Monday, December 31, 2007

Top 10 of 2007 as of the last day in December

There are a couple of write ups that I have to do but I've decided to put that to the side and do what I consider to be the top 10 of 2007 for now. Later on in January or February I plan on doing a top 20 or maybe 30 of the year with some write ups once I am able to catch up with everything that 2007 has given us.

It has been a top notch year and there are still A LOT left for me to get to but here is the top ten as of December 31st, 2007

1. There Will be Blood
2. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
3. Zodiac
4. No Country for Old Men
5. Once
6. King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
7. Ratatouille
8. Eastern Promises
9. Atonement
10. The Darjeeling Limited

I'm also going to straight out copy my friend Dan and what he did with his predictions and choose who I thought was the best _____ from the films I've seen.

Best Film - There Will be Blood
runner up - Sweeney Todd

Best Director - The Coen Brothers for No Country for Old Men
runner up - Paul Thomas Anderson for There will be Blood

Best Actor - Daniel Day Lewis for There Will be Blood
runner up - Viggo Mortensen for Eastern Promises

Best Actress - Amy Adams for Enchanted
runner up - Helena Bohnam Carter for Sweeney Todd

Best Supporting Actor - Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men
runner up - Paul Dano for There Will be Blood

Best Supporting Actress - Cate Blanchett for I'm Not There
runner up - Saoirse Ronan for Atonement

Best Screenplay - Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men
runner up - Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will be Blood

Most Underrated film of the year - Breach
runner up - Waitress

Most Underrated performance of the year (as in being overlooked left and right. There are a few in my opinion but I will save the rest of them for my bigger write up later on) - Chris Cooper for Breach

Worst Film of the Year - Redacted (I tried to watch it 3 times and couldnt get through it. Beyond awful.)
runner up - 300

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Shoot 'Em Up (2007, Michael Davis)

This film has gotten a lot of comparisons to last year's Crank and I can see why. I feel that this is because both films are aware of how ridiculously awesome and over the top they are and they are just meant to be fun and enjoyable with no attempts at being anything else . The interesting thing is that I had the same experience with both films. I wanted to love them and enjoy the hell out of them but i just couldn't. I could enjoy bits and pieces but most of the time I was cringing.

There is just something that turns me off about a film that is so self consciously tongue in cheek that it's supposed to be clever and hilarious. After about the 5th one liner that Clive Owen or Giamatti say after an action scene I just started to be annoyed by the film. When the film tries so hard to be over the top, ridiculous, and wild, I just got disconnected with the film instead of buying into it and having fun with it. I am all for the type of film it is trying to be but the execution of it all is just so force fed that it just kills any fun at all. Plus, the heavy metal music/hard rock music that plays during every.single.fucking.time. is just too much for me. I get that it's trying to be badass, but c'mon already. This plus the constant one liners, the hundreds of edits, and the forced witty dialogue between the characters just ruined any fun I was having. It just tries way too hard.

I will say that the film does have it's moments. There are certain parts during most of the action scenes that are undeniably cool and fun. It's just everything that surrounds these moments that that ruin these spurts of coolness. The other main thing which sold the film for me was Owen being cool as always and Giamatti having a ton of fun as being a teeth grinding, over the top, evil baddie.

I can see and understand why someone would dig the hell out of Shoot 'Em Up but it was just too forced for me (like Crank). The only thing I felt the film was missing were a couple of negative shots in order for the film to achieve every single thing that annoys me about these films that are trying too hard to be cool,fun,badass,clever, and tongue in cheek, but end up just being annoying and mostly cringe worthy.

- **
Sidenote: While going through the directors credits on IMDB I was very,very,very suprised that he is the genius behind the sci fi original movie - Monster Man. This is a film that I saw a couple of months ago because a friend recommended it to me. It is the definition of "So bad its bad but still hilarious". This film is seriously about a mutant monster that drives a monster truck (which growls by the way) and just chases people around with it. I am surprised that the guy went from that beyond horrible film to making this film with some top notch actors. Anyways...I thought that was interesting.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Blue Water, White Death (1971, Peter Gimbel & James Lipscomb)

I have said it before in older posts but I love,love,love digging for films.

"Digging for films" is a term me and my friend Greg (over at Sex, Drugs, and Cinema) began to use one day and it just stuck. The term means to go to your video store, store, or online rental service and just go through a lot of films until you think you might have found a hidden diamond that time has forgotten and then you simply just check it out and see how good or bad it is.

