Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Runaway Train it is...for the time being

Well today was the last day to vote on the poll I had set up, and it seems that to this point (but before The Seventh Seal) Runaway Train has been the favorite of the class. However, only 13 people voted, and there are over 30 people in the class, so I don't know if this is an accurate conclusion. Nevertheless, when we conclude another 3 films, I will create an updated poll to determine the new favorite, and I will keep doing so until the end of the school year.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I Love You, Man -- Response to Jimmy

I was planning on sitting down and writing a full review of this film, but I am currently busy writing a review of Milk, so I'll do this for now. I'm also going to do this as a direct response to Jimmy's post about this same film.

Jimmy, in the past we have mostly agreed about films, but I am afraid we have a disparity about this one. Although I am a fan of Paul Rudd, I thought he was an uncomfortable mess in this movie. I am aware that his character was meant to be the awkward, social misfit that couldn't find any guy friends, but they overplayed it to an excessive amount. It was to the point where I was squirming in my chair, much like I did watching the god forsaken Sex and the City movie. As far as his character's relationship with Rashida Jones' character, I felt little affection between the two and was not convinced that these people were in love.

The first 20 minutes of the film, even with a dinner table scene with the hilarious Andy Samberg, were a debacle. Not a single laugh to be found, nor a single moment of interest. I actually contemplated walking out of the theater.

Just as I was going to give up on the film, Jason Segel swept in and finally put I Love You, Man on a track. Complete with a truthful approach to life and a pug/beagle named Anwar Sedat, Segel's character is the only saving grace to this film, and makes it worth watching. A child of the Apatow gang, Segel is a comedic force that can turn any situation funny (unless it's on the show How I Met Your Mother. I hate that show).

So I guess in the end, Jimmy, I only disagree with you halfway. I too recommend this film, but I recommend walking in 20 minutes after it begins. I disagree with your opinion of Rudd's performance, but agree with your opinion of Segel's. The film was rather predictable, and I guess it was pretty well put together for a low-brow comedy (and that really is what it was). Another thing that you didn't mention but I would like to is the supporting cast. With the exception of Jon Favreau, not one supporting cast member added anything to this film. They were simply there to further the plot, and were not funny at all.

So yea, I liked it, but not that much.

Also if you haven't already done so, please read my review of the sex and the city movie. I have gotten alot of good responses from it and would love to share my pain, err, i mean experience with the world.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The First 30 Minutes of the Sex and the City Movie

I was just trying to be a good boyfriend. "Oh! The Sex and the City movie is on HBO! Can we please watch it!?", she said knowing very well that I could not say no to her. How bad could it be, I pondered. Sure I had seen an episode of the show and it destroyed my will to live, but maybe they made it better for the movie?

30 minutes later...

"I will never forgive you for making me watch that atrocity". She laughs, because my misery evidently amuses her. She's lucky I love her, and that I know she is the only person in the world who can put up with my inflated sense of pride. I will have to get back at her one day, however. Perhaps I will drag her to see Saw 6 when it comes out. She hates that stuff.

Talking seriously for a moment, the Sex and the City movie was a hauntingly awful display of filmmaking that made my insides churn. Ignoring the script and the direction, the characters and content alone were enough to make me weep tears of pain. The four lead characters, who I have aptly nicknamed the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, are nothing more than insufferable, prolix, ugly, detestable creatures that are in no way funny or ironic. The dialogue in the film, what I could decipher from the high pitched squealing and rapid mile-a-minute speech, was terribly written, and I didn't for a second believe that these four horsemen were the long time friends we were supposed to assume. The lead actresses were about as affectionate to each other as a shark is to meat. After 30 minutes, I feared that blood would soon begin pouring from my ears, so I told my girlfriend enough was enough and I shut it off. Now I am aware there is an unwritten code for movie critics that says you have to view a film in its entirety before you judge it. Well I'm not a movie critic yet, so that code be damned! I would rather have my fingers crushed in between the connecting parts of two railway cars than watch the rest of this film. I would rather get shot in the head whilst reaching for a butterfly than watch the rest of this film. I would rather sell my body on the streets of New York dressed as a cowboy, and then settle for receiving sexual pleasure from Bob Balaban than watch the rest of this film.

I would have asked my girlfriend for the last 30 minutes of my life back, but let's face it, I wouldn't have done anything with those 30 minutes anyway.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

New Poll

Hey everyone, I started a little poll that can be seen in the top right corner of the page. Cast your vote for your favorite film that we have watched so far! If you would like to give an explanation as to why you chose the movie you did, you may leave a comment on this post. Can't wait for some feedback!

