Friday, June 17, 2011

Temporary Hiatus

So my full-time job has officially started and that in addition to my German class leaves me almost no spare time to watch movies, much less review them. So unfortunately the posts will be incredibly infrequent for a while. I'll try to still post one a week or so, though!


Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Confederacy of Dunces

"Fortuna had relented."

Some of you may be thinking: "I've never heard of this movie." Well that's because it's not a movie, but a book. I've decided to temporarily stray from movie reviews to write my thoughts on John Kennedy Toole's novel A Confederacy of Dunces.
The novel tells of the exploits of Ignatius J. Reilly, an educated idealist, yet socially inept and incredibly lazy man of 30 years who lives with his mother, Irene, in New Orleans. After Irene incurs a large amount of debt after a drunk driving debacle, she forces Ignatius to get a job after a lifetime of unemployment. To say that he doesn't succeed in the professional industry is a mammoth of an understatement.
I first attempted to read this book in eighth grade after a recommendation from a teacher. I'm not sure if I got more than 40 pages in the first time around. I stumbled upon the novel recently when I was cleaning out my bookshelf, and, assuming that my reading skills had not yet reached their full potential at fourteen, decided to give it another shot. However, as I began to read, I found, once again, that I was not fond of A Confederacy of Dunces. The story seemed scattered, and worst of all, the protagonist was just about the most obnoxious character ever written into fiction. In fact, none of the characters stuck me as likeable. But, unlike my eighth grade self, I stuck with the book this time, and ended up loving it.
The mistake I had made when I began A Confederacy of Dunces was to assume that I should read it like I would read any other novel. I was trying too hard to analyze the protagonist, to establish his goals or to relate to him in some way. Instead, you really just have to take it at face value, to see the gestalt, so to speak. Only then can you see not only the humor but the serious themes and questions brought up by this novel. For example, the overarching conflict is the contentious relationship between mother and son. Ignatius always criticizes Irene, but never moves out of the house. Similarly, Irene is disgusted with Ignatius' habits, yet caters to his every need. Toole also suggests a correlation between intellectualism and isolation.
The novel really clicked for me a little past the halfway point, when I envisioned what it would be like as a film. I think movies can get away with having a disagreeable and pompous protagonist like Ignatius much better than a novel, if not only due to the difference in duration. Ignatius Reilly would be much easier to handle for two hours that he is in the time it takes to read the 400 page novel. The characters and setting are portrayed very colorfully, and would translate wonderfully into a film. I pictured it like the movie version of Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, quirky and highly stylized. This would mimic the almost overly caricatured characters.
Toole's novel is over the top in almost every sense. But that's what a picaresque novel is, much like Tom Jones or Don Quixote. A Confederacy of Dunces is a witty and profound satire that grows on you slowly: you think you dislike it until you realize how excited you are to read about Ignatius' next undertaking.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Monday, June 6, 2011

Blow Up

"I wish I had tons of money. Then I'd be free."

Michaelangelo Antonioni's Blow Up is a hitchcock-ian plot set against the background of 1960's London in the height of the mod fashion movement. The film is beautifully crafted, but incredibly slow moving.
Thomas, the protagonist, is a successful photographer, but is growing tired of the emptiness of fashion shoots with beautiful yet vapid models. In an attempt to capture something more tied to reality, he photographs two strangers in a park. The woman sees Thomas and desperately attempts to take the film from him. After she follows him home, he fools her and gives her the wrong roll. Thomas then develops and analyzes the actual pictures from the park. In the background, he believes he sees a gunman and a dead body. Thomas spends the rest of the film trying to crack this mystery, which brings us to the ultimate question brought about by Blow Up: How does one distinguish between reality and imagination?
To reinforce this thought, Blow Up has some elements of absurdism. This goes hand in hand with the mod time period. Thomas has very odd mannerisms, and will sometimes just run away or fall onto the floor in the middle of conversations. In addition, there is a brief interlude to the seriousness of Thomas studying his photographs where two young models come to his apartment and all three of them have sex on his floor. The oddest part comes at the end, however. Thomas is in the park where he took the photographs looking for the dead body, but it has disappeared. Suddenly, a car-full of young people dressed as mimes pull up by a tennis court and begin to play with an invisible ball and rackets. When the "ball" goes over the fence, Thomas plays along and throws it back to them. I believe that this is his surrender. He acknowledges that it is not important whether there was or wasn't a murder, or even a body for that matter. The event in the park served one ultimate purpose for Thomas: to remind him of his passion for photography and allow him to look outside the materialistic and superficial culture of his era.
Blow Up is one of those movies that you have to sleep on. I appreciate the film more now than when I was actually watching it. By most people's standards, it is a relatively boring movie. However, its message is solid and the means to portray it are incredibly creative.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Easy Rider