I try to balance my film watching by watching a popularish/new release, a well known great film, and a film that I found through "digging" at blockbuster online or my video store and taking a chance on it. I try to watch these 3 kind of films during the course of week or two. Out of all of these 3 types of films that I try to watch I find the one that I dug through piles of movies for to be the funnest to watch. There is just something really satisfying to me when I rent a film that I have never heard about before and end up watching a great film. I guess it's the joy of discovering something by yourself and then wanting to share the gold with people. It's just fun and satisfies the geek inside of me.

In all my years of digging though films I consider myself to have found a couple of really great stand out films. Blue Water, White Death is one of those films. It is far from a masterpiece and it contains a couple of flaws but for the most part it is a pretty damn good documentary that contains a certain sense of adventure, awe, and beauty to it all.

I found this one while going through recommendations based off of The Life Aquatic and I rented it just because it sounded cool and because I thought it might turn out awkward hilarious at times (which it did).

Anyways, while trying to find a a decent poster to use for this post I decided to check youtube to see if there was at least a trailer for it. Instead, I found a fantastic video review of it by a site named FILMJUNK and it really captures everything that I wanted to say about it.

I urge you all to check it out.

....and here are some screencaps that I took while watching the film of certain images that I found amusing.The above screencap comes from my favorite part of the film. During this scene one of the divers picks up a shell and puts it on his head for no reason. Then this other diver comes out and just starts hitting the shell on his head with this punching rod that he has (in case of sharks). It might be one of the most awkward, random, and funniest things I have seen.

- ***1/2

Atonement (2007, Joe Wright)

I have to start off my write up by saying that I have never read the novel that the film is based off of. I have heard nothing but amazing things about the novel and it's on my very long list of books that I have to read sooner or later. The reason I have to start off with this notification is because it seems, to me at least, that a lot of the people who have read the novel have a lot of mixed feelings towards the film adaptation. I have no idea about how well of an adaptation this is or what it kept, or didn't keep, from the novel, but what is there I really liked.

One of the constant complaints I have heard about the film from the people who have seen the film but never read the novel is how they disliked how the film had no real and fully fleshed out central love story when the whole film seems to circle around this "love story" . What is interesting to me is that this is the biggest reason why I loved the film. I loved how the film has this love story at the central of the story (along with another plot that I am still iffy about writing on since it will spoil the film a lot) and how this love story between McAvoy's character and Knightley's character never really turns into anything more than a should've/would've/could've kind of affair that is broken apart before any true emotions can be brought to the table. I liked how the 2nd half of the film follows both characters during World War 2 and how they keep on to this sad hope that one day they will be reunited and their love will come to true form.

The other thing that I loved about film was not the just the love story, the stellar performances, the great direction, or the stunning long-take, but how the film is really about a character seeking redemption for an action that she committed when she was too young to know about how big of a repercussion it would entail. I wont go into this and write much more about it because I watched the film without knowing what the film was really about and this whole storyline kept surprising me and took certain twists that I did not see coming and would have seen if I had seen or read much about the film. I think it's best experienced this way and I am pretty shocked that a lot of reviews spoil this aspect of the film.

I once again don't know what else to write about this film. I really loved it and it made me want to read the novel more that way I could see how well of an adaptation of the novel the film really is. As for now, though, it is a very solid film in my book and one of my favorites of the year.

I have to do some backpedaling and see Pride and Prejudice because if this is only Wright's 2nd film as a director...then this guy is going to be one of the best in upcoming years. The amount of confidence in his directing was one of the best surprises that I had while watching the film. And no - I am not just saying that because of all the pretty images and that amazing long-take. Although, they didn't hurt either.

- ****

Thursday, December 27, 2007

From Grades to Stars

I have decided to go back to rating films that I watch with the classic 4 star rating system. This is due to two reasons.

The first reason is because in the past couple of days I have had to defend my opinion about certain films and me rating them. I have had a lot of "I thought Juno was alright but I wouldn't give it an A. I would give it like 3 stars and a half" to which I reply with "Yeah, so would I. You see, my A+'s are like your 4 star ratings." to which I get "ohhhh then why do you give it an A" to then which I reply with "because I feel some films are in between 3 stars and a half and 4 stars and I don't think the rating them in stars gives them that credit. I also hate giving 9.7 out 10 reviews or ***3/4 reviews. I feel that the grading system is the easiest when this happens"

I have had that conversation about 3 times in the past month and about 10 times this past year. I have decided to just go back to the basic star system. I wont be doing any of that **2/4 kind of thing and will just stick to the full stars and half stars.

