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Captivity (2007)
7/10
Lower your expectations and have a good time.
13 July 2007
I had pretty low expectations for this, so when it turned out to be not that bad (almost, dare i say, pretty... good?) I left the theater extremely enthusiastic. It delivers, believe it or not, a complete, if not well-rounded story. Here it is, in a sentence: Jennifer Tree is a beautiful young fashion model getting things she doesn't deserve and deciding she needs to get the hell out. Elisha Cuthbert plays the lead, and she looks phenomenal. Even while she is being held captive, her "damsel in distress" act makes great cinema. Always nice to see a girl that's been passed off as a dumb blond get up and kick some ass. I know there are people that feel otherwise about this movie but hey- I liked it! So there!
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8/10
subtle, sublime
27 April 2007
I finally saw this after many people had built it up for me, and I'm happy to report that it was all I ever hoped it could be. Shaun of the Dead is a truly original style of film. It is not a parody, though it is funny and does play with references to some well-known horror films. It is a fresh, creative, zombie story in its own right, and simultaneously a comedy. The nods to previous zombie movies are clever and come naturally, unlike how excruciatingly forced they are in lesser films like the "Scary Movie" franchise. The characters are all very honest, real, and have distinct personalities. Most of the film takes place in the day time, with the main characters handling the situation quite rationally. It is a fantastically successful new spin on things, and highly recommended.
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Poltergeist (1982)
6/10
Better back then
25 April 2007
I decided to rent this because I knew of its reputation as one of the best scary movies of all time. The famous image of a little girl mesmerized by a TV screen showing only static, is intriguing and suggestive of all kinds of supernatural fun. I suppose I should have known that this type of film rarely withstands the test of time, with key aspects like special effects and soundtrack becoming outdated as fast as they are created. But I thought, hey, it's a classic, it's probably still pretty good. Instead, I was extremely disappointed with it's inability to even offer a slight thrill, and it's very simple storyline. I can tell that it was a great achievement for it's time, even nominated for three Academy Awards, but unfortunately it does not carry over into the current generation.
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Vacancy (2007)
7/10
better than staying home
24 April 2007
I saw Vacancy last night on a whim, which was the perfect way to maximize enjoyment of this a kinda-clichéd, scary-ish, predictable but still fun movie. If I had gotten worked up over it, expecting a big, fresh, psychological thriller, I think I would have had other things to say about it, but for me, it was just what the doctor ordered for an otherwise lame Monday night. The couple that gets chased around the motel from hell is likable enough that you actually want to see them survive, unlike a lot of horror movies where the main characters are so dense and annoying that you wonder why they're lasting so long. There isn't too much annoying back story, or long sentimental ending (although it's not entirely absent, either). I'd recommend seeing this if you're already at the movie theater and need to kill a few hours, or as a good pick if you just want to see something and don't care too much about what it is. Which is still better than most of the stuff out there.
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The Queen (2006)
7/10
pretty good. kind of silly.
24 April 2007
The Queen is an interesting sort of film. It is basically a documentary told mostly in re-enactments, but brought to the next level by fantastic performances and high production value. There is no disputing Helen Mirren's total embodiment of the title role. She is captivating to watch. The narrative style, focusing on the Queen's perspective and highlighting her vulnerability, is also quite good. The problem I had with the film, which I'm sure was an unavoidable challenge in making it, was with the supporting characters, who oftentimes looked to me like celebrity impersonators. This is not a criticism of their acting abilities, just a belief that it was a no-win situation in the making of the movie. In a time when we are used to seeing actors portray celebrities and political figures in comedy like Saturday Night Live, it is a natural response to laugh at fake Tony Blair, fake Prince Charles, etc. Or at least be a bit distracted by it.