"I never wanted to be anybody else."

When people nowadays watch Easy Rider, it just screams "retro," whereas when it was initially released it was considered exceptionally modern. This film was relatively experimental, even for its time, and filled with lens flares, telephoto zooms and dissonant cuts. What makes Easy Rider so enticing is that the creators, Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda, truly believed in their vision and in their film.
Easy Rider is a visual ballad following two men on a cross-country motorcycle expedition. Along the way they encounter two important strangers, a hitchhiker who takes them to a commune and an idiosyncratic lawyer, played by Jack Nicholson.
The stand-out element in this film by far is the editing. It is almost solely what gives this film its style. When so many movies concentrate on continuity, the disconnects in Easy Rider's cuts are jarring and exciting. The cinematography, by Laszlo Kovacs, is at times breathtaking. There was little artificial light used in the making of this film. Instead, Kovacs brought out the beauty of natural light in the landscape. The musical choices were also great, I mean who doesn't get filled with joy watching two guys ride motorcycles down an open highway with Levon Helm crooning in the background? Oh and also, you can't beat the costume design in this movie. Dennis Hopper's shell necklace and incredible mustache prove my point.
You may want to stop reading now if you haven't seen this film, because I have to discuss the ending. I thoroughly enjoyed the first hour and fifteen minutes or so of Easy Rider. The first 45 minutes are visually stunning, and the next half hour is full of intriguing conversation. But because Jack Nicholson's character is the only truly interesting one in the film, after he is killed, i feel like the plot fell flat. The ending is comprised of a ten minute acid trip in a New Orleans cemetery (that isn't very compelling), and Peter Fonda's character realizing the futility of his and his friend's lives. In the very end, the two men are shot to death on their motorcycles by a couple of hippie-hating locals. I have to say, I don't really get the ending. I feel like the movie would have upheld the same themes if the two men had just continued riding. I mean I guess it shows that the world is filled with hatred? Or that their lives really didn't matter? As far as story goes anyway, the ending was not satisfying at all. If anyone disagrees or would like to give me an interpretation, I would welcome it.
I still enjoyed the majority of Easy Rider, however, as it is a very stylistically innovative and interesting film.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Friday, June 3, 2011

Midnight In Paris

"You're in love with a fantasy."

If there was one movie that would appear on the site "Stuff White People Like," it would probably be Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. This is because the film is brimming with famous Paris sights and historical figures, and everyone in the audience feels special to be able to recognize them (myself and my mother included.) But it's not a bad filmmaking technique: Midnight in Paris is another typically charming romantic comedy from Woody Allen.
To diverge a bit from the topic at hand, while waiting to see Midnight in Paris I had the pleasure of yet again viewing the trailer for Terrence Malick's upcoming film Tree of Life. If the trailer alone can give me goosebumps and almost bring me to tears, I'm kind of scared to see what the whole movie will do to me. But that's out next weekend. So until then we'll focus on the more lighthearted trip through Paris and its history with Owen Wilson.
Wilson plays Gil Pender, a Hollywood script writer turned aspiring novelist. While he is on a trip to France with his fiancée, Ines, he fantasizes about a Parisian life in the 1920s. Later on, he is actually transported to that era, meeting numerous influential musicians, authors, and artists. Through this fantasy, he realizes that he has been unhappy in life not because of the time period in which he lives, but in his outlook and the life decisions he has made.
Wilson is the perfect choice for this role. Every time he meets a new writer or artist like Picasso or Gertrude Stein, his dumbfounded reaction got huge laughs from the audience. The historical figures are almost caricatures of themselves, my personal favorite being Adrian Brody as Salvador Dali (and his obsession with rhinoceroses).
To avoid making this film a whole "time travel" gimmick, there is little attention paid to the logistics of the actual transportation from the present to the 1920s. Unlike other movies where you constantly ask yourself whether the fantastic elements are real or occurring in the head of the protagonist, this question barely crosses your mind in Midnight in Paris. Instead, you are too enamored by the visuals and the characters to really care. And either way, it doesn't really matter to the plot or the themes of the film.
There is a certain universality in this film because almost everyone has had what a character refers to as the "Golden Age Syndrome," or being overly nostalgic and having antipathy towards the present era. Midnight in Paris is a funny and charming film, and it also has a message. However, in the overall scheme of cinema, there is nothing truly unique about it. While it was fun to see famous artists and writers realized on the screen, the film will most likely fade into the background with a lot of Allen's comedies, and is relatively forgettable. But if you're an art history or literature buff, and if you've ever been to Paris, you will probably get a kick out of this movie.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