Monday, March 23, 2009


This was a movie I watched a while ago and it just popped back into my mind today. I discovered this film accidentally, and I am glad I did. I had my television on Reelz Channel and a show called Secret's Out with Leonard Maltin came on. I was about to change the channel when he began talking about this film. It intrigued me, so I looked it up. Since I haven't seen it in some time you will have to excuse my brief and vague discussion of it. This independent film is the touching story of bored meter maid Les, who is searching for something else in his life. In an attempt to perhaps make his existence a little less mundane, Les volunteers to take part in an experimental drug test. But soon after his first dose, Les discovers a shocking side effect to his medicine: super powers...sort of. Believing he was given these powers for a reason, Les goes around town dressed in all white walking through walls, reading minds, teleporting, and doing all the things that superheroes do. Even though his friends don't believe him, Les begins to feel that he has something he had never had before: a purpose. In a past post, I was warned by Mr. Bennett against using the word "inspirational" to describe a film and since then I have not done so. But with Special, there really is no other word that fits it better. This is an inspirational tale that is relatable to each and every one of us.

Main character Les is played beautifully by Michael Rappaport, who is mostly known for his work on television (you may know him as Donald Self from Prison Break, or the father on the short lived Fox series The War At Home). Rappaport portrays the everyman Les with ease and in turn delivers a deeply heart-felt, profound performance that truly resonated with me. This is the only leading role Rappaport ever had and he tackles the feat with the fluidity of a household name. It's just a shame that this film probably doesn't even exist in the mind's of 97% of Americans.

Sure the production value is low and I could have probably recreated the cinematography with a hand-held camera, but this was not a film to look at superficially. Who among us can say they have not felt utterly unnecessary in the grand scheme of the world? What are the chances that you can actually make a name for yourself and be known to even just a few people that you don't know yourself? There are people this fortunate, but it does not happen to everyone. It is this frightening thought that may act as a spark plug for many of us, causing us to do something that could make our future a little less predictable. Then again, some of us, actually most of us, may avoid the risk and simply accept the cards we have been dealt. Special shows the story of a man who represents the former, and after seeing it, you can decide for yourself if the decision was a wise one. Maybe Les' story will inspire you to try something new, and see where it leads you.

I implore you to seek out this film. I am not promising the greatest film you have ever seen, but just a simple film with a huge heart, which is something we all need to experience one day.

Sunday, March 22, 2009



Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, envy, wrath, and pride. These are the seven deadly sins as written by Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century, updating the work of Evagrius Ponticus in the 4th century. These cardinal vices are said to be the seven most objectionable sins a man can commit. However, for the 15 centuries this list has been around, mankind cannot seem to abide by the rules. Millions and millions of people everyday, including myself, indulge in these sins, and feel no immediate consequences (what awaits us in the afterlife, we can never be sure). Perhaps we should look upon this as a blessing, for if everyone in the world that committed one of these sins was chastised for them at once, there would not be much of a population left today. For this, we should thank our lucky stars that we do not live in the world of Detective David Mills (Brad Pitt). Mills has just transferred to a dark, ominous, unnamed city that oozes all things evil. For his first case Mills is paired up with Detective William Somerset, the very man he is replacing, to investigate the strange murder of a morbidly obese man found with his hands and feet bound and his face down in a plate of spaghetti. When another seemingly unrelated murder is discovered, the detectives start to suspect that they are dealing with a serial killer who chooses his victims based on the seven deadly sins. With five more murders to expect, Somerset and Mills have to piece the puzzle together before they, or someone they love, gets hurt. Although the story is unique, Se7en is executed ineffectively and leaves the viewer wanting more (not in the good way).

Friday, March 20, 2009

A bunch of movies

I've seen a lot of movies over the past week, and rather than make a post for each, I'll discuss them all right now briefly.

Runaway Train- First things first, this was the movie we just finished watching, and it was fantastic. Not only was it a gripping action and suspense thriller, it had Oscar worthy performances from both of it's lead actors. I was a little surprised to find that Eric Roberts was only nominated for a supporting role rather than sharing the lead acting category with Voigt. Although his character was more of a sidekick to Manny, he had just as much face time and was just as integral to the story. As a matter of fact, I found Roberts' performance to be even better than Voigt's, although both were superb. One of my favorite things about this film was that even though it was dressed up to look like a strictly action film, there is an amazing amount of character dynamics to study. Manny, a killer that is renowned as a hero to the delinquents at prison, turns out to be the hero we are all rooting for by the end of the film. Despite the fact that he was a dangerous escaped convict, I found myself wishing he could make his getaway. Warden Ranken, on the other hand, was viewed as the complete opposite. Being a prison warden, he is a man dedicated to keeping dangerous criminals off the streets, a praiseworthy profession. However, he takes on more villainous qualities than either Manny or Buck. He was trying to put bad men back in prison, and I was glad he died in the end. Maybe I'm strange, but I don't think I am. I was extremely entertained by this film and became annoyed whenever I would hear the bell announcing the end of the period. I liked it so much I am contemplating going out and buying it.

Taken- this was a recent movie starring Liam Neeson as a retired CIA agent trying to rescue his daughter from kidnappers in Paris. It was filled with loose ends and was mostly unbelievable, but it was definitely a top of the line action flick. Not anywhere near as deep as Runaway Train, but an exciting ride nonetheless.

