Monday, October 24, 2005

Random Reviews - Late '05

The following reviews were done on a whim in late 2005. I obviously hadn't committed to a routine or level of quality yet in my writing, but here they are anyway...

A History Of Violence - This movie was different from any other movie I've ever seen, but we'll get back to that in a second.  This is the first Viggo Mortensen joint I've seen since Return Of The King.  He plays a guy that runs a coffee shop/restaurant in a small town who foils a robbery in his store.  When his face is plastered all over the news as a hero, some gentlemen from the mob show up claiming he's someone he's not.  Is he or isn't he?  That's the question.  Now most movies involve a conflict, correct?  I think it's pretty safe to say that that's true.  There's usually something that the main character has to achieve.  Well that's not so true in this movie (which is based off of a graphic novel by Vince Locke and John Wagner).  Since main character is either denying that he's who the mob guys say he is or truly isn't who they say, the movie is less about the main character's goal than the dudes who are after him.  Then, when the final conflict comes, having never seen Viggo's enemy until the very end, it just isn't satisfying to see them confront each other because the whole time we had no idea that they were enemies.  Of course, after the confrontation in question the movie ended, much to my surprise as not much seemed to have been achieved.  Add into the mix that there were some overly graphic sex scenes, and I just plain didn't care for the movie all that much.  I mean if there's a reason to have some sex in a movie, whatever, but in a story about the mob and redemption it didn't seem necessary for there to be a "69" in there.

Memories - What we have here is a collection of three short anime films, all based off of short sci-fi stories written by Akira creatorKatsuhiro Otomo.  The first of the three stories, called Magnetic Rose, was my personal favorite.  It's about a small crew of men on a space ship who find the remains of several destroyed space ships and investigate, hoping to find something to salvage.  The animation was spectacular, and the story is interesting and provacative, bringing to mind the works of such writers as Phillip K. Dick and many of those who worked on Creepy & Eerie during the time of it's publication.  The second story is called Stink Bomb.  It's about a guy who works at a pharmaceutical company.  He accidentally takes an expirimental drug being developed by the government that causes the subject to emit extremely large amounts of a severely potent poisonous gas.  Not knowing why everyone around him is dying and not realizing how dangerous he is, this man attempts to travel to the nearest city.  When the government realizes what a danger this is, they try to stop him but find that it's not as easy as it may sound.  A more light-hearted piece, Stink Bomb contained some irony that reminded me a lot of some of the early mini-series put out by Vertigo comics, especially those by Ted McKeever.  The third short, directed by Otomo, is called Cannon Fodder and takes place on a world inhabited by beings that devote their lives to firing giant cannons into the sky at an enemy that the viewer never sees.  The sheer mystery behind the goings-on in this one makes it hard to pull your eyes from the screen.  This one will leave you pondering well after you'e finished watching it.  Altogether a very good dvd.  I just wish that it was dubbed in English.

Domino - Have you ever heard a song in which the vocalist's voice is altered with a computer to make it sound kind of "techno-ey" and neat?  Then, have you ever heard a song where they use that effect waaaaaaaaaaaaay too much and it just ruins the experience?  Well if say, Saving Private Ryan is that neat song with little weird things like how it's tinted grayish-brown and how the music takes over the sound effects at the end to make it more dramatic, Domino is that song that would be really cool if there wasn't so much that's overdone with wacky shit.  Director Tony Scott went fuckin' balls out on this movie to the point that it will sometimes take you out of the experience with all the weird, unnecessary visuals.  Aside from that I have few complaints.  It isn't the greatest story ever, but it's far from the worst.  However, as it's based on a true story, due to the amount of things that they obviously changed or added, they probably would have done just fine to leave the "This is based on a true story" screen at the beginning out completely.  This is a movie that was worth seeing once, but I will not be too disappointed if I never see it again.

Perfect Blue - This is an anime about a pop star turned actress who is being stalked by someone with a multiple personality.  Mima's stalker thinks that he/she (I'm not telling) is in fact Mima, and that Mima is someone impersonating her and giving her a bad reputation by being in films and television shows of questionable integrity.  It was a fairly good movie.  Nothing special anuimation-wise.  Actually, I kind of felt that the story would have been portrayed better had it been a live-action movie instead of an anime.