The other reason I decided to go back to this system is because I'm just bored and it will be something new to try.

I just decided to do this post that way I don't have to explain myself a couple of times when people message me and ask why I started to do stars all of a sudden.

That's all.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Gone Baby Gone (2007, Ben Affleck)

In the past couple of days I have had a lot of discussions with fellow film geeks and film buffs about how great of an year 2007 has turned out to be. I still have tons of titles to watch and Gone Baby Gone was one of those titles. It also happens to be further proof of what a damn good year it has been for movies.

Gone Baby Gone is a flawed film. There is no way around that. As great as Affleck's directing may be for a first time director, there are still a couple of awkward steps in terms of direction but it's a bit excusable for the most part since this is his first film and also because he does get a lot of high quality scenes through out the film.

The other main flaw the film is the pointless character of Casey Affleck's girlfriend who goes around town with him playing detective in order to solve a missing child case. I do not get why this character even exists in this film at all. I would like to say that she adds a "fish out of water" element to the film along with Affleck but she doesnt since Affleck seems to be anything but a "fish out of the water" When shes not standing around in the frame doing nothing she does nothing else except repeat lines that Affleck just said or just look dissapointed/sad/scared, Maybe she serves a greater role in the novel but I just didn't find her a necessary character to the film and story. I thought that she was more of a distraction that anything else.

Apart from these 2 big flaws, the film is quite excellent. Ben Affleck is great at directing his actors (im guessing because he happens to be an actor. Shocking, right?) and everyone turns in a very great performance. Casey Affleck in particular turns in a powerhouse and often times intense performance as a baby faced bad ass. Earlier today my friend Dan was telling me about how bad ass he was in the film and he was spot on. Casey is the man in this film. Watching him not backing down to anyone and most of the time talking shit to people are the highlights of the film.

Given the great performances from all of the cast and the mystery/thriller plot to the film - I was intrigued the whole way through. I didn't see most of the twists and turns coming and there was always more than enough interesting things going on in the screen that I felt the time just fly by.

So, Gone Baby Gone is far from a perfect film but it is a very entertaining film made even better by the stand out performance by Affleck and the rest of the cast. Ed Harris especially delivers another solid performance which suits him just perfectly and he really has a lot of fun with his role.

The other thing worth pointing out is Amy Ryan. I have to jump on the bandwagon who are calling her performance an overrated piece of work. She is in the film for a short amount of time and although she is pretty excellent, she just never knocks it out of the park for me and the amount of awards she is getting for this performance just confuses me. I mean, she's good but shes not THAT good.

Thats really all I have to say about the film. I really enjoyed it despite it's flaws. I hope Ben Affleck goes back to writing and directing because this is a very solid debut. I have yet to see Casey in Jesse James but I also hope that he continues to get high quality work because this film really showcases the amount of raw talent he has. Watch the film just to see his performance.

- ***1/2

I am Legend (2007, Francis Lawrence)

I went into this one with low expectations. The mediocre word of mouth mixed in with a lot of negative reviews made me expect something that would live up to the general feeling towards the film. Out of everyone I know, both in real life and the Internet, only one person (my friend Greg at Sex,Drugs, and Cinema) praised the film and during his appraisal of the film told me that it was "one of the best things Hollywood has done in a long time", and you know what? I agree with him 100 percent.

I may get some backlash because I actually really enjoyed the film but I just don't see the oh-so-horrible movie that people have been making it out to be. Maybe it was because I had such low expectations while watching it but I doubt this was it. I chose to look at the film as a genre film and as a genre film it is pretty great.

What the film has that makes it far better than it maybe should be is the stellar performance by Will Smith. He wont be winning any awards for this performance anytime soon but even if the film might not call for a stellar performance, he still gives it his all. He really sells the film and for the hour or so where he is basically just by himself in an abandoned New York with his dog, the film is it as best. I even think that the film is so good with just Smith by himself defending himself against his own sanity and the vampirish mutants that when the film goes into it's last act it loses a lot of its appeal.

The last act is really the only problem I had with the film. Sure, the CGI effects are pretty shitty for a film with such a huge budget but I did not mind the effects at all. I grew up watching schlocky B movies from the 50s and bad effects in movies have never and will never bother me, no matter what the budget is. So, looking past the effects the only problem I have, like I said before, is the last act.