"If you shoot someone in the head with a .44 caliber every time you kill somebody, it becomes like a fingerprint, you see?"

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is allegedly one of the most violent and disturbing slasher movies out there. Forty-five minutes in, I was "pshaw"-ing this claim. Sure, there was some blood, but nothing that could freak me out enough to make me have to check twice that all the doors are locked. But, to my surprise (and gratification), the last half of this movie packs quite a harrowing punch.
The film is loosely based around the life of Henry Lee Lucas, one of America's most prolific serial killers. He committed gruesome murders across the country with his partner-in-crime, Ottis Toole. Lucas is realized on screen by actor Michael Rooker, and looks like the deranged lovechild of Heath Ledger, Albert Brooks, and Lenny from Of Mice and Men. And I will say, this combination is truly creepy. His bucktoothed yokel friend Otis (the filmmakers omitted the extra "t," probably for legal reasons) is frightening as well, if not only due to how incredibly stupid and impressionable he is.
If any of you have read most of my posts, you may remember that I reviewed Badlands, another film about a killer. Although director John McNaughton is no Malick, I'd watch Henry over Badlands any day. To make a movie about a serial killer, I feel like you just have to have that badass gene. The gene that allows you to put anything on screen, no matter how disturbing or controversial.
One thing I love about this film is that it delves deeply into the pathology behind Henry's killings. Not only do we hear him describe his methods and reasonings to a friend, but we also learn of his traumatic childhood, and how it lead him to becoming a murderer. This film captures a very realistic image of a serial killer; most importantly, introversion and the habituation of the murders. I do wish, however, that the film would have explored Henry's homosexual side a bit more. Instead, it portrayed Henry as almost asexual, or at the least very uncomfortable in a sexual situation.
I think what makes this film so shocking, and what sparked so much debate over its rating by the MPAA, is not the degree of the violence per se, but its unrelenting realism. With the exception of one or two brief moments, the bloodshed that occurs on screen looks completely authentic, and is unencumbered by quick cuts, digital special effects or dramatic music.
This movie, however, is definitely not for everyone. There is explicit rape, sexual assault, and gruesome violence. However, this film shows death and murder as it is, in a very raw and intimate way, which makes the murders doubly chilling.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Repo Man

"Fuck this. Let's go do some crimes."