Layer Cake - The much-praised directorial debut of Matthew Vaughan.  Vaughan was the producer of both Snatch and Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels.  Both of those are fantastic movies.  Layer Cake is fairly similar to those movies in premise, but is less comical and more serious.  The story was sub-par in my opinion.  Personally my favorite aspect of the movie was the direction, which you can tell was influenced greatly by Guy Ritchie (who directed Snatch and Lock Stock).  Not something I'd particularly want to own, but worth a watch if you like crime flicks.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Random Reviews - Mid '05

The following reviews were done on a whim in mid 2005. I obviously hadn't committed to a routine or level of quality yet in my writing, but here they are anyway...

The Brave Little Toaster - I was driving down the road with my homies Brian, Ricky, and Margaret the other night when the urge to watch this movie suddenly hit me out of nowhere.  True Story.  This used to be one of my favorite movies when I was a kid along with The Little Shop Of Horrors, Ghostbusters, and The American Rabbit.  Watching it now, it seems a bit more strange than I remembered it.  There are some pretty violent scenes in which appliances which are given human characteristics are destroyed or killed, as well as a scene at the film's climax in which the human that the Brave Little Toaster and his friends spend the duration of the movie searching for is almost crushed to death in a trash compactor.  I honestly still enjoyed the movie despite my being a good bit past it's target audience's age range.

Saved - Having borrowed this from my buddy Brian at the beginning of the summer, I just got around to watching it a few hours ago.  This movie was fairly ridiculous, but not completely bad.  However, I was honestly more interested in the side story involving a wheel chair-ridden Macauley Culkin and the school bad girl than the main plot line.  Jena Malone is cute though, so I can't dislike it too much.

Igby Goes Down - Wow!  I've just surprised myself.  I was just over at the Internet Movie DataBase looking up this movie so's I could link to it, and I discovered that it was released in 2002.  I though it was considerably older than that...huh...Anyways, I borrowed this from me friend Brian a while ago and gave it a watch.  I wasn't ecstatic about it, but it was good.  The box described it as "The best coming of age film since The Graduate" (more on that in a little while), so I guess you can classify it as a coming of age film.  It's basically about a kid who doesn't know what he wants to do with his life, but what he does know is that he doesn't want to do what anyone tells him to.  Bill Pullman, Kieran Culkin, Amanda Peet, Jeff Goldblum, and Claire Danes are all very good in this movie.  Especially Kieran Culkan.  Also of note are Ryan Phillipe and Susan Sarandon.  My only real problem with the movie was the ending.  It seemed like there wasn't one.  I really felt like we should have gotten a little more of Igby's story.  But maybe that's just me...

Batman Begins - Anyone who knows me knows that while I'm a huge comic book nerd, I dislike Batman (excluding the early to mid-nineties cartoon series).  Anyone who I've spoken to about this movie prior to it's release knows that I felt that while it was going to be better than any of the original four Batman movies, it would still fall short of such recent comic book movies as Spiderman 2 and X-Men 2.  I will officially and proudly eat my words on this one.  This movie amazed me.  I place it up there with the likes of the movies I just mentioned as one of the best comic book adaptations of all time.  Christian Bale proved me wrong, the bat-mobile proved me wrong, the Scarecrow (while deserving of more screen time than he got) proved me wrong, Batman's origin (while differing quite a bit from the original story from the comics) proved me wrong...I still don't like the character, but this movie is well worth your time.

Jurassic Park - Yes, I have seen this movie before.  Several times in fact.  But not in the last six or seven years, I'd wager.  I was particularly amazed to find that despite the fact that this movie was released 12 years ago, the special effects still stand up.  The dinosaurs all looked just as real as they did back in 1993.  Unfortunately the second and third films in the series can't hold a candle to the original (especially the third, which doesn't even deserve the name 'Jurassic Park').

The Machinist - I remember hearing, when this movie was about to come out, about how much weight Christian Bale had lost to play the main role.  I never imagined how skinny he would actually turn out to be!  He looked like he was about to keel over and die!  This was especially jarring since I had just seen Batman Begins (in which Bale plays the title character) less than a week before, and he had an exceptional physique.  In addition to his appearance, Bale's performance as a machine operator who hasn't slept in a full year trying to uncover the mystery of his own past was one of the best I've seen in a while.  I was totally convinced that Christian Bale was the character he was playing.  While this movie had numerous interesting ideas, great direction, and superb acting, the plot fell apart for me at the end.  I just can't enjoy movies like this anymore, having seen Fight Club...

The Graduate - I rented this movie based on the recommendation from the back of the box of Igby Goes Down.  Now, I don't usually watch really old movies.  Usually I only venture back to about the very late seventies (i.e. Alien and Star Wars: A New Hope).  This movie, however, is from 1967.  I didn't find it hard to make it through the film, but it was very strange to me.  There were bad cuts and edits that the filmmakers just let go, the music was noticably repetetive and sometimes poorly placed, the diaolog was unbelievable at some points, while hilarious and thoughtful at others.  Overall (since the comparison was made for me) I think I liked Igby more.  My biggest problem with this movie was the plot.  Towards the end it became completely unbelievable.  However, I now have a better understanding of the ending to a certain episode of the Simpsons...

Elektra - Wow, what a huge piece of shit.  Personally I think this movie was completely unnecessary.  The movie that Elektra is a spin-off of (Daredevil) was a big piece of shit, and this one follows suit nicely.  The premise of the character Elektra is cool.  She's a heartless assassin.  The people who made this movie chose to take the essence of the comic book character, smash it into a million pieces, and reassemble it as they saw fit.  Unfortunately what they "saw fit" was a buddy comedy starring a hired assassin and a little girl who is secretly training to be an assassin.  Yes.  Shit.

Boiler Room - Completely not what I expected.  This is a good thing.  Having little to no idea what this movie was going in, I found it to be quite interesting.  I'm not really the biggest fan of Giovanni Ribisi, but he held his own well enough in the lead role.  Also, this movie probably has Vin Diesel's best acting role to date because he doesn't go near a weapon at any time during the duration of the film.  Overall, worth a watch.

Imaginary Heroes - I'm probably one of very few people who can say that they were looking forward to this movie.  Hence, if you haven't heard of this one, don't be surprised.  I was interested in this movie for three reasons: 1) It looked sort of like American Beauty.  2) It has Jeff Daniels in a serious role (i.e. Pleasantville). and 3) It had The Postal Service in the trailer.  In the end, this movie managed to be different enough from what I thought it was going to be that it surprised me, and it completely lived up to my expectations.  And keep in mind, I was comparing it to American Beauty before even seeing it.  My recommendation is that you see this movie as soon as possible.

National Lampoon's Gold Diggers - It seems like every time I go into Blockbuster (or any movie rental place for that matter) there's a new National Lampoon movie out that I've never heard of prior to it's appearance on the racks at said store.  This movie is the exception to that statement.  I saw a trailer for this.  It looked kind of funny, but I never had any intention of bothering to see it.  It was only due to the request of my pal Ricky that we rented this movie.  Overall it was a standard teen comedy.  It had it's moments though.  If there's nothing better to see, this will tide you over.  Plus it's got Will Friedle!

D.E.B.S. - If anyone can tell me what "D.E.B.S." stands for, I'd love to know.  Even after watching the movie I'm not sure what the teenage super-spy agency it's about is really called.  I only really watched this movie because there's lots of hot babes in skirts in it and Maxim said it was good.  There were moments that made me chuckle.  Mostly they were due to Jimmi Simpson's character, Scud.  The movie isn't completely unwatchable, because despite the ridiculous plot and bad special effects, there's lots of scenes with Elizabeth Banks and Jordana Brewster making out.

Thursday, June 2, 2005

Primer Review

The title of this blog is Primer.  That is also the title of the movie I have just watched.  Primer is one of those movies that you don't anticipate for months or see eight hundred trailers and commercials for.  It's one of those movies (at least for me) that you just sort of happen upon.  Like some constellations aligned in a certain pattern just so you'd end up seeing a movie that will affect you in such a way that you're glad the powers that be took all the extra effort to get it in front of you.  Example:

A few weeks ago before I came home to Maryland for the summer, my sister and I bought tickets for my parents to see Hairspray in New York.  So my sister, her boyfriend, and my parents all took a little trip to NYC.  While there I saw some fellas putting up posters on a wall that advertised the new issue of Giant Magazine.  I caught a glimpse of the cover (featuring Katie Holmes) and knew I had to have it.  Obtaining a copy became my goal for the day, and I succeeded in this goal.  Approximately a three weeks later (that'd be this past Monday-ish) I got around to reading said magazine and found a little "What's Hot and What's Not"-esque article featuring a two sentence review of Primer which reads (The following quote is hidden because it contains some information that you'd probably be better off not knowing if you intend to see the movie, but if you wanna read it, just highlight the gray area to reveal the text.  You've been warned.):

"A fun, low-budget movie about regular guys who invent a time-travel machine.  Ignore the technobabble in the opening scenes and enjoy the ride."