Barton Fink- I find that I grow to like the Coen Brothers more and more every time I see one of their films. It's not as much fun to simply write about this film as it would be to discuss it in person with somebody. Unfortunately, not many people have even heard of it. I know Jimmy has seen it, because it was his review of this film that pushed me to find it myself. The story follows writer Barton Fink, played by John Turturro, who has made his way to Hollywood to write a film for a fast talking executive. Staying in a dusty hotel room with peeling wallpaper, Barton befriends a salesman, played by John Goodman, who helps keep him sane in the topsy turvy world in which he has been thrust. The Coens create the perfect mix of social satire and offbeat supernatural to make this one of my favorite films of theirs.

The Graduate- Recent college grad Benjamin Braddock has just returned home, forced to contemplate what it is he plans on doing with his life. If things weren't confusing enough for him, his father's business partner's wife Mrs. Robinson makes a rather blatant pass at Braddock, and the two begin an affair with each other. If THAT wasn't confusing enough for him, Braddock then falls for Mrs. Robinson's daughter Elaine, who Mrs. Robinson has forbidden him from seeing. I really enjoyed The Graduate because it was a film that I could relate to. No no no, I'm not having an affair with my friend's mother. That would be gross. Although the love affair is the main conflict in the film, it was Braddock's "growing up" dilemma that I was more interested in. Just coming out of college, Braddock has absolutely no idea what he is going to do with his life, and spends his time lounging around in his parents pool (when he's not with Mrs. Robinson). I am just about to graduate high school, and I have already begun worrying about what the hell I could possibly do with my life in the future. Much like Braddock, I've got no clue. Also like him, my parents aren't doing much to help me get my thoughts straight, rather than just telling me that I should be doing something. My favorite scene in the film was when Braddock is basically forced to jump into his pool with scuba gear on, and as he comes up to the surface, his parents reach down and push him back under several times. Such heavy symbolism doesn't need to be explained.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How Do Parents Always Know?

I was watching Fargo the other day at a time that I knew my parents would be busy. I wasn't trying to hide from them, I just enjoy watching movies by myself. Less distractions I guess. (In class I blur out everybody around me and put tunnel vision on the smartboard). So anyway I'm watching the film, and a scene comes up with Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare having sex with a couple of hookers. It was an extremely brief scene, and there was no nudity shown. But of course, at that moment, my mother decided to take a break from cooking and come downstairs to check her facebook (that friggin facebook has been nothing but trouble). So she comes down and sees this scene, and inevitably says "I don't think you should be watching this". Ugh! A 98 minute movie, and she walks in on the only 30 seconds that involve sex. Of course I simply ignore her and try to move passed this embarrassing situation, but that is not the point. What I'm trying to say is that whenever I watch a film that has a hint of sex in it, my parents have a tendency to show up at the exact moment, and I do not understand how this is possible.

It's not always just nudity though. Sometimes my parents will enter the room just as a character decided to go on an expletive filled tirade that will almost always end up containing vulgar, sexual remarks. An example of this was when I was watching Superbad with my girlfriend. We were in the basement, cozied up and enjoying the movie, when not just my parents, but my entire family decided to stop in. What they were doing I don't know, but I do know that they happened to enter just as the foul mouthed Jonah Hill went on a rant about spermicidal lube. He was descriptive. Not only was I now forced to deal with the unapproving looks of my family, but my poor girlfriend had to suffer it as well. Once again it does not phase me that my parents will see me watching these movies, it's just mind boggling how they show up at exactly the right (or wrong, in my view) moment.

To prove this is not an isolated issue, here is a short list of films I have been "caught" watching, and the scene that was walked in on:
300- brief sex scene
The Big Lebowski- brief naked woman in a harness, plus countless obsceneties
A Clockwork Orange- Alex's test, where a naked woman is brought onstage, and the camera fixes on her breasts for a significant amount of time
The Departed- Leo Dicaprio and his shrink get a little intimate
The Machinist- brief naked woman in bed
The Shining- naked woman in shower
The Wrestler- strip club

That is a very brief list and you'll have to trust me when I say there were many more incidents. I don't really know what I am trying to prove with this, except maybe that our parents have a sixth sense for this type of thing. Has anybody else had this happen to them? If so, feel free to share the experience.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Zombie Movies - They Just Aren't Very Good.

"We're gonna come eat you...just don't like, run away or anything. We probably wouldn't be able to catch up"

Zombie movies. The concept has been done to death, and yet each year, much like its' characters, it is ressurrected and put back into circulation. George Romero, the director that started the "dead rising" craze, has done nothing but release zombie movie after zombie movie, and has spawned a slew of knock-offs and homages. Horror fans call Romero a legend; I call him a one trick pony. How does he pitch his movies?

George: "OK, OK, I got a good one. How about, a group of people are on a vacation at a secluded island, and then zombies attack them!"

Executive:"Well, George, I feel like you've done that already. Maybe you've got something a little more fresh?"

G:"Alright well how about this?! A lovely newlywed couple check into their hotel on a secluded island, and then zombies attack, and they have to fend them off with other people at the hotel!"

E: "Well, again, that is basically the same movie that you just pitched me, and it is the same movie you have been making since 1968. Can you seriously not come up with a single original thought? What the hell has happened to film-makers?"