I never thought I'd find a movie as quotable as Dead Alive or American Physco, but Alex Cox's Repo Man comes very close. This film has some of the wittiest dialogue I've seen in years, and some truly memorable characters. Throw in some violence and sci-fi elements and you've got yourself one truly entertaining movie.
Repo Man follows the young suburban punk Otto, played by Emilio Estevez, as he accidentally falls into the company of car reposessors. One day, and unusually large reward is placed on a Chevy Malibu. Unbeknownst to the repo men, the trunk of the car is housing the highly desired and highly dangerous decaying bodies of four extraterrestrials.
Almost everything about his movie is interesting, from the plot and characters to the setting. Having production designed a few student films, I really admire how the filmmakers created a very believable, dystopian yet realistic world in which this film occurs, right down to the brand of food on the shelves of every market. The clean, white boxes and labels are a contrast to Otto's gritty crime-filled world, and they highlight the clean suburban world of the so-called "ordinary fucking people" around them. A prominent message in Repo Man (as hackneyed as it sounds) is to live dangerously, take risks, and do whatever the fuck you want.
The first scene in the film sets it up to be filled with over-the-top comic violence. However, most of the violent scenes in the film are quite realistic. I think this is because while the filmmakers wanted the viewer to have fun while watching Repo Man, they also intended for the film to be taken somewhat seriously. It isn't another Evil Dead or Army of Darkness. Repo Man is a well-acted, incredibly well-written, and surprisingly thoughtful film. Harry Dean Stanton and Emilio Estevez have an amazing rapport, and they compliment each other and the rest of the cast very well.
I'm still not quite sure how I feel about the way this film ends. I'm glad that the kooky hippie character plays a prominent role, as he was mt favorite of the repo men. However, I will say that it was the slightest bit cheesy. Even for a movie about people hunting for dead aliens in the trunk of a car.
Repo Man is provocative, has an incredible verisimilitude, great dialogue, great characters, and just the right amount of violence. The ending is the only thing keeping it from five stars.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Monday, May 30, 2011

Blow Out

"Pigs, vultures... what, did you swallow a whole box of animal crackers?"

I added this film to my Netflix queue mistaking it at first for Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow Up. When I found out that I was instead going to be watching another Brian De Palma thriller, I was a bit worried. I didn't know that the two films were loosely related, or that Blow Out would turn out pretty damn decent.
Possibly original at the time (but now seems a bit contrived because of the Scream franchise) Blow Out begins with a movie-inside-a-movie. It is then revealed that the protagonist, Jack, is the sound editor at a studio that manufactures soft-core slasher porn flicks. While Jack is off recording effects one night, he witnesses a car accident that ends up killing a prominent governor. He catches it all on tape, and begins a conspiracy theory that the crash was not simply a freak accident, but an assassination.
While this is more or less a typical thriller, it is quite a bit of fun to watch and has a surprisingly complex plot. Brian De Palma really found a perfect stylistic balance between over the top 70's effects and boring and unoriginal cinematography. De Palma uses split-screen in the beginning to set up a fast paced tone. There are also shots with such deep focus that they become dreamlike, adding to the suspense and mystery. The climax of the film takes place during a firework show at a liberty celebration. This scene is one of the most visually stunning uses of colored gels I have seen yet, as the light from the multi-toned fireworks reflect onto the characters faces.
One thing that did bother me about this film, however, is the vapid and uninteresting female love interest, Sally. The drama of the situation did prevent any romance from truly developing, however. Both Sally and Jack have relatively flat personalities. They are defined by what is happening to them, rather than their nature. So I would say character development is the one stand-out weakness in this film. In contrast, one of the greatest thing about Blow Out is the ending. I love the technique of bookending a film. I wish I could talk about this ending without giving anything away. I will say though, it is an incredibly bleak punchline of sorts that mirrors the initial scene in a very clever way.
And so, unlike Sisters, the first movie I reviewed on this blog, Brian De Palma creates a memorable, suspenseful, and stylistic thriller (with just a few flaws) in Blow Out.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Sunday, May 29, 2011


"It's America... cars smashing into each other and all those mangled corpses!"

