Archive for the ‘ film review ’ Category

From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)

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Interesting, emotionally complex little film with kind of a stretched plot that really ought to have focused less on the predictable “save the clubhouse”  story and more on the deep, complicated relationship between the main character and her male friend. Still, it’s a good movie, even great at times, with some rather devastating scenes that are surprisingly quite heartbreaking, especially for a kid’s film. Is this movie a kid’s film? It’s humorous and light and cartoony like a kid’s film, sure, but there’s nothing magical or eccentric or over the top about it. It’s very much grounded in reality, almost to the point where you wonder why they even bothered to make it a cartoon at all when a live action film would have worked just as well, and would have probably been cheaper. Maybe it wouldn’t have looked as nice, but there’s nothing about this film that screams “cartoon!” in the way, say, a Disney or Pixar film might, or even a typical Asian anime.

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The thing is a children’s cartoon drama, plain and simple. I didn’t know such a thing existed, or was even possible, but there you go. It’s actually more dramatic and emotional than most dramas I know of, and, for a children’s film, it sure does deal with some pretty damn complicated emotional issues, stuff I’ve rarely ever seen dealt with anywhere before, children’s film or otherwise. Is this a good thing? Well, for adults, I’d say yes, because, well, wow. The stuff that’s revealed is just so thought-provoking and heart wrenching, and yet the way it unfolds is so honest and emotional that you wonder just who in the hell this film was made for exactly. Certainly not kids, at least not most kids given the complex nature of the relationship the two leads here have. And yet, it’s a cartoon. A serious, restrained cartoon by Western standards, but a cartoon nonetheless. And everyone knows adults don’t usually watch cartoons on the big screen, so, what was the thought pattern that went into making it exactly? Very, very odd.

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Not that I’m complaining; I love experimental type stuff like this, especially when it works, and it does here very much for the most part. I particularly admired how very little BS this film has, how very little “fluff” there is and how very few “tricks” it uses to get its themes across. Nothing is over the top or unnatural, save the whole “clubhouse” subplot which takes up way too much time and has its moments but felt very typical and forced and frankly couldn’t hold a candle to the far, far more interesting main story. Still, I can forgive it. It was trying to appeal to kids, I understand, trying to have its cake and eat it too, as they say. I just wish they hadn’t let it go on and on and on the way they did. But the film has such moments of sadness, like the **SPOILERS** devastating dream sequence that was just about one of the most emotional things I’ve ever seen in a film, or when the male lead finally tells the female lead why he’d been acting so distant toward her over the last few days, and the shocked silence that follows. **END SPOILERS** Just brutal. And so much restraint on the part of the filmmakers, using so little to convey so much. It’s extremely effective.

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Overall, man, this movie, let me tell you. If you’re expecting a nice happy silly fluffy laugh a minute comedy, you’re in for quite the punch to the gut. Rich, three-dimensional characters and emotional complexity galore. The film also raises some pretty deep philosophical questions about the nature of love and relationships and family, most of which may be off-putting to some viewers, at least initially. But that’s what makes the film so effective, this question of romance and family and satisfying deep emotional needs. It’s a tricky subject. Are **SPOILERS** their feelings for one another before the big revelation at the end **END SPOILERS** immoral? I don’t know. It’s a tough question, especially when raised in this context. And that’s what makes the film as good as it is, even genius at times, stupid crappy clubhouse subplot and all. And the voice acting was decent, though Aubrey Plaza? Really? Ugh.

Anyway, worth watching, absolutely, even if it is a bit slow in parts. Not really a kid’s film though. But go see it anyway! The world needs more children’s cartoon dramas!

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

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Decent Bond with a very slow first act that seems to go on forever, but eventually takes a turn for the better once the plot sort of kicks in and the world is thrust into sudden danger yet again, I think. I don’t really remember. The plot escapes me, though I think it had something to do with nuclear weapons and a submarine, I don’t know. It wasn’t entirely preposterous, just somewhat so, which is rare for a Bond film given their tendency to have really ridiculous, over the top plots full of crazy schemes that would never in a million years happen in “real life.” The plot isn’t too zany here, though not too memorable either, I guess. Everything else is okay for the most part.