G:"Alright, alright, I've got one more that I know you are going to love. OK so a group of teens go to a concert, and about midway through the show, after we've shown some gratuitous nudity and drug usage, a pack of zombie wolves attack everybody! And then we use this to make some kind of random, farfetched allegory insulting the Bush Administration! Teens will love it!"

E:"George Bush isn't even in office anymore"

G:"I don't understand"

E:"If I tell you that you can make this film, will you get the hell out of my office?"

And that is basically how I feel these movies keep getting made.

Even though most of the movies released today are not original concepts, they at least try to cover it up and pretend they are new. Zombies are just the same thing over and over again. They are a boring villain that just isn't all that scary. They walk very slowly, and they can't have much muscle mass left so even if they grab you, getting away should be fairly simple. Do you know a really effective way to get away from zombies? Lock your friggin door. Head up to the second floor of your house. Go in the attic if you have to. Just don't stand in front of windows on the first floor! If you live in an apartment, even better! I don't think zombies are going to go to the elevators, push the button, wait for the elevator, get on the elevator, choose a floor, take the elevator up, and then knock on your door! Even if they figure out they can use the steps, just lock your door, because that is the only entry point into your home. The films 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later are good films, because they twisted the zombie genre into something entertaining. The zombies in the film were not really zombies, but just "rage infected people" who can pass the rage on by biting you. They can also run full speed, so they are actually difficult to get away from. Since they are not technically dead and therefore able to use brain function, they could open up doors and use elevators and such, so it makes them a much more frightening villain.

Something else I noticed about zombie films, is that you don't see many zombies wearing nice clothing. Think about this: when you bury somebody, do you dress them in their casual Saturday sweats? No, you put them in a suit. So when these dead people are rising from the ground, why the hell aren't they wearing suits and dresses? I know that they can turn people into zombies and so they would obviously be wearing casual dress, but even in the beginning of the films when the intial wave breaks, you don't see them dressed in fancy clothes. Also, why are there no really elderly zombies? If all goes right, a person won't die until they are very old, and that happens very often. So why is it that you never see a 82 year old zombie walking around with dentures? My theory is that they just walked back to the retirement home and are watching Murder She Wrote with the other old people.

Oh yea, Shaun of the Dead was a really good movie too. But that's because it was a comedy making fun of the genre. It did it rather well.

So yea, that's how I feel about zombie films. I don't know why I felt the need to share this, but hey I was bored. Comments?



Do you ever feel like you just need a break from the world? Do you ever just want to leave and go to a place where things don't make sense, and nobody questions it? Do you want to see a man inject himself with an overdose of Epinephren and then go on an adrenaline fueled rampage through an entire city? If you answered yes to all of those questions, I have the perfect remedy to feed your need for senseless violence. Crank is a film so out of the realm of realism that your brain may freeze from all of the impossibilities. Jason Statham, a name synonymous with "awesome", stars as Chev Chelios, a professional hit man who has run into a problem. A rival killer has injected him with a mysterious poison that will kill him if he lets his adrenaline drop too low. Set on getting revenge before he dies, Chelios does whatever he can - driving through a mall, Epinephren shots, sex in public, the usual - to keep his heart racing. But don't worry about the plot. The plot is completely irrelevant. Crank is chock full of amateur camerawork, horrific writing, dismal acting, and overall inconceivabilities...but damn is it a good time.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Midnight Cowboy -- Meh

We finished watching Midnight Cowboy a few days ago, and I purposely put off writing this post for a simple reason that I am not really ashamed to admit. I just didn't find too much to talk about in Midnight Cowboy. I feel like most of the topics have already been discussed, and frankly, I didn't care for the movie that much to delve deeper into it. That being said, I have some theories that I believe led to my dislike of this film.

1) Joe Buck- Although Jon Voigt's performance of the naive cowboy was pretty good and he really became the character, I just didn't much care for the character. I never felt any sort of sympathy to him and I was indifferent to how his story ended.

2) Amateur editing- Midnight Cowboy relied heavily on flashbacks and short fantasy sequences and images being flashed on screen for a second and all that junk. Executed properly, these things can be hardly noticeable and allow the movie to flow much easier. I just didn't think John Schlesinger did a very good job keeping these tricks smooth. It could have been that he was purposely making these things unsettling to watch because the point of the movie was to make you very uncomfortable. That could be a possibility based on all of the strange things we saw (that woman with the rat toy, the man lying face down on the sidewalk for an unexplained reason, the freak party). Whether he did it on purpose or not, I just didn't find it entertaining. It also gave me a lot of trouble remembering what had happened in the movie in between days. I'd come into class the next day and couldn't recall what actual events took place in the film, but instead just remembered the various flashbacks and images. This brings me to my final theory.