I can't imagine how hard it must have been to write the script for Nashville. If I were to have read it, not knowing that it was to be directed by Robert Altman, I would have predicted it would come out a scattered mess. It's true what they say about Altman: he really does break all the conventional rules of moviemaking. About half of the shots are so dark you have to squint to see what's going on, the dialogue overlaps or is too quiet to hear, the plot does not move toward one specific goal or end point, and there are far too many characters. But as always, Altman gets away with it.
Nashville takes place over the course of a few days in the mid-seventies, around the time of the Grand Ol' Opry and the presidential primaries. The film follows the occasionally intertwining stories of about 25 musicians, fans, politicians, and their friends or family members. I love the way Altman introduces his characters. Some of them walk in the frame for a few seconds, heads faced away from the cameras. If they weren't famous actors, like Shelley Duvall and Jeff Goldlum, you could easily mistake them for extras.
Another interesting thing about Nashville is that about 1/3 of the running time is comprised of musical numbers, all written specifically for the film. Because of this, its 2 hour and 40 minute length is very appropriate: it plays in parts almost like a concert. Nashville has been called a satire of the would of country music, but I really don't feel like Altman is making an attempt to mock the industry. Instead, it plays not only as a celebration of the genre and its fans, but also as a reflection of the political, social, and musical turmoil that was occurring at the time the film was made. Thus, Nashville has a somewhat tragic tone to it that continues to develop as the film approaches its climax.
Because of the depth and intricacy of this film, I feel like I can hardly scratch the surface. But one thing stood out to me the most. Just like many other Altman films, Nashville is not concerned with specifics. Each individual line or character does not matter on its own. Instead, much like the ideas of the Soviet montage movement, this film is about the interplay of the characters, their environment, and their effects on each other. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, so to speak.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

PS: Dad, I hope you're not mad I didn't give it the full 5. That's reserved for Short Cuts and McCabe and Mrs. Miller.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D

"I am a scientist... but I am a human too."

Remember the days when the best part about
going to the theater to see a movie was watching the previews? Well now every time I sit through them, I have to contemplate my decision to go into the film industry. You'd think they would at least advertise decent movies in the screening of rogue director Werner Herzog's new documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Instead I had to watch clips of Jim Carrey dancing with CG penguins and Tom Hanks on a motorcycle. Worst of all, there is a new inspirational film coming out about a dolphin with no tail learning to swim. It's called Dolphin Tale. Now what self-respecting person would make such a horrible pun?
On the bright side, Herzog, one my personal favorites, continues to prove that the art of cinema is not yet extinct (and that 3D might not be all bad). He has strayed off course a few times, but I've always admired the intimacy and humility of Herzog's films. He has incredible passion for his subject matter. To make Cave of Forgotten Dreams, he acquired a permit to film in a location that was previously exclusive to very few archaeologists and art historians, the Chauvet Cave in southern France. This cave contains the oldest cave art yet discovered, dating as far back as 30,000 BC.
While I still don't enjoy watching a movie through badly fitting plastic glasses, this is probably the most thoughtful use of 3D I've seen in any feature film. Herzog wants to show us not a representation of the cave, but the reality of the cave and the dynamism of the paintings. The sight of the paintings, mineral formations, and ancient bones were all breathtaking to say the least. It is ironic that I get more emotional watching crude, flat charcoal paintings than from a sappy tearjerker, but the 3D really captured the expressiveness in the eyes of the animals, and drew a bridge between civilizations tens of thousands of years apart. This is by far the most powerful idea brought about by the film.
In a postscript to Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Herzog contrasts modern man and the ancient civilizations that produced the art in the Chauvet Cave by showing us a nearby nuclear power plant. The water that is used to cool the reactors is diverted, creating a a contained warm-water tropical environment. He spends an especially long time filming a few albino alligators living in this biodome. While I didn't really get his metaphor comparing these alligators to man, this sequence was so charmingly Herzog that I couldn't help but love it.
If you can get yourself to the nearest theater that is showing this film in 3D, I would highly recommend it. Herzog aced it with Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a truly unique cinematic experience.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Friday, May 27, 2011

Glengarry Glen Ross

"Put. That. Coffee. Down. Coffee is for closers only."