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8/10
beautiful
23 April 2007
This is a truly Spanish film, rich with drama, vibrant colors, and people with an incredible thirst for living life to its fullest, no matter what complications the world might throw at them. The story touches the far reaches of pure joy and contentment as well as tragedy, profound loss, and deep suffering. Paz Vega is bold yet vulnerable, and shows an amazing range as a very spontaneous woman who has an intense relationship with a man that suddenly disappears, leading her to escape to an island and search her memory and her surroundings for clues to her lover's past. The music and photography both leave huge impressions, notably the underwater shots that depict sex, conception, birth, and life. The washed out, overexposed images of the island also subtly provide a sense of life and death, and the sense of existing somewhere in between.
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9/10
beautiful french new wave dream
19 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I own this DVD and have seen it many times. Fitting for its genre, it is intense, dark, sensual, and poetic. It's like riding in a car that you know is going dangerously fast but you're enjoying it too much to ask the driver to slow down. Although the storyline is quite simple, indeed not much happens to the girls before the ending climax, their fervor and hunger for life is palpable. It is the mood more than the events in the film that make its strong impact. Jane is mesmerizing, charming and complex, at different times a little girl, a rebellious teenager, or a flirtatious temptress. On the opposite side, Jaqueline is an utter mystery, implying a nature both extremely intelligent and extremely troubled. The men in the film are basically facades, people there to react to the girls, or to lead them into situations where they must react, or ***spoiler coming*** claim them as their victim. But even in the case of the murder, it is less about the killer and more about Jaqueline allowing herself to be taken by him emotionally, and what came to her as a result. Les Bonnes Femmes is a story open to much interpretation, rich with clues and artistic integrity.
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9/10
A truly terrifying look at Hollywood
19 April 2007
The Day of the Locust takes place in one of the most bizarre settings to have ever existed in the real world. Hollywood in the 1930s was a place of grand illusions, with an incredible power to change people's lives for the better, or for the worse. The relics of that time are, for the most part, the films that were churned out on sound stages, generally very wholesome and carefree. The reality of what went on offstage is largely a mystery, although it is safe to assume it wasn't all glamor and good times. The Day of the Locust is dark historical fiction, and is utterly fascinating. It is a journey through Hollywood's golden age, guided by someone who comes to Hollywood a typical dream seeker, who finds himself helpless under the pressure of the industry and the misleading tactics of those who rule the screen. The characters that come in and out of his life are caricatures of the aspiring actresses, child stars, and crew members that help make Hollywood truly troubled and deeply strange.
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Lilya 4-Ever (2002)
10/10
A real problem
18 April 2007
After seeing this film, I could not believe that there was a real demand for young girls, transported from poor countries with the promise of education or a good job, and instead held captive and forced into prostitution. It sounded like a business too twisted to exist in our world. And it is hard to imagine that there are men who will violate a child, and pay her captor for the privilege. I had to do some research afterward, to see if it was true, and I am still deeply troubled by what I learned, that there is in fact a huge market for young girls as sex slaves, and that human trafficking is one of the top international crimes in the world. This film, as painful as it is to watch, is very well done, and it is an important to be aware of the thousands of girls like Lilja that have had their childhood cut short, their trust betrayed, and their lives turned into nightmares.
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6/10
so-so
18 April 2007
I got to see this on the plane for free, and it was a fine alternative to sudoku for a couple hours. The plot is entirely predictable, which I think is forgivable in a triumph of will story, but all the little steps along the way were also quite cliché, which did seem a bit lazy on the part of the screenwriters. I know that this was based on a true story, and it is always interesting to see how much creative license is taken. I actually think that the movie made Chris Gardner's journey look much easier than it probably was. For example, IMDb says that his son was actually only 18 months old, which adds diapers to the situation. And with the exception of the scene where they spend the night locked in a subway bathroom, Will Smith keeps himself a bit more cool and collected than you'd expect from even an extraordinary character like Gardner. Overall, an OK movie, but not as astounding as you'd hope for such an interesting true-life story.