3) Start, stop, start again- My main concern when starting this film class was that I wouldn't be able to enjoy a movie watching it over several days instead of one sitting. With our first two films, I did not notice this starting and stopping, and your guess is as good as mine when it comes to why. But for Midnight Cowboy, this stop and go method really took me out of the film, and I just could not get back into it. Something tells me that if I were to watch this film by myself, in it's entirety, in one sitting, I will probably like it a lot more. For now though, I am sadly unimpressed and can't see how this film won Best Picture in 1969. It's a shame too, because I have always wanted to see this film.

I'm sure next time I watch it, I will like it more.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

North By Northwest

It's kinda late and I have to get myself ready for the new season of South Park, so I'm just gonna knock this one out quick. I rented this film because I wanted to become more familiar with Hitchcock. This is only the second film of his I have seen (the first being Psycho), and now he is 2 for 2. I found North By Northwest to be a very entertaining, taught thriller. I was not blown away by Cary Grant, but his performance was still good nonetheless. Hitchcock directed the film really well, and I thought many scenes were shot very well. There was one scene where Grant enters Eva Marie Saint's hotel room, and the entire room is a sort of grey color, very bland. Saint on the other hand, wore a vibrant red dress that I ignored at first. Then I started thinking of what her character represented up to that point in the film, and I realized the red dress could have been a symbol of how she used lust and passion to lure Grant to that crop field. Maybe. That's what I like to believe anyway.

Alright I really gotta go now, sorry for the brevity. In conclusion, I really enjoyed the film, James Mason is creepy, and Eva Marie Saint was a freakin hottie back in '59.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Stanley Kubrick Special

I'm bored, so I'm going to write some very brief opinions on all of the Stanley Kubrick films I have seen.

The Killing (1956)- A film-noir about a group of thieves ripping off a racetrack, Kubrick really established himself as a director with this film. He showed great ability to handle a non-linear film, a problem that still plagues film makers today. I really enjoyed it, and I didn't expect to. My favorite shot: While the plotting thieves stand in a room, the camera is strategically placed directly behind a bed frame that makes the men look as though they are standing in a jail cell. I wonder why...

Paths of Glory (1957)- Kirk Douglas so much enjoyed The Killing he personally requested Stanley Kubrick for this film. Paths of Glory was a film about not just the cruelty of war, but the corruption that can corrode an army from the inside. Mr. Bennett has told me that the film lost the meaning of the novel, but until I read it myself I can't really put the two side by side. I really enjoyed this film, mostly due to the direction of Kubrick. My favorite shot: The three men, one completely incapacitated, stand in front of the firing squad, prepared to receive punishment for a ridiculous charge.

Spartacus (1960)- I hate admitting it, but I didn't make it through this film. I'll probably try again another time, but at this point this remains one of the few Kubrick films I don't really care for.

Lolita (1962)- In my own personal opinion, Lolita was the first truly great film Kubrick made. In Lolita, Kubrick explored the dangerous world of sexual obsession using the story of Humbert Humbert (no I didn't stutter, his first name is Humbert, and his last name is Humbert), who becomes caught up in a very difficult world when he falls for his wife's daughter, the girl with the "lovely, lyrical, lilting name...", Lolita. Although it was over 3 hours long, my attention stayed throughout and although the end of the movie was shown in the beginning, I was intent on seeing what happened next. Throw in a great performance by Peter Sellers and we've got a winner. My favorite shot: The first reveal of Lolita. As soon as she is presented in front of the camera we feel the tension from Humbert immediately.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)- Another Kubrick gem driven by Peter Sellers, this is probably the best dark comedy of all time. It's examination of how men behave even when faced with certain doom is startlingly hilarious. George C. Scott's character Buck Turgidson is on guard the entire movie when the President invites a Russian into the war room. He is afraid that the Russian is going to steal information from us, and we assume this is preposterous because the matter at hand is the destruction of the world. Then at the end, just as the bomb is being dropped, the Russian snaps some photos with a secret camera, as if they are going to be useful. It just shows how stubborn we could be. This time around, Peter Sellers gives three great performances and one of the best lines in movie history: "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here, this is the war room!". My favorite shot: It's small and maybe insignificant, but the one woman in the film appears twice: Once in Buck Turgidson's bedroom, and once on the cover of a playboy magazine. Haha, nice picture of women this movie paints.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)- Stanley Kubrick's ambiguous science fiction film that has only gained credibility over the years was an issue for me. In a previous post I gave the full account of my experiences with this film, but I'll give you the sparknotes here. The first three times, I hated it. The fourth time, I liked it. I love the message of technology getting out of hand and how no matter how advanced we get, our basic instincts will always be to kill or be killed. 2001 gave Kubrick his only Oscar, and it was for Best Visual Effects. This is a well deserved award, and some of the effects in this 1968 film can be passed off today without being recognized as "outdated". My favorite shot: Any shot of the HAL 9000. That ominous red eye is damn creepy.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)- Arguably his piece de resistance (and my favorite of his works), this film is utterly brilliant. Only the twisted mind of Stanley Kubrick could take scenes of rape and violence and make them almost beautiful. This movie became the second originally X rated film to be nominated for Best Picture, and the only reason it didn't win is because it scared the crap out of the Academy. That had to be the reason, because it couldn't have been because The French Connection was genuinely better. The French Connection sucked. There are so many scenes in this film that are engraved in my imagination forever, and I'm happy about it. The wayward teen Alex, played superbly by Malcolm McDowell, was the perfect example to use for the message of this film. Is it acceptable and ethical to take away a man's ability to decide for himself what is right and wrong? Even if you could clean up the streets, is it justifiable to take away that natural born right? It's an interesting question and quite the moral dilemma. I like it. My favorite shot: Alex stands over a drunken bum who is complaining about the problems with society. The bum refers to the world as "stinking". The camera switches to Alex's face, staring downward at the man, the moonlight striking his features perfectly, and without moving a muscle other than his mouth he says, "Oooh...and what's so stinking about it?" It's not as effective when you write it down, but seeing it is amazing to me.

Barry Lyndon (1975)- I was very hesitant to watch this film. First, it's over 3 hours long. Second, I'm not the biggest fan of historical type films. Third, I had never heard of Ryan O'Neal, and my father told me he was a pansy. But I came across this movie in Barnes and Noble, and it was around Christmas time, so I made my friend by it for me on the spot (Don't worry, I bought him something too). Even when I got it home, I was still nervous to watch it. So I stowed it away for a bit and waited for a day that I could watch a 3 hour movie undisturbed. So I finally watched it and what do you know, it wasn't half bad. It wasn't even a quarter bad. It was really good! The character Redmond Barry was a dynamic one that you couldn't quite get a handle on. For the first half of the movie, you feel sorry for the poor boy an you wish him success. Then in the second half of the film, when he gains his wealth, he is a detestable character that I didn't really care for at all. And even better, the 3 hours really went by fast. My favorite shot: Candlelight card game.

The Shining (1980)- Somewhat slow, but the definition of terrifying. Kubrick's take on Stephen King's novel is nothing short of spectacular. Although it lost the meaning behind the book (I guess like Paths of Glory), it didn't bother me because one man's vision is totally different from another man's. Kubrick's mastery of the tracking shot made the Overlook Hotel an eerie place where you could sense evil around every corner. Then when Jack finally snaps and he starts beating down that bathroom door with the axe, I freeze in place, even after 20+ viewings. Those two little girls scare the crap out of me still also. Those little freaks practically made me lose bladder control when I first saw this movie back when I was 11. My favorite shot: As Jack beats down the bathroom door, the camera moves back and forward smoothly, following his swings with perfect synchronization.

Full Metal Jacket (1987)- There's not much to say about this one that hasn't been said about the others. It was terrific, and most of that can be attributed to Kubrick's amazing direction. My favorite shot: Private Joker's interview with the film crew that visits. He mentions wanting to be "the first kid on his block with a confirmed kill". He wears a peace sign while he says this.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)- His final film, this was another that I hate to say I didn't get through. I turned it off after the orgy scene. I was unsettled by it.

So yea that's it. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

2001: A Space Odyssey -- Is the Fourth Time the Charm?

2001: A Space Odyssey has been widely renowned as one of the greatest science fiction films of all time. Despite rocky reviews upon its first release, it managed to carve itself a place in history, gaining credibility as time rolled on. 2001's unique look at what the future may behold (the film was made in 1968, mind you) has surprised audiences to this day because of its accuracy. Nearly every technological impossibility in the film has become not just a possibility, but a probability in our near future. With the help of author Arthur C. Clarke, Stanley Kubrick set out to make "the first good science fiction film", because he believed everything to that point was garbage. I haven't seen many science fiction films from before 1968 so I cannot comment on his statement, but when I first saw 2001 I did have something to say: "2001: A Space Odyssey was TERRIBLE". I hated this movie such an intense amount that it hurt my head to think that Stanley Kubrick made it. The film dragged along at such an indolent pace that I truly believed I had died and was now enduring what I thought was the tenth circle of Hell.

That was the first time I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey. A year or so later I received the Stanley Kubrick DVD set for my birthday and with it came the dreaded Hell movie. When I finished with the rest of the set I decided that maybe I should try again. After all, it did seem like the film you would need multiple viewings to appreciate. So I popped it in, got through about one hour, and that's when things went black. Before I knew it my mother was waking me up on the couch, the TV still on with the DVD menu on screen. I threw the movie back in its case and considered it a victory that I fell asleep before I had to watch the entire film. Another few months had passed and I was bored as sin. So I figured hey, I'm already as bored as I can get, the only way I could go is up. So this was 2001's chance to redeem itself for me. Once again I put the movie in, and hoped for the best. I got about as far as I did the second time, and then I got up out of my chair, walked to the DVD player, contemplated smashing it with a baseball bat, and then simply decided to take the movie out and put it away. You may be asking why I keep subjecting myself to this film and just accept the fact that I hate it. If you know me, you know that I am a huge Stanley Kubrick fan. I love basically all of his films, and I frequently express how much it annoys me that he never received an Oscar for writing, directing, or producing. However, his one Oscar win was for Best Visual Effects for, you guessed it, 2001. So basically, I wanted to love the movie that gave my favorite filmmaker his only Oscar. I loved all of his other non-winners, it only seemed right that I should love the one that did win. So that's why I watched it a fourth time.

Today, much like the day when I watched this film the third time, I was bored beyond words. But I was in a good mood, and felt like watching a movie. I went through my collection of 250+ DVD's and came across my Kubrick set and saw 2001. I thought to myself that I would give it one more shot, and just this one more. Now that I've been in this class for a bit and actually know how to identify good filmmaking, maybe the experience will be different. From the beginning, a difference was noticeable. I wasn't squirming, I wasn't fast forwarding, and I wasn't crying in agony. I didn't even notice that it took almost 26 minutes for the first word of dialogue to be spoken, and that a total of 88 minutes of the film was silence filled with classical music. After the film ended I was surprised to feel that...I liked it. I didn't love it, I didn't think it was great, and I still didn't understand most of what I just saw...but I didn't hate it anymore. The meaning behind the film, the danger of technology, actually interested me this time around possibly because I've matured. I started to think about the question, are we allowing technology to get out of hand? Can these advances backfire in our future?

When the movie first begins, we see the dawn of man, which was basically a bunch of guys in ape costumes. If you can ignore that, you see what Kubrick was really trying to show us. This was our most primitive form. This was a world filled with danger, where it was either kill or be killed. In a single frame cut, we jump from the dawn of man to a space station in outer space, showing how quickly technology can creep up on us. As the movie progresses we feel that since that time a million years ago, we have grown as a race. But in the end, main character Dave Bowman has to revert back to the kill or be killed mentality and put an end to the humanistic computer HAL. So no matter how advanced we become, our instincts will always be the same and really nothing has changed.

Still, I found parts of 2001 to be overly drawn out, especially the ending when Bowman is traveling hyperspeed through space and we see an orgy of colors parade across the screen for about 10 minutes. Not to mention the countless questions left open to interpretation by the filmmakers. This is something that could be fun for some people, but to a point it gets frustrating. Arthur C. Clarke once said (regarding his collaboration with Kubrick) "If you understand 2001 completely, we failed. We wanted to raise far more questions than we answered". I think this is a smart way of saying "we wrote this, but we didn't think it all the way through, so we are going to have you think about it". I like to believe that rather than my favorite director is a jerk.

So after the fourth try, I finally like 2001: A Space Odyssey. Maybe after some more viewings I'll grow to love it. But let's just go baby steps for now.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tropic Thunder: A Second Viewing

I wrote this because I've always wondered if movie critics always feel the same way about a movie after multiple viewings. After all, how often do you hear somebody say "I didn't like it when I first saw it, but now I really like it!" or the other way around?

If you have not read my first review of Tropic Thunder please go to my other blog and go to August 2008 of my archive.

The summer of 2008 was a great season for comic book films. Not only did every single superhero flick flourish at the box office, but most of them received critical praise as well (with the exception of Hancock). With all that success revolving around action films, the summer really needed a comedy to round itself off and make it a truly memorable one. Late in August, I reported that Tropic Thunder was the film that fulfilled that need. I mentioned how the performances of Robert Downey Jr, Tom Cruise, and Brandon T. Jackson saved the film from it's somewhat flimsy story. The Academy went as far as to nominate Downey Jr for Best Actor in a Supporting Role at the 81st Oscar ceremony. Even now, I feel this nomination was well deserved as Downey Jr really nailed that role down to a T. Tom Cruise also received a Golden Globe nomination with Downey Jr for Supporting Actor in a Comedy, which was a bit much, but after all, it's just the Golden Globes. Either way, it was not just me that felt some of the performances in Tropic Thunder were praiseworthy.

Last month, I finally bought Tropic Thunder hoping it would be just as funny the next few times around, and I was a little disappointed. Not a significant amount, but there was a definite letdown. All of the performances I once praised were still great and I feel like I will always give them high marks. Downey Jr was just as brilliant to watch the second time as he was the first. Cruise's foul mouthed movie executive Les Grossman was still an outrageous character that provided lots of laughs and that little extra bit of satire. However, all of the negative aspects of the film that I pointed out in my first review became much more evident and harder to avoid this second time around. The problem with comedies is that there are very few of them that have the ability to last. A joke that could have you rolling in stitches the first time you hear it may not even coerce a chuckle out of you the second time. In Tropic Thunder, I remembered most of the jokes of the film, and Downey Jr's performance, although still terrific, was less surprising as the first time. So sadly, there wasn't much opportunity for me to laugh out loud during my second viewing of this film. Instead, I kept noticing how Ben Stiller and Jack Black were uncharacteristically bland and one dimensional. I really noticed how it took the film a very long time to get rolling out of the starting gate. When I saw it in theaters I noticed this as well, but not to this extent.