If I had to give a 14-word description of Glengarry Glen Ross, it would be: a modern-day noir-esque Death of a Salesman with more swearing than The Big Lebowski. Given the ensemble cast, with great actors from Alec Baldwin to Jack Lemmon, it would be very hard for this film to disappoint.
Glengarry Glen Ross, directed by James Foley, is all about the writing (which is very appropriate, seeing as sales is all about talking). The film opens with a very funny monologue from Alec Baldwin’s character, a corporate hotshot brought in to motivate jaded real estate salesmen. This is the high point of comedy in the film, however, as the rest consists the both professional and emotional decline of the employees of the company, and the decline of the company itself.
I feel as though this movie made only a halfhearted attempt at the film noir style. It would have been interesting to see the filmmakers either take this idea all the way, or abandon it completely, because it feels like it is in a stylistic gray area. That being said, I loved the use of rain in the beginning to set the initial tone, and the sound of the train passing in the background whenever someone was yelling especially loudly.
As far as storyline, Glengarry Glen Ross is definitely a tragedy, if not solely due to Jack Lemmon’s character Shelley Levene, an aging salesman who can never be as good at his job as he used to be. My mom drew a comparison between Shelley and Gil, the token unsuccessful businessman on “The Simpsons” (later on we found out that Gil is actually based on Lemmon’s character.)
The interesting thing about the portrayal of the characters is that we are barely given a glimpse into their lives outside their jobs. It is almost as if they exist solely as underpaid, under-appreciated employees, working to sell land that doesn’t exist to people who don’t want to invest. I think this is the point of the film: the author’s criticism of the modern-day labor force and its ultimately dehumanizing powers.
Glengarry Glen Ross is a well-made and well-acted film. But because it is mostly dialogue-based and has very few locations, I think it probably works better for stage, the medium in which it was originally written.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


"If I could sing a song about the way I feel right now, it would be a hit."

I was reluctant to start watching Terrence Malick's Badlands because I thought I'd be in for another sprawling epic like Days of Heaven. But when my mom informed me that it was only an hour and a half long and about a 1950's midwestern spree killer, I got really excited (those of you that know me at all will know why).
Ultimately I was disappointed in this movie. But before I get to the bad, I'll mention the good. While it wasn't as visually stunning as some of Malick's other films, it had great cinematic moments. For example, the first instant we see the killer-to-be Kit Carruthers' gun peeking out of his back pocket as he sneaks into the house of his young girlfriend, Holly, to drag her away from her protective father is shocking and exciting. And [semi-spoiler alert] the sound of piano keys buckling under the pressure of gasoline when Kit burns down Holly's house is so brilliant it almost had to have come about by accident.
My favorite part in the movie is when the two lovers are on the run and live for a while in the woods. These segments are so wonderfully whimsical. I mean isn't that all anyone really wants out of life, to live in a secluded treehouse with your true love, fishing and stealing fruit from a nearby melon patch?
Despite this, I think Malick isn't really cut out to make movies about murderers. His style is perfect for those aforementioned sprawling epics, but it just lacks spark and pacing for this type of storyline; spark that films like The Honeymoon Killers have, for example. The romance between the protagonists seems flat and unbelievable. Malick barely made an attempt to explore the depths of what went on in the characters' heads. He may have been trying to portray the emptiness inside of killers like Kit Carruthers, but I don't think it translates well onto the screen.
While I was underwhelmed, all of you who aren't serial killer buffs might like this film more than I did.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Au Revoir, Les Enfants

"Do you realize there will never be another January 17th, 1944?"

I'd been meaning to watch Louis Malle's autobiographical Au Revoir, Les Enfants for some time now, but I had no idea I was in for such a painfully heart-wrenching story. This is the kind of movie that makes me feel senseless for having given Robocop such a high rating.
Au Revoir, Les Enfants tells the story of a young boy, Julien Quentin, in a Catholic boarding school in the middle of Nazi-occupied France. After some initial tension, he befriends an introverted new student, Jean Bonnet. In the weeks that follow, Julien is forced to look outside his sheltered and privileged lifestyle to see the horrors that are occurring at the hands of the Nazis.
I don't know what it is, but there are so few boarding school movies/books I dislike. If..., Young Törless, Dead Poets Society, Lord of The Flies (does this qualify?). I think it's that they seem to be self-contained societies, with their own hierarchy and the friendships that arise within them that makes the stories so affecting. The relationship between Jean and Julien is no exception. If any film embodies the poignant innocence and integrity of the child, this is the one. Saying any more about what happens between the two boys might be a spoiler, so I'll stop here.
What really I love about Au Revoir, Les Enfants is the subtlety in its portrayal of the inhumanity of the Holocaust. It does this much better, in my opinion, than any film could that shows explicit images and violence. And in addition to the highly moving storyline, the film is beautifully shot. So in other words, there really is no reason not to see it. And then see every other film Louis Malle has made. You won't regret it.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


"Tastes like baby food!"