Then, it just so happens that that night I ended up in Blockbuster video with a pal-o-mine by the name of Ricky, and we had a two-for-one coupon, but only one thing to rent.  Primer caught my eye, and after reading the description on the back of the box I knew I wanted to see it.

I finally got around to watching it today, and wow...

You know that feeling you get when you're watching a movie by yourself and it's dark out and it's really cool but in an odd sort of way, then you get to the credits and you're paralyzed just sitting there thinking about how cool what you just watched was?  That's what this movie did to me.  If this feeling is foreign to you, other movies that have done this to me were Se7en, Fight Club, and Blowin' Smoke (or as I knew it then, Freak Talks About Sex).

So, basically, my recommendation is that if you like the same kinds of movies that I have listed in the "Favorite Movies" section on my page, or at least appreciate a good sci-fi (and we're talking sci-fi as in cool ideas and theories, not cool fight scenes and special effects) that you should see this movie ASAP.  End of story.

P.S. - If after seeing the movie (after, mind you...don't ruin it for'll thank me later) you are a little confused (and you probably will be), check out the official site to get a little more insight on what you've just seen at P R I M E R M O V I E.

Sunday, March 6, 2005

Random Reviews - Early '05

The following reviews were done on a whim in early 2005. I obviously hadn't committed to a routine or level of quality yet in my writing, but here they are anyway...

12 Angry Men (1957) - Quite a good movie. They made a remake in 1997 with Jack Lemmon and Tony Danza. To be honest I can't decide which version I like better. Both are so similar that it makes for a tough choice. I would recommend both versions to anyone who's interested.

Magnolia - I rented this on a whim as I had a two for one coupon for Blockbuster and planned to get both versions of 12 Angry Men. However they only had the original and I'd never seen this so I figured "what the hey?" All in all I found the movie (although long) to be very interesting. My only problem with the movie was the ending which I'm not going to give away here. A warning though to viewers who have yet to see this movie: get ready to suspend your disbelief.

L.A. Confidential - If you haven't seen this movie, you really must. Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce are amazing in their scenes together in this movie. This movie is packed with great actors though such as Danny DeVito, Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger, and James Cromwell. All I can say is that having just seen this for the first time last year I can't believe it took me so long to see it. Great movie.

Identity - The first time I saw this movie was right after it was released on dvd. I rented it and liked it so much that I went out and bought it. This is the first time I've seen it since then and I must say that it wasn't as good as I remembered it. I have a feeling this was due to the fact that I already knew the surprise ending.

Boogie Nights - After watching Magnolia I was discussing it with one of the fellas I live with here in New Jersey (by the name of Scott Ewen) who didn't like it. It was during this conversation that he told me that of all of P.T. Andersons movies that he'd seen, this is the only one he found at all interesting. I too found it to be quite good. Especially during the scene where Heather Graham gets nekkid. Aside from that though the movie gives an interesting behind the scenes look at the adult film industry. All in all I think I liked Magnolia better though...except for that ending...

Apt Pupil - I've wanted to see this for a long time and it only barely got beaten out by Magnolia last time I went to Blockbuster to rent something. It was well worth my money though as it is incredibly acted and directed. Director Bryan Singer and actor Ian Mckellan especially left an impact on me. Highly recommended.

Pleasantville - I've seen this movie a number of times but just bought it because it was on sale for $9.99. This movie is all around great but I especially think that William H. Macys acting in the court scene in the end is incredibly moving. If nothing else this movie delivers amazing visuals as colors begin to enter a black and white world. This movie comes very, very highly recommended from me.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Constantine Review

SPOILER WARNING - I give a good bit of the movie away here, so read with caution if you haven’t seen the movie and intend to.

So I saw Constantine the day it opened. That’d be February 18th, 2005. I was quite disappointed. Perhaps it was because I was a fan of the comic before I saw the movie. Oh, perhaps nothing...that is why I didn’t like it. I was accompanied by two other people; one male, one female, one a comic book fan, one not, and neither of whom knew anything about the comic book Hellblazer before seeing the movie. And they both (and I quote) “loved it”. Albeit I’ve just begun reading the Hellblazer comic books in the last few months I feel that I have a pretty good handle on it. I’ve read 3/4 of the trades or so including “Dangerous Habits” by Garth Ennis which the movie is loosely based on. Here are the problems I found with the film Constantine.

The Plot:
The portion of the movie that was new (i.e. the stuff not taken from “Dangerous Habits”) wasn’t all that bad in my opinion. However I feel that the stuff taken from Garth Ennis’ first storyarc of the comic was poorly represented in many cases. First of all we get the idea in the beginning of the movie that Constantine has lung cancer. Then until the final confrontation at the end of the film it’s almost not mentioned again. Second that very confrontation which I just mentioned pales in comparison to the one in the fifth issue of Dangerous Habits. I got that feeling where you recognize someone, but you don’t know where from. Overall I feel that if I hadn’t read the comics (or at least not Dangerous Habits) that I would have found the movie much more enjoyable. But in comparison I just don’t think it stacks up.

The Setting:
The fact that the movie takes place in Los Angeles as opposed to London like in the comic book is a HUGE difference. However aside from the ways that the characters were affected by the change (i.e. Constantine’s accent; or lack thereof) this didn’t bother me all that much. This may be due to the fact that Constantine has traveled to the U.S. on several occasions in the comic (and occasionally to L.A. such as in the Mike Carey penned “Hellblazer: All His Engines”).

Where’s the accent? In case you didn’t know, John Constantine is very much English and sports the accent to prove it. In the movie this fact was tossed away like so much useless garbage. At no time during the movie does Constantine call anyone “Squire” or use the terms “taking the piss” or “bollocks” which (in my opinion at least) robs the audience of a large portion of the experience of witnessing John Constantine’s life. Where’s the blonde hair? Where’s the tan trench coat? These two things may not seem all that important. Look at any cool anti-hero and what will you see? The color black all over them. Dark hair, dark clothing, et cetera. In my opinion, two of the things about Constantine that really separate him from all the other “bad” good guys out there are the hair and the coat. He doesn’t seem all that dark until you get to know him. Tatoos? Since when? Not since the comics; that’s for sure. Then there’s the lighter. This may also not seem very important but in the comics Constantine does not have a zippo which he can whip out at any given time. My main problem with this is that it’s cliche. Zippos are cool. I think that’s the only reason he has one in the movie. Pointless...

In the movie Chaz is a child. Why? In the comic he’s in his forties, married, and has a daughter. What the shit was the point in changing that? The only similarities between the comic book version and the movie representation of the character are the hair color and the fact that he drives a cab. In the comic book Chaz neither wants anything to do with/nor cares at all about John’s knowledge of magic. In the movie it would appear that Chaz is to Constantine as Robin is to Batman which couldn’t be further from the truth. Also, in the film Chaz seems to be somewhat of a hesitant wuss whereas in the comic he is trained in several forms of hand to hand combat and has saved/stood up for Constantine’s ass numerous times. Then to top all of that off in the movie Chaz dies! He is very much not dead in the comic. Now, I didn’t stay for the credits myself, but the word on the street is that after the credits there is a scene in which Chaz turns into an’-tarded!

The Effects:
All around the movie was very pretty. I wasn’t all that big of a fan of the action scenes though as there really aren’t any to speak of in the comics. I especially felt that the fight with the “bug demon” in the streets towards the beginning of the film was forced upon the audience.

Keanu Reeves:
Bearable. I know a lot of people claim that he can’t act but if this movie achieved anything I think that it proved those people wrong. Aside from the changes the character went through during the transformation from page to screen I think that Keanu was a worthy choice for the role.

Shia LeBeouf:
Absolutely the wrong choice for this role. Maybe if this movie were made about twenty years in the future he’d have been able to pull of Chaz. I liked him in The Battle of Shaker Heights, but not here.

Rachel Weisz:
Quite attractive. I couldn’t have been more happy when Constantine said the words “fully submerged”. Unless of course he’d answered yes when she asked him if she had to take more of her clothes off to go to hell.