held camera made them nauseated. Get over yourself. It is an effective film technique that is used to heighten the feeling of panic and escalate the manifestation of fear in the film. I liked "Cloverfield". I thought it was great fun. I thought the hand held camera was used to good advantage to help build the emotion and move the story along. It is appropriate to the characters running in the streets from a gigantic monster. It helps heighten our own fear and is appropriate to the situation. It certainly would not have been the same movie without it.
Jacob's Ladder (1990)
I don't want to rehash "Jacob's Ladder"
Oddly enough, what I want to say is that "Jacob's Ladder" is one of the only movies about Viet Nam that I can watch. I was in high school during the Viet Nam war, and had my share of friends and friends' parents go there and die, or come back changed. However, there is so much more to "Jacob's Ladder" than Viet Nam. It is an intense psychological drama, a descent into madness, a realization of truth, and an ascent into clarity. I am not going to write a SPOILER - you can read dozens of reviews on this database that will spoil it for you. What I do not understand are the comments that it is confusing. I do not find it confusing in the least. The answers are all there. I first saw it in 1990, and I understood it then. I just saw it, again, in 2008, and all the answers are still there. Maybe you have to pay attention; you know, press pause when you go out to the kitchen for a tasty beverage. "Jacob's Ladder" is on my Top Ten All Time Best Films List.
Stay - No Spoiler here
Like many people who have expressed a desire to see this film more than once, I have seen "Stay" several times. It is visually stunning, with some superbly photographed sequences. I am not going to spoil anything here. I do not do that, as a rule. I agree with the other positive reviews. You have to watch the film to its completion to truly understand, or try to understand, the film and its characters, what drives them, and who is, or is not, unbalanced. The term 'stay' has different meanings for the three main characters, and it is worth it to figure that out. It is sensitive and sad, complex and sensual, and the sense of time is a bit twisted. Ryan Gosling is especially haunting as the mental patient, but all three characters are fragile and vulnerable. I would recommend it to film goers who like to think.
The New World (2005)
Get Lost There
I love this dreamy, romanticized story of John Smith (Colin Farrell) and Pocahontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher). It is amazing how they built the fort and Indian village by hand, in the manner in which they were originally built, just 10 miles away from the original location of Jamestown, in Virginia. If you like history and romance, you will probably dig it. If you fell asleep in school, you may find it boring. If you are interested in America's original inhabitants, you may find it intellectually stimulating. If you think Colin Farrell looks absolutely cool when he smiles shyly, instead of being the tough guy all of the time, you will enjoy watching him. If you enjoy the lyrical cinematography of Terrence Mallick, you will be all over it. That is what I think.