Tropic Thunder was no one hit wonder though, and I don't mean to imply that. Even on second viewing there were numerous laugh out loud moments and once again, great performances. The biting satire commenting on why actors make some decisions in their career is scarily accurate and still a potent theme. And since the direction can't change from one viewing to the next (only the way you view the direction can differ), the action sequences were still well put together with the perfect blend of violence and comedy. So although it may not be the ideal comedy that will live on forever, and it will probably do nothing else but diminish even more over time, Tropic Thunder is still a good experience, although less of one than I originally thought. My new rating: (6.5/10)

I sense an armadillo in the future.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Citizen Kane: The Final Judgement

The life story of Charles Foster Kane has been told and the identity of Rosebud has finally been revealed. I have to confess that I knew what Rosebud was before I watched the film just because it has been revealed to me in numerous ways throughout the years. So while watching Citizen Kane I was not constantly looking for clues and following Macguffins Orson Welles may have planted, but was instead looking for technical achievements. By this I mean I was searching for clues in the direction and writing that exemplified the themes of the film. Orson Welles did a masterful job at both directing and starring in Citizen Kane. Practically every shot could be taken apart to show how it related to Kane. The most prevalent theme that was supported by Welles' direction was power, or the lack thereof. There are countless scenes that portray Kane in both a powerful and weak light, and in some cases it just shows how tiny he really is. One example of this is the scene where Kane is sitting in the balcony at his wife's debut performance at the opera. After his semi-talented, but not talented enough wife tanks, the audience breaks into very tame applause, almost like something you'd hear at a golf match. As she comes out to take her bow, the only person left applauding (at least audibly) is Kane, who is standing up trying to get others to do the same (trying to control their thoughts, if you will, as if seeing him do it would make them think it was right). However, nobody follows and Kane is left seeming foolish, and for a moment the light shining on him disappears, covering him in shadow. This shot really shows how powerful Kane THINKS he is, and how insignificant he REALLY is. It was these contradicting scenes that made Citizen Kane engaging.

But not everybody likes to hear about the technical stuff, and I have to make mention of whether or not Citizen Kane is worth a view on an entertainment scale. Unfortunately, since I already knew what Rosebud was, I couldn't get swept up into the mystery of the film. However, I actually feel as though this helped me appreciate the film more. If I had no idea what Rosebud was and watched the entire movie just to find out it was his _______, I would have been livid. Talk about unsatisfying! The revelation of the identity of Rosebud could have annoyed me so much it would destory any good feelings I had toward the film. You get me involved in a story and I'm expecting this brilliant conclusion, and you give me this? But since I already knew the conclusion and knew how disappointing it is, I was able to brace myself and watch the movie without the deflating "surprise". I honestly think that because of this, I was able to appreciate this film as the unfortunate story of a man's life. Kane was a man that wanted money, power, and to be loved by all. When you think about it, who doesn't want those things? Or at least just two of them? (I want the first two, I could care less if people like me). So I guess what I'm trying to say is that although Kane was a man who led a tumultuous life and went through some things not all of us will experience, he is a highly relatable character that we should feel a little more sympathy for than we do.

Monday, March 2, 2009



So what is a Rock-n-Rolla? The marketing campaign for this film circulated this question through every possible medium, causing a terrible case of "annoying fake British accents" amongst our friends and family (a condition similar to "Borat-itis"). Before RocknRolla was even released, people were buzzing with fake British enthusiasm to find the answer to this question. However, when the film was finally released, we discovered people didn't so much care about finding the true meaning of a "Rock-n-Rolla" as much as they did masquerading as a British person. This is evidenced by the fact that RocknRolla only made about $6 million and never broke into the top 10 at the box office. Even I, who was a fan of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, didn't bother seeing this film. It's a good thing I didn't waste my money. RocknRolla tries to be as fun and charismatic as its predecessors, but falls into a veritable mine field of movie faux pas.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I just watched Schindler's List...

Wow. That's it. That's all I can say. I would love to write a formal review for this film, but there is almost no point. It's just, wow. Schindler's List is without a doubt the most powerful piece of art it has ever been my pleasure to view. It completely redefines the word "powerful". I thought I knew what a "powerful movie" was, but apparently I didn't. I was so hesitant to watch this film because all I could think of was "I have no interest in watching Jews get killed for 3 hours and 13 minutes". I thought it would leave me feeling rather deflated and upset. And yes it has upset me and I do feel a little deflated, but at the same time my life feels richer having seen it. One of the single greatest acts of human kindness proved to be a fantastic film, and to make the situation better, it actually happened! To think that somebody in real life, a nazi no less, could gain such a conscious as to save the very people he was supposed to kill, it's just outstanding. There is nothing anybody can say that will change my mind about this film. It was amazing, nothing less. I'm actually considering never watching it again, because I'm afraid that I won't love it as much the second time.

A confession though: at the very end, as Schindler breaks down in the center of the crowd of the people he freed, and he is crying about how he "could have done more", at first I was touched deeply, but then I started to laugh. Why? Seinfeld. I was immediately brought to the episode of Seinfeld that revolved around Schindler's List. I watched Liam Neeson pour his heart out on film, and I was giggling because I was picturing Judge Reinhold giving the same speech at the airport as he was seeing Jerry's parents off. Damn you, Reinhold. Damn you.