I don't know what exactly it is but I just feel that the last act feels so off compared to the rest of the film. Maybe its because I really love the aspect of being the last man or earth or maybe it's because I like how the film refused to go into CGI heavy action scenes and relied strictly on atmosphere and Smith's performance to create tension. I just don't know but I feel that its because of the later. I just felt that the sudden rush of a 15 minute action film was unneeded in a film that was already perfect without having any explosions and Smith running around with a gun. It was still fun to watch, though.

I am Legend is a fun genre film that is made into a great fun genre film due to the stellar acting by Smith and first 2/3rds of the film. I am surprised that Hollywood let the director make such an intimate film for the most part. I just wish it could have kept on going in the same tone because it then would have become more than just a genre film. Still though, for a genre film it is tons of fun if you are able to buy into it and I did just that and enjoyed myself for an hour and 40 minutes.

In an year that gave us a lot of shitty big budget films, I am Legend is one of the better ones in recent memory.

- ***

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Juno (2007, Jason Reitman)

...and 2007 just keeps on turning out the goods. I wrote about how 2007 has shaped up to be what might be the best year that this decade has offered us so far and this is further proof of it.

Juno is another perfect film from a year that has given us many, at least in my opinion, of course. I once again find myself at odds on what to write. I once read that it is far easier to write about a bad film than it is to write about a great film and I have been experiencing this lately. I feel that everything that I could write about this film has already been said and written about many times before by far more better writers. Heck, just read the Ebert quote on the poster and you will basically find everything that I would write about it in one quote.

One of the many praises the film has gotten has been Diablo Cody's script and in my years of being a film buff I have never seen a writer get as much attention and hype as her. Kauffman comes close but this woman is the definition of being the "it girl". So, when I entered the theater to see this one I was really looking forward to how great it would actually be and if it would live up to the hype to the almighty Cody. In a very simple sentence - it does.

Juno is a film that has so much heart, honesty, and such a hopeful look at life that it is extremely hard not to like. The characters are simple, the plot is simple, the direction is even great but simple. It's the strength in the screenwriting that sells the film and adds that extra kick that makes it stand out so much.

What Juno also has which makes it one of the best films of the year is the number of small moments between the actors which just hit you at the heart. Sure, the film may be fun and laughs for the most part but when the film goes into "serious mode" it will get to you. It may not make you cry (it did to a couple of people around me) but it will make you go "awwwwww" because it just feels so sweet, honest, and innocent. There no melodrama to be found here.

I can't really say much else about it. I feel like just listing all the scenes that made me love it but that would spoiling it. I will say that 2 scenes towards the end just made the film to me. The first of these 2 scenes is towards the end and is one of the sweetest scenes I have seen in a long time. I will say that it involves Michael Cera and that this film fully convinced me of the talent that he has possessed since Arrested Development and will continue to have. I really hope that he goes places.

The other scene of the 2 that i mentioned is the ending. I wont give it away, of course, but it is just a perfect ending to a perfect little film.

And that is what it really is, a perfect little film.

- ***1/2

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007, Tim Burton)

Holy Fucking Shit. Holy. Fucking. Shit.

I really want to go all fanboyish/Harry Knowles out right now. You have no idea. I will try to maintain whatever giddyness I may have right now and try to write down something at least half way intelligent.

I will start off by saying that I know the play. I am a GIGANTIC fan of the play. I saw it about 5 years ago and until a couple of months ago I still continues to rent it from my library and rewatching. I think I have now seen it close to 15 times. I simply love it and it is without a doubt my favorite musical ever (both film or stage). I own all the soundtracks and I even bought the lp as soon as I got my record player to start working. I am a big fanboy of the play. I'm not even ashamed to say that I know most of the lyrics by heart.

I have been following the film adaptation of it for a looooong time now. I remember when Sam Mendes was attached to direct with Hugh Jackman in the role. I remember about a year and a half ago just being left speechless when Tim Burton was announced to direct it with Depp set to star. I was left speechless not because I am a gigantic fan of Burton/Depp but because I have a big love/hate relationship with Burton and I really did not want to see him fuck up my beloved musical. I even cringed at the thought of Depp as Sweeney. It just didnt seem like a right choice at the time at all.

So, for the past year and about 3 months I have been following and anticipating this film like no other film before. Me and my friend Dan (over at The Public Enemy) would exchange links to latest spy set pictures and we would debate over little fanboyish things. Yet, we never bought into it. We both just did not want to see this film even come out half as good as it's source material. This film had to be either just as good or better in order for it to really deliver.