I don't know how Peter Weller does so little with his face and still manages to be such a great actor. I guess it's his expressionlessness that gives him character. And also what makes him perfectly convincing as Robocop.
To quickly summarize, Paul Verhoeven's Robocop takes place sometime in the future in crime-ridden Detroit. The police force is relatively weak compared to the criminals, and a big corporation decides to market robot police officers. When there are setbacks in the plan, they decide they must create a hybrid human-robot that embodies the best of both worlds.
The film certainly doesn't waste any time getting into the action. The first robot (the hilariously stop-motion animated ED-209), malfunctions within seconds of his introduction. And the transformation from Officer Murphy to Robocop takes just one quick cut. This leaves plenty of time for campy violence and quotable one-liners. Which is of course the reason people watch this film in the first place.
Now I might be biased because I am a huge fan of camp (yes, Peter Jackson's Dead Alive is in my top ten), but I thought this movie was pretty fun overall. Apart from the fact that I am getting a little mad at Netflix. The quality of their streaming films is awful. And the DVDs always seem to skip, this time making me me miss the scene where Robocop comes face-to-face with his murderer. Luckily though, this film is not very plot driven, so I put together the pieces pretty easily.
I wish I was able to see Robocop when it came out, back when no one really had computers, because I'm sure it would've seemed super innovative. Nonetheless, I think it passes the test of time and holds up wonderfully.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Before Sunrise

"It's a totally scattered thought - which is kind of why it makes sense."

Having seen both Richard Linklater's Waking Life and Dazed and Confused, I was extremely glad to discover that Before Sunrise is more akin to the former. The plot is simple, two strangers, Jesse and Celine, meet on a train, become infatuated, and spend a romantic night together in Vienna. However, the beauty of this film is not in plot, character, or aesthetics, but rather in its universality. I'll try to explain.
The film is wonderfully structured: it begins when the characters meet, and ends when they part. We know nothing of their lives or their worlds outside of their relationship with one another. Thus we are experiencing the events that occur in the film exactly as the characters are. Similarly to how I felt about Waking Life, Linklater and his co-writer Kim Krizan create characters that eloquently articulate things that everyone has thought about, but has not really known how to put into words. This is where I come back to the concept of universality. Whereas Waking Life demonstrates the universality of thought, Before Sunrise demonstrates the universality of love. Everyone who has felt love can't not relate to Celine and Jesse or the situation at hand.
So apart from what the poster to the right might hint at, Before Sunrise is not a standard-cheesy romance film like The Notebook or Amelie or Casablanca. Even though it is about a girl who gets off a train in a foreign city with a total stranger to spend a night with him (and ends up falling hopelessly in love in the course of a few hours,) it feels entirely real. Their emotions and conversations are incredibly human and relatable. And despite Ethan Hawke's weasel-y and obnoxious disposition, you end up falling in love with him just like Celine.
But I warn you, don't watch this movie if you're feeling lonely, because you'll get really jealous of the characters and end up just feeling worse. Apart from that though, this is definitely a movie worth seeing. Oh and also. There's a sequel. Which will be making an appearance on this blog very soon.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


"That's how I got so sick - SOMEONE CALLED ME ON THE TELEPHONE!!"

I will remember Brian De Palma's Sisters not for its suspense or exploration of the psychological effects of being a conjoined twin, but rather the most unrealistic fake blood I have ever seen. So, unlike Carrie, another De Palma film, I wouldn't really call this a horror film, but the mystery of it at the least compelled me watch until the end.
You know how sometimes you can't tell if something from the past is cool because it is actually cool or it just seems that way because it's from a different time period? Well either way, stylistically, I loved De Palma's use of split-screen (from which I think Danny Boyle may have gotten inspiration.) I had never seen it used for such a long amount of time, especially with the same action occurring at different angles. This was probably my favorite thing about this film, due to the lack of depth of themes and characters, the mediocre acting and the unsatisfying ending. In the first half, Sisters seems as if it will have great potential, but just sort of fizzles out by the end, and takes itself a little too seriously (also unlike Carrie).
Overall, Sisters might be worth watching if you are in the mood for killing an hour or so on a pretty shallow suspense film.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars