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.