Anyways...I am now rambling and stretching this all out but this is only because I feel that this film at least deserves that from me.

In very,very,very simple words - this film turned out far from perfect. It turned out to be even better than perfect. I don't know if there is such a word for that but if any film deserves it, it's this one.

Burton has created his masterpiece. This is the film his career has been working up to and it is his best film to date and I wonder if he will ever be able to top it.

Burton has created a film that is pretty much a straight adaptation of the Broadway musical but he has injected it with a lot of personal touches and his own unique style to make it his own. The best thing is that he has done all of this with a lot of respect to the source material and it never seems out of tune at all. In fact, it is better than the Broadway version. He has really made it his own and as my friend Dan put it, he created a masterpiece from a masterpiece.

I am also not just saying this because I have fanboy blinders on. I'm not. I was actually on the opposite side. I was strict towards the film to the highest level going in even though I have heard nothing but amazing things from it. The film surpassed any levels that I had thought up in my head and made everything that felt old and familer to me seem new and fresh.

Burton is really at his best in every single possible way. His dark gothic/German experssionism? Check. His gorgeous moody lighting and cinematography? Check. His bight, playful, and colorful side? Check. His morbid sense of humor? Check. All of his trademarks are here but he reaches a level of command and perfection to them all that they all serve to paint a beautiful and masterful film.

I don't know what else I can praise about the film but I still feel that I am not praising it enough. I don't think I should even write about the stellar performances, singing, and songs since I feel that that's a given already.

I will however choose to write about what I consider to be one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in a film. I am not bullshitting at all when I say this too. The final shot that ends the film is the greatest thing Burton has ever done and will ever do. The mixture of beauty with such a brutal image is too beautiful, touching, and stunning for words. It will leave you in chills. This small moment is why I love cinema so much. It is able to achieve such a feeling inside that no other art form can do and this image was able to stir up that emotion in me.

Bravo, Tim Burton and crew. You have made a masterpiece and also what I consider to be the best film of the year as well as my favorite film of the year. Bravo.

- ****

There Will be Blood (2007, Paul Thomas Anderson)

I was talking to a friend earlier today about how 2007 has shaped up from being a weak year because of all of those less than stellar spring/summer releases and then all of a sudden become what might be the best year that this decade has given us. We talked about how it was so great that a couple of directors gave some of their best films to date while others created masterpieces. This then branched off into how this year 3 American treasures have given us what might be either one of their best films ever or their best film to date. The 3 directors that we were talking about were The Coen Bros with No Country, Tim Burton with Sweeney Todd (more on that later), and Paul Thomas Anderson with There Will be Blood.

Paul Thomas Anderson's film is one that will stand the test of time, as will the other 3 films mentioned. It is really hard to talk about what films will be considered classics in 30 years time but I will put all my money on these three films. There Will be Blood is an amazing feat in every single sense. It's an amazing accomplishment not only in terms of directing, acting, etc.. but it is also an amazing accomplishment in terms of how truly great cinema can be when all the ingredients just match up with eachother perfectly.

Starting off with an image of Daniel Day Lewis in this years best performance as Daniel Plainview in a dark hole underground picking away at rocks while a couple of violins screech, you are immediately pulled into the films atmosphere and style. What continues from this point on is an epic in every single way. For about 2 hours and 40 minutes we see the rise of not only Daniel Plainview and his oil business but also the rise of tensions between his foes and as well as the rise of a monster of epic proportions.

I wont be going into plot specifics. This film can not be summed up so easily. I will just say that it is pure perfection and greatness non stop. The last act of the film is sure to leave most people just in stunned silence. There are also a lot of select scenes which are sure to strike up some controversy and debate between people. Anderson has created a film that is so dense with so many layers of depth and symbolism that I am sure will have everyone talking as well as having many people rewatching as soon as it hits DVD.

As I have already said, everything is epic and perfect. Everyone has been raving about Daniel Day Lewis' performance so I wont gush over that. Instead, I will just cite out Paul Dano's performance. Sometimes I don't know who deserves more praise, DDL or the actor who can actually match him in terms of talent. Dano is able to do what DiCaprio was not able to achieve and he manages to hold his own against DDL and the scenes between them are without a doubt the highlights of the film. Why Dano is not getting award nominations just baffles me.

There really is not much more to say. Everything is perfect. I saw no flaws. This is one of the best films that this decade has given us.