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Not much to say about this one. Other than the meandering first third, it’s typical Bond. The action set pieces are okay, though the first one with the parachute was somewhat impressive, if a bit tired. And yeah there are plenty of half-naked women all over the place, more so than in most Bond movies come to think of it. There’s even some actual brief nudity here and there, which was somewhat surprising. Bond films have always given the illusion of nudity, but to outright show it like they do here? Wow. Bold. And so much sexual innuendo. Individual moments do feel a bit recycled though, especially near the end with the **SPOILERS** villain’s indoor fortress rail system **END SPOILERS** looking suspiciously like the one Dr. No has at the end of one of the films he’s in. What happened, guys, did you run out of evil villain layer ideas? The romance was a nice touch, though, especially the predictable yet nonetheless creative “twist” in the second act where she **SPOILERS** promises to kill Bond once the mission is over. **END SPOILERS** Made for some nice moments.

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Overall, not a bad Bond. Certainly not the best, just good, barely. The plot was good but the execution is stale at times, though mostly because it feels like a rip off of what other Bond films have done in the past. And the first half hour or so is so slow, ugh. Roger Moore is good at least, though he doesn’t have as much to do despite being the main character. But the romance was interesting, and the ending battle is **SPOILERS** surprisingly quick and brutal. **END SPOILERS** No big epic battle there, strangely enough.

So, not a bad film, just nothing special. Worth watching if you’re a completist.

Evil Dead (2013)

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Stupid, gore filled film full of terrible acting/dialogue, an incomprehensible plot, very little to no true tension or scares or passion of any kind, and some of the worst “violence for violence’s sake” moments I’ve ever seen in a “horror” movie, if you can even call it that. Sure, it has all the artificial makings of a horror film: cheap scares, creepy atmosphere, demonic possession, pretty people being offed in increasingly graphic ways, etc etc, but is it a true horror film? I don’t know. Is watching people being mangled and murdered for one and a half hours in an assortment of disgusting supernatural ways horror, especially when said murder and dismemberment is done in such a soulless, uninteresting manner? I’d say no. Gore aside, I’d say this movie is about as much a horror film as Michael Bay’s Transformers is a science fiction film. All the surface elements are there, but god, my eyes, why? Just awful on almost every front.

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The film is soulless, plain and simple. There’s no tension, as I mentioned before, save a little bit at the beginning when you’re wondering when all the mayhem is going to start, but once it does it’s nothing but mediocre gore scene after mediocre gore scene. They’re not even particularly creative or scary or even remotely emotional, thanks to some terrible, clichéd dialogue and some of the most god awful acting I’ve seen in a mainstream film in ages. Do any of these people even know how to act? Isn’t Jane Levy, the sort of lead here, the main character of a television show? Did she somehow forget how to act whenever she showed up on set for this? Or are the filmmakers to blame here? Or is it a mix of both? You just don’t care about these people, because there’s nothing to care about. Main character and her brother aside, there’s almost no character development, and what little there is is stupid and boring. And did I mention it isn’t scary? And no, I don’t count the repeated urge to vomit from something disgusting happening on-screen frightening. And this film had the nerve to tout itself as the most horrifying film you’ll ever see? What!?!? Talk about false advertising.

There are a few jump scenes here and there, sure, and one moment at the end of the first act where **SPOILERS** Levy’s character tells her stupid pretty boy brother who can’t act for squat what she saw in the woods **END SPOILERS** that was somewhat chilling, and, surprisingly, not terribly acted, but everything else is more or less gore for gore’s sake. In fact, it was around the time one of the characters is **SPOILERS** getting stabbed repeatedly in the face with a syringe **END SPOILERS** that I thought to myself, why the hell am I watching this? It’s not entertaining, it’s not interesting, it’s not clever, it’s not scary, it’s not even particularly convincing. Not one of these characters is even remotely sympathetic or acts in a way I would describe as intelligent, rational, or even “not completely moronic.”