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Show Me Love (1998)
9/10
beautiful film; horrible English title
18 April 2007
It's true that this is a great love/friendship story, but the setting is what makes it brilliant. It is about the frustration of feeling like you are stuck somewhere that you hate, which of course applies to both the isolated small town and the state of mind for someone treated like an outcast. The original Swedish title, F-ing Amal, is exactly the idea that serves as the driving force is in this picture. I understand why it was changed for the English speaking audience, but a better English title would have preserved that sentiment, something like "This awful place" or "Get me out of Amal." "Show me Love" puts too much emphasis on the lesbian aspect of the film, which to me seemed only a detail in the greater portrait of life in the middle of nowhere.
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Casino Royale (2006)
8/10
where it all began
9 April 2007
I would not classify myself as a real James Bond "fan," I have only seen a couple in the whole series, but as a generally aware adult American, I am familiar enough that I can recognize the style. So I went into the theater as the average movie-goer, no expectations, not a lot of excitement built up, but open to whatever I'm gonna get. And... it knocked my socks off. One of the opening action sequences, where Bond chases someone up a giant construction crane, was brilliantly choreographed, and set the bar high for the remaining 2+ hours. (This is a very long movie, but it deserves to be.) But what stuck with me most was the vulnerability that Daniel Craig shows in his character. I always imagine James Bond as a hardened killer spy, and a smooth talking ladies' man that can't be tamed. This film lets us in on how he became that way, and shows him as a man, not a fictional superhuman. Casino Royale is a great story on its own, but with all the added history and mystique built up around James Bond, it is all that much deeper, and that much rewarding.
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Elephant (2003)
2/10
overly exploitative and voyeuristic
9 April 2007
As someone who was in high school during the Columbine shootings, I feel a connection and sensitivity to the events, and to what it was like to be a teenager at that particular time. This was when people first took to obsessing over violence in video games, and song lyrics were being blamed for kids' bad behavior. I feel that this movie only contributes to the paranoid, "look how messed up kids are today" feeling among masses of parents and legislators, and fails to present any actual insight. It is a voyeuristic dramatization of tragic events without the complexity of building fully developed characters, offering hope in the midst of despair, or even taking a fresh look at things we have all seen before.
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10/10
not ready for TV
9 April 2007
Here is a classic "brilliant but canceled" episodic network experiment. The only consolation is that we don't have to see the show slowly loose steam and fade away, the characters begin to get irritating and unoriginal... Instead we get three very solid seasons, and enough quotable material to last us a good long while. Anyone who has never seen the show should rent the pilot and give it a spin- it's a very unique brand of humor and storytelling style, and either you get it or you don't. Anyone who is already sold on the show should also check out David Cross's stand up and comedy albums. Also, Will Arnet, "Gob" is in Blades of Glory, and a movie with Tom Waits called Wristcutters that came out a while ago but is getting distribution this fall.
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Accepted (2006)
10/10
this movie is really good
9 April 2007
Let me clarify that. This is not a "good movie", but I am so glad it is out there, I am so glad I saw it, and for the role that it plays in my DVD collection, it is sublime. It is the ultimate PG-13 romp, it is college as we imagine it will be when we're freshmen in high school, it requires so much suspension of disbelief that it may as well be taking place on Mars. It is so wholesome that even when it tries to be dirty it wouldn't make your grandmother uncomfortable. Watching it requires so little sophistication, (in fact, thinking too hard about what's happening will get in the way of your appreciation of this work), it makes me feel like I'm 12 again. And that kind of experience is worth more than $9.99.
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The Host (2006)
7/10
great characters but not enough action
28 March 2007
Definitely a fun monster movie, but don't expect to get a good scare out of it. I expected much more action (big scary thing chasing people around, terrorizing the city) but what I got was a few nice big sequences surrounded by a lot of slow scenes and people chasing the monster rather than the other way around. I still liked it, but more for the characters and comic moments than any kind of thrill. The portrayal of Americans is pretty funny, albeit not too positive... but it's all forgivable, especially since it's inspired by an actual US Military employee ordering a bunch of chemicals dumped into the Han River. Interesting starting point for a story, and overall a very successful movie.
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