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I mean, the **SPOILERS** long-haired 70s hippy model guy obviously hired for his looks sees the warnings scrawled all over the book specifically warning him to NOT READ THE GOD DAMN PASSAGE THAT’S BEEN REPEATEDLY CROSSED OUT aloud, but what does he do, for absolutely no reason whatsoever? Goes OUT OF HIS WAY to trace the book’s forbidden passage on a piece of paper AND READS THE GOD DAMN THING ALOUD. **END SPOILERS** Alone. For no reason whatsoever. And this after **SPOILERS** finding an entire basement full of DEAD CATS HANGING FROM THE CEILING, **END SPOILERS** which by the way is never explained, as most things in this film aren’t. And he did this not as a dare or a bet, mind you, or even as an implied bit of curiosity. Nope. He just went and did it, no motivation, not even much emotion on that pretty, pretty face of his that is surely the main reason he got this role in the first place. Also, who the hell continues to stay in a cabin after finding **SPOILERS** a bunch of dead cats hanging from a ceiling in its basement **END SPOILERS** anyway? What rational person would do that, let alone a whole group? Oh, poorly written morons, right. Just lazy, lazy writing, filmmaking, everything. God. Awful.

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Overall, I didn’t much care for this film, if you hadn’t been able to tell up until this point. There’s so many problems with this thing that I could probably write another couple of pages on of it, like how the plot, despite being dumb and cliché, with a long copied and parodied premise it makes no attempt to spin into anything original at any point, is still needlessly dense and convoluted and completely incomprehensible at times. How does one make a cliché confusing, exactly? How does one make the predictable utterly incomprehensible? Who the hell knows, but this film does it, again and again, and not in a good way. And the ending, ugh. Arguably the only visually interesting scene in the film, but what the hell was going on exactly? Why, what, huh? How? And the scene before that, with the **SPOILERS** makeshift defibrillator. Really? Out of two syringes and a battery? **END SPOILERS** What is this, Macgyver? Did this film suddenly turn into a cartoon? Oh, and the style of this film, so forced and in your face. No subtlety to it whatsoever. Yes, it’s a horror film, we get it. Try putting a little more effort on the script next time, eh?

There’s no redeeming value to this film whatsoever. A few pretty visuals here and there don’t make up for the terrible acting/writing/cinematography/directing/lack of scares. This is not a horror film. It’s just gore for gore’s sake, and it’s not even particularly creative or well done gore. Gore in of itself isn’t scary. Maybe to some it is, but not to me. At least the music was good. But this is one of the worst “horror” films I’ve ever seen. Just generic and soulless and uninspired at almost every level. Avoid.

 

 

Dancer in the Dark (2000)

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A weird, depressing film that mixes genres and styles and plot developments so fast and so often that it creates an almost entirely new type of visual storytelling that I imagine had rarely ever been seen on-screen before, or since. The film is a hodgepodge of grit and poverty and misery and desperation, occasionally broken up by some really catchy and cheerful song and dance numbers. And Björk only makes matters stranger, with her weird, sort of beautiful yet sort of alien like face and that high-pitched, heavily accented voice of hers. The accent is strong even when she sings, if not more so, and it makes for quite the crazy concoction of sounds and images. Just bizarre, but in a good way, sort of.

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The story is typical Lars von Trier; the first third or so is sort of light and fairy tale like, with elements of community and friendship and general acceptance among the characters of who they are and what their place in the world is. General goodness, in other words. But then there’s a dark revelation, the ticking clock, and then the first dark turn comes, and man is it dark, wow. Some of it feels forced for sure, especially the last third given how **SPOILERS** obviously kind and sweet Björk’s character is. I mean, the death penalty, really? For a blind person who can barely even walk straight, let alone find an officer’s gun and shoot him with it? Why didn’t she speak up for herself, or defend herself at all for that matter? Why didn’t any of her friends say anything to the court about her gradual blindness, or, I don’t know, helped find a doctor to examine her eyes to prove she wasn’t pretending to be blind? And rather than taking the $2000 she needed for a good lawyer from the doctor who she paid to perform the surgery on her son, couldn’t her friends have raised that money some other way, or hired a cheaper yet still competent lawyer, or done something more useful than sit idly by looking sad? Obviously she’s not going to agree to use the money she intended to save her son with on herself. Come on. Common sense. **END SPOILERS** It just felt like the story was conspiring too much against her, to an unrealistic degree. It’s effective, don’t get me wrong, but man. Too harsh. Give the woman a break.

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And the song and dance sequences are so bizarre. Catchy and well choreographed, but everything is shot in such a simplistic handheld style that it almost feels like you’re watching someone’s home video rather than a professional musical number. I liked it, though. Never seen anything like it, at least, and it works in its own strange, cheap looking way, though I can see why some people wouldn’t much care for it. The last scene/song especially, when she’s **SPOILERS** about to hang **END SPOILERS** was great. So brilliant and sad, and the way it just ends. Great stuff. And yet the songs aren’t even all that well sung, even from Björk who has a strong voice, but sometimes sounds almost subhuman. It’s really, really odd, all of it.

Ultimately, I can’t quite wrap my head around this film. I enjoyed it, sure, and it’s certainly very effective, but portions of it felt sloppy, maybe intentionally so, who knows? The acting is pretty good from just about everyone, though Björk is better in some scenes than in others. She’s not terrible, though. In fact, if I hadn’t known she wasn’t an actor, I wouldn’t have even noticed. It’s a compliment, believe me. So yeah, pretty good, unique, depressing film that is sort of a genre unto itself. The depressing tragedy musical, or something. Very unique, at the very least. Worth watching, if it’s your kind of thing.

Spring Breakers (2012)

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Stylish, wandering film with a pretty thin, padded story that’s full of sex and drugs and half-naked girls parading around in skimpy outfits doing violent things for no particular reason. But it’s good, mainly thanks to said unique style, some pretty good performances, a string of really excellent, thought-provoking scenes, and a strong sense of order to the madness that hints of philosophical and emotional themes rarely explored in films of this nature, or films in general really. And James Franco doesn’t suck in this, surprisingly. What? Huh? No way. I know, I had the same reaction, but he’s actually not bad, not distractingly so at least. A first. You can barely even tell it’s him at times, thankfully. The man ought to “lose himself” in roles more often; maybe then he’d finally be a half decent actor.

Anyway, the story is kind of thin, as I mentioned before, at least initially. There’s nothing particularly unique or complex about it, though it becomes so as it goes on, at least on a sub-surface level. I was impressed by how utterly unconventional it is, though. Three act structure? Nah. Main character? To hell with that. And yet it works. Maybe not for everyone, but it did for me, crazy editing and repetition and weirdness and all, though some of it is a bit “much,” and the nudity/sex/general mayhem did start to become quite uncomfortable to watch after a while. I can’t remember the last time I felt so dirty watching a mainstream movie, actually. I get that it’s supposed to be intentionally off-putting, but there’s so much sex and nudity and partying and extreme close-ups of various body parts and all that, and it’s all shot in such a dark, wildly contrasting colorized manner, that it starts to wear on you after a while, regardless of how attractive some of the girls on display are. And so much alcohol, god. How are these people alive?

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To its credit, the film twists your expectations at nearly every level, starting with its basic premise. The trailers have you believe it’s about how **SPOILERS** a bunch of wild girls are sucked into a life of crime by this low-life Franco thug, when it’s really quite the opposite. I loved the scene where Franco is talking about how the girls should watch out for sharks in the water, implying to the audience that maybe he’s talking about himself, but he’s not the shark, the girls are, and he’s the one that should be cautious, not them, because they’re the ones that eventually lead to his downfall.**END SPOILERS** It’s a small, simple touch, but it’s brilliant, and the film is full of them. And the whole **SPOILERS** gun fellatio scene where Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson force the barrel of their guns down Franco’s throat was genius. Disturbing and uncomfortable, yes, but also brilliant in the way it manages to convey the relationship these girls have to violence and danger and, in turn, to Franco, who here represents a sort of funnel for them to finally be able to channel their blood lust.

I think the girls, namely, Hudgens and Benson, are supposed to be symbolic of the frustration and recklessness of youth: they are chaos personified. They want to strike out against the world, violently, just because they can, consequences be damned. While Franco is the opposite: he’s violent and dangerous, but he’s cold, rational, controlled. He has the means to inflict major damage, but he has no real reason to do so before meeting them, so he doesn’t. So when the two meet, all hell breaks loose, hence the escalating, often senseless violence in the last 30 minutes. Why did they rob all those people? It’s not like they needed the money. It’s just reckless violence, the thrill of the kill. It’s the girls using Franco to satisfy their desire for destruction, often at his expense. And yes the ending is crazy and implausible and would never happen in a million years, but it’s not supposed to be rational. It’s the girls finally satisfying their violent urges and deciding to “settle down,” hence the phone calls they each make to their families beforehand. Franco and the girls are **END SPOILERS** two halves of a very destructive whole, and it’s why the movie works as well as it does, thin plot and questionable editing and all. It’s a concept rarely explored in films, and I loved it.

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The film also has a handful of really great scenes which I won’t spoil here but I nonetheless want to talk about, damn it. Okay, fine, I’ll talk about two of my favorite: **SPOILERS** The pool three-way sex scene, arguably the only sexual scene in the film that didn’t make me feel sleazy and disgusting. It’s great, well shot, symbolic, and it’s actually quite sexy. Impossible to pull off, probably, but hot! I almost didn’t even mind that Franco was the recipient of said sex. And of course, my favorite scene, the one where an extremely drunk Rachel Korine mocks some guy who desperately wants to have sex with her, assuring him that he will never get the chance to despite her deliberate half naked state and her flirtatious teasing.  Never has the whole of male female relationships been illustrated in a more succinct and accurate matter than in that one scene. **END SPOILERS** Just brilliant.

Overall, there’s way more about this film that I’d like to talk about, but this review is long enough as it is. I enjoyed the heck out of this film. Sure, it’s not perfect: some of it is way too wandering, way too all over the place, the editing is wonky, the sex/partying is way too excessive, and moments feel padded to make up for the thin, often questionable plot. But the film is deep and well made, and explores themes and concepts you hardly see in even the most thoughtful of films, let alone mainstream fare like this. And the acting is pretty spot on, from Franco shockingly, yes, but from the girls too, especially Selena Gomez who really proves herself as an actress to watch. She has one scene with Franco which blew me away; it’s creepy and sad and disturbing, and both do such a great job selling it. Disney be damned, I say. I also loved how the film makes you think **SPOILERS** she’s the main character for the first 45 minutes or so. **END SPOILERS** Totally wasn’t expecting that, and it works somehow. Take that, traditional storytelling!

Worth watching, absolutely. Not for everyone, I imagine, but I loved it, warts and all. One of those rare films that’ll leave you thinking about it long after it’s over.

 

 

Notorious (1946)

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Slow, old-timey film that definitely feels its age, with a questionable plot that doesn’t kick in until well over an hour and a rushed, unrealistic central romance that only serves to make the first hour all the more dull and unconvincing. The acting is decent at least, especially given the performance limitations placed on actors at the time, and man was Ingrid Bergman pretty, and what a good job she does hiding her accent. Cary Grant is rather stiff and indifferent throughout though, which was common of most dramatic male leads of the time, I know, but it still makes for some rather uninspired moments when he’s on-screen, which is often. He sure does look a heck of a lot like Don Draper from Mad Men at times, though, or rather, more accurately, Don Draper looks like him, right down to the way he turns his face or tilts his head. It’s uncanny actually, almost eerie. The two men look nothing alike face on, but from the side, at certain angles, it’s like Jon Hamm’s sitting there with Bergman. Or Clive Owen. Downright freaky. The costume, lighting, and design people on that show sure know how to capture the period, at least as far as male movie leads from that time go.

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The plot, though, is typical Alfred Hitchcock nonsense. Something about Nazis and spies and tricking some old guy into falling in love with Bergman for some reason, and I think Grant is a cop or secret agent or something, who the hell knows? It doesn’t make much sense, and what little does make sense isn’t all that interesting. It feels like there’s almost too much plot at times, too much going on, too many players doing too many things initially, none of it very interesting, mind you, at least not until things finally start to settle down in the second half and the plot becomes much more straightforward and easier to follow. It feels like story by committee though, which I suspect is very much how this film was written, especially given producer David O. Selznick’s involvement.

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And what was with the whole **SPOILERS** “key” incident that takes place in the second act? Bergman steals a key from a key chain that clearly has only three other keys on it, and we’re supposed to believe that she’s stupid enough to not realize that putting the key back on the key chain, which has been in her husband’s possession the whole time, won’t tip him off in some way? Come on. There’s only three other keys on there! Of course he’s going to notice the sudden disappearance, then reappearance, of just one key! Maybe if there were a whole bunch of them on there, okay, maybe, but there were only three other keys! And why did Bergman fall for Grant so quickly, and why? He’s a complete prick to her, even after they become this great romantic couple. It doesn’t make any sense! **END SPOILERS** Just stupid, lazy writing. Even visually the film isn’t all that great, for a Hitchcock picture. There are a few clever moments here and there, like the big kissing scene which was quite intimate, even by today’s standards. But other than that, and maybe the **SPOILERS** poison sequence **END SPOILERS, and the ending, it wasn’t all that interesting visually.

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Overall, I didn’t much care for this film. It has its moments, sure, and the second half is way, way better than the first, and the payoff was satisfying and all that I guess, even if it didn’t make a whole lot of sense and ultimately amounted to nothing, but the first half is clumsy, plodding, and poorly written, the characters aren’t very consistent or logical, some moments are downright stupid, and visually the film is surprisingly flat and unexciting, for Hitchcock, that is. So, nothing great. Decent at best, and even then, only the second half. But it’s not something I’d recommend everyone go out and see immediately. If you happen upon it and have nothing better to do with your time, then great, have at it. Otherwise, it’s not a must see by any means.

No (2012)

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Interesting, well made film with a weird, low-quality TV look that surprisingly doesn’t take away from the drama and overall impact of the story once you get used to it. And what a great story it is, and so well written, and with a powerful message no less! The conflict established in the first 20 minutes is just about perfect, and supposedly based on real events? Why hadn’t I heard of it before? Or seen a documentary on it or something? Just a great, great story. It has a little bit of everything, except romance, but who needs that really? An almost perfectly cinematic plot, the kind of story filmmakers dream of.

The style is the hardest pill to swallow, though. That and some of the decisions the main character makes, like why he **SPOILERS** decided to join the “No” campaign in the first place. **END SPOILERS** It felt too sudden, done with too little thought on his part, at least from what we’re made privy to. But once you get past that everything else fits in pretty well. But the style, man. I’ve never seen such a purposely crappy looking movie. It looks like someone pointed a camcorder at a television that was playing the film and hit record, with all the weird, washed out colors and blurs and overall crappiness that comes with it. It’s also not really that necessary; I mean, I understand why it was done, it just doesn’t add anything to the overall story, neither thematically nor artistically. You get used to it after a while, like I said, but the feeling never escaped me that the movie would have been even better had they decided to just shoot it straight. No fancy “artistic” tricks.  Eh.

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Overall, great film, one of the best of the year. Very well told, paced, acted, written.  Gael García Bernal is great, as is everyone else for the most part. Just solid, realistic acting. Not a weak link in the bunch that I can think of. Very rare. The story is conventional yet entertaining and extremely cinematic, almost perfectly so at times. And the film’s exploration of **SPOILERS** the power of advertisement and propaganda is both powerful and relevant, and **END SPOILERS** the way it unfolds here is just great. The film is truly brilliant at times, even if its style and editing could have been better. And yeah, there are some character moments here and there I didn’t quite buy, namely at the beginning and at the end. But the film as a whole is great. Truly spectacular. A must watch. Can’t recommend it enough. Really, I can’t. Well, maybe I could, but aren’t four fragmented sentences enough? Go see it! Now!

A View to a Kill (1985)

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Entertaining Bond film with a suspenseful, though ultimately ridiculous plot that fortunately doesn’t fully reveal itself until the last half hour or so, not that it’s necessarily all bad once it does. It’s a traditional hair-brained Bond villain scheme, full of big explosions and mass destruction and something about making lots of money through the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, all helmed rather admirably by Christopher Walken who is arguably one of the best Bond villains I’ve seen yet. Man can that guy act evil when he wants to. And Roger Moore is of course great as always, though so very, very old. How old was he here, 60? Man. But fun movie.

Like I mentioned earlier, the real strength of the film is its suspense. You’re not really let in on what the “big evil plan” is until the last half hour or so, you only get pieces of it here and there, which makes for quite the engaging mystery. You know it’s going to be something big, you just don’t quite know what it is, and it works. An engaging mystery in a spy film? Who’d a thought? The film is also smart; not always mind you, but some scenes and plot points here and there are very clever and well written. Don’t get me wrong: the film is also chock full of really dumb moments, but it’s a Bond film so some occasional silliness is to be expected. You just hope the smart moments outweigh the dumb ones, which in this case they kind of do. But man was the opening scene with the skis stupid. Poorly shot, edited, and so ridiculous, especially given Moore’s age. It’s arguably the lowest point in the film, but it comes in hard and fast and quick, and is over before you know it. That’s what she said, har har! Ugh.

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Overall, very enjoyable Bond. Sure, some of it is stupid, especially the overall “plan” which is kind of a mix of the intelligent and the ridiculous, but, again, that’s to be expected of a Bond film. And yeah the direction is kind of lame and the action sequences kind of flat save the last one. But it’s a fun movie, it’s suspenseful, it’s engaging, it’s well acted, especially from Walken, and I was surprised to see the lady from That 70’s Show, Tanya Roberts, as the Bond girl here. Man was she gorgeous back in the day, and it was interesting to see that her annoying, nasally voice was just as ear-splitting then as it is now. I was also a bit disturbed by a scene near the end of the second act where **SPOILERS** Walken guns down dozens of innocent construction workers trying to keep from drowning after he floods their tunnel. **END SPOILERS** I understand he’s supposed to be a psychopath and all that, but man was that brutal and violent, even for a Bond film. And the crazed, gleeful look on Walken’s face as he does so certainly didn’t make the scene any easier to handle. It was almost like something out of another movie.

Anyway, good Bond film, very entertaining. Strongly recommended.

Byzantium (2012)

 

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Terrible opening leads the way to a pretty damn good, beautifully shot, suspenseful film full of way more gore and violence than I was expecting, especially from a film I initially thought was PG-13 given the rather “Twilight-esque” nature of the premise. The first graphic beheading quickly assuaged me of that notion, let me tell you. Yikes. Just relentless and graphic, not that I’m complaining. Still, the film is pretty good, sort of “Interview with the Vampire” lite with some occasionally hammy, melodramatic moments and a cheesy, on the nose voice over that just about kills the movie dead for the first half hour. It gets better, but man was I worried there for a while.

The plot is interesting, even if it’s nothing particularly new. You know the story: a bunch of lonely, attractive vampires moping around miserable despite their immortality/youth/beauty. There’s a slight twist on the vampire lore which is interesting, and the whole **SPOILERS** “blood cave” bit was a nice touch, and what a visual, **END SPOILERS** even if it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Something about vampires being formed from **SPOILERS** being bitten by vampire versions of themselves, **END SPOILERS** or something? I don’t know. Was it a metaphor, or did I just miss something? It’s a cool concept, just unusual. Some of the story was confusing, too, especially the first half, though this could have been more due to my not paying as much attention to the film as I ought to have. But I got the gist, I think. It’s a vampire film, for crying out loud. How complicated could it possibly be?

Byz 1

Overall, I liked the film. It has some extremely over dramatic moments, especially at the beginning, and the voice over is just awful, god, and completely unnecessary. And I was surprised at how robotic Saoirse Ronan is here at times. She’s usually a very good actress, but here everything she did felt deliberate, more because of the hammy dialogue she’s forced to deliver than anything else, I guess, but her joyless, uninspired performance certainly didn’t help matters. She’s not terrible, just too stiff and melodramatic to be all that believable, even as a vampire. But she has her moments. Gemma Arterton, on the other hand, is pretty damn good, and so sexy, as usual. That voice, god. And she actually feels like a real flesh and blood person, full of fun and energy and passion, especially in the last third.

So, yeah, decent film, enjoyable, great visuals, good story, heck of a lot of gore and violence. The film is actually quite merciless in that respect, to all its characters, which, again, really surprised me given the seemingly benign subject matter of the film. Looks like violent, blood soaked vampires might be making a come back, even if they are still wrapped in the cloak of a cheesy teen romance, sort of.

Good film though. Worth watching.

Stoker (2013)

stoker

Wild, wacky film with a flimsy plot and strange, strange performances from just about everyone, but good visuals and a strong, unique directing style that elevates the thing a notch above the mere “B” picture it seems to be aspiring to with its story. Still, it’s a lazy, incoherent mess, and not everything works, especially the ending which **SPOILERS** had to be one of the most bizarre narrative “twists” I’ve ever seen, if you can even call it that. **END SPOILERS** I mean, what? Huh? How? It doesn’t work, yet, it’s not terrible either. In fact, some of it is quite brilliant, especially visually with all the parallel cuts and music cues and all that. Some of it is excessive too, sure, but some of it is extremely clever and fun to watch.

The film does have many of Chan-wook Park’s usual cinematic staples, at least: the shoes, the theme of big vs small, **SPOILERS** the disturbing child violence, the incest or implication of incest, the character who learns much about the world while confined against his will,  **END SPOILERS** etc etc. Some elements of the plot felt a lot like “Oldboy” actually, though the stories are completely different. It’s not as deranged as Oldboy, granted, but it comes close at times. Unfortunately what story it does have isn’t all that great or logical. The beginning kind of muddles for about a half hour or so, with the main character, played by a perpetually sulking Mia Wasikowska, passively moving to and from scene to scene without so much as a spark of interest in anything around her. I get that she’s supposed to be depressed and emotionally empty and all that, but man does it make for a dull lead character. Luckily it gets better once the plot kicks in and people start to die and you finally begin to understand why she is the way she is and why it’s important to the story, but for a half hour there, I was worried.

But the plot is ridiculous and makes no sense, like how did **SPOILERS** the brother know or suspect that Wasikowska’s character would be “like him”? Why was he so obsessed with her despite never having seen or met her before? And why did he want to seduce her anyway? What was the plan, there, exactly? Kill everyone who ever knew the truth about him, then take her as his bride and continue the homicidal killing spree elsewhere? How did he think he could get away with all that? Come to think of it, how was he able to get away with killing so many people, often out in the open, without anyone noticing or suspecting a thing, save the cop maybe, but let’s not get started on him and the ridiculous thing that happens at the end. **END SPOILERS** It’s just so clunky and questionable. And since when do good-looking jock guys bully attractive female loners the way they do Wasikowska here? What were they going to do, challenge her to a fist fight? Has the screenwriter ever actually been to high school? Ugh, a mess.

Overall, a narrative mess, but very strong visually, and some of it is quite effective, though for a Chan-wook Park, I was a touch disappointed by the lack of his trademark beautifully shot sex scenes. What gives, Park? Sure there’s one sort of scene involving a shower that’s kind of sexy, but there was nothing particularly creative or special about it. Very disappointing.  The orgasm piano scene was a nice touch, though. Never seen that before. But the film as a whole is a bit of a disaster story wise, as I keep saying. And what a weird, disingenuous performance by Nicole Kidman whom I didn’t believe at all here, not a word. Maybe it was intentional, but I never got the sense that she was telling the truth or feeling any of the emotions she was trying to get across here. It’s sort of off-putting, which, again, may have been intentional, but given other performances I’ve seen her in, I don’t know. She’s not a bad actress by any means, she just has a tendency to over do it in certain roles.

So, I don’t know. Not a terrible film despite its terrible plot, thanks to the fine, expert direction. And the film is just about the perfect length: not too long, not too short. But the ending, ugh. Why? What? I get the film is full of symbolism and stuff and the ending is just an extension of that, but the story is so lazy and odd and clunky that it almost doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make sense. Still, worth watching, for the visuals if anything else.