- ****

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Phantom of the Paradise (1974, Brian De Palma)

My friend Greg over at Sex, Drugs, and Cinema already did a great write up on this twisted and amazing little gem of film that can be found HERE.

So, I see doing a write up this film pretty pointless since he has said everything I would have. I will say although I have a lot of De Palma films left to watch, I think he is one of the most uneven directors ever. He aims for the skies and almost always ends up not even getting close with his story and characters but yet somehow still gets some of the most stunning cinematography and style that I have yet to see. I'm just always left feeling empty because I just wish his stories and characters would match up to his style.

However, I have long been a gigantic fan of what almost everyone considers to be his worst film ever, Raising Cain. The reason I love that film is the same reason why I loved the hell out of this one. It's as if De Palma knows that he has a silly,campy, and ridiculous story on his hands and decides to just play it up as much as he can and just go absolutely nuts on it with his style. I much prefer De Palma giving in to his style than him trying to actually deliver a great film to go with his style. It's almost as if De Palma should have been directing B movies with Nicholas Ray and Sam Fuller in the 40s,50s, and 60s than directing with Scorsese, Kubrick, and Coppola in the 70's.

But anyways....I digress....Phantom of the Paradise kicks a lot of ass. I may be sounding like Harry Knowles here but this film just fucking rocks. There is no way around it. It just simply really kicks ass. It is really just 90 minutes of awesomeness to those who buy into it. If I didnt have to return it to the video store, I would have watched it again. I loved every minute of it.

- ****

The Boxer (1997, Jim Sheridan)

The Boxer is a really ambitious film that at time hits the ambitious point it is trying to reach for perfectly while other times it gets near but doesn't reach it all.

The film tells the story of a local town good guy, played by the great Daniel Day Lewis delivering another great performance, who was a promising boxer when he was a teen but was arrested and sent to prison for 14 years due to his connections with the IRA. 14 years have now passed and he is a free man who's only goal is to reopen a gym, begin boxing again, and rekindle the relationship with the girl he left behind. Of course, it doesn't take too long before his past starts catching up with him and his life is at risk.

The Boxer at times seems likes its about to become a brilliant character study when it starts going into Daniel Day Lewis' character's history and the way he wants to live now. The thing is that the film also thrives to become a political drama and when the politics mixes with the character study it comes off a little bit half realized and the two aspects never intertwine too well. It just feels as if something is off.

The other thing the film has is that it tries to be everything. It tries to be a boxing sports drama, a romance, a character study, and a political drama. I'm not saying that this is a bad thing but the film is so soaked in it's political story that you really begin to wonder why we keep going back to seeing boxing matches when it really only plays as background noise to the actual story.

Having said that, everyone from Daniel Day Lewis to Emily Watson to Brian Cox deliver outstanding performances. The heart of the film and the best thing about it is the forbidden romance between Lewis and Watson. Their relationship never falls on cliches and because of this feels more real than it could have felt if they were proclaiming their love to one another every couple of minutes and then kissing.

The Boxer is far from a perfect film. It's also far from a great a film. It's just a good film that never really achieves it's true potential but features enough great performances and the always great direction by Sheridan to make a worthwhile time.

- ***

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948, H.C. Potter)

It's a pretty great thing when a comedy made in 1948 hasn't lost its punch and still delivers the goods. Its also an even greater thing when the film's subject matter hasn't dated at all either. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House after all of these years is still a delightful, charming, and often times brilliant screballish comedy.

I have often loved Cary Grant in comedic performances (His Girl Friday, Bringing Up Baby, Arsenic and Old Lace) and I have always felt that he really was one of the best at comedy during the time. Mr. Blandings only proves this even more. Grant delivers another comedy performance where you never really get a sense that he is clowning it up or trying too hard. Like every Grant performance (at least from the ones that I have seen so far) he still manages to act like the comedy relief while still maintaining his class and everyday man charm. It's his chemistry with his kids, his best friend, and his wife (played by an equally great Myrna Loy) that just make this film so much fun and hard not to like.

- ****

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Waitress (2007, Adrienne Shelly)

I am really going to try and keep this write up short and sweet.

This really is the great little film that it is becoming known for. Sure, it is far from perfect but it has so many perfect little moments and scenes scattered through out that it really doesn't matter. It just doesn't take long before the film wins you over and you are feeling for the characters.

The performances from everyone are top notch and often times heartbreaking because of brief subtle moments. Jeremy Sisto has been a favorite of mine since I watched him in Six Feet Under and I was happy to see him get a great role for once. I only cite him out because I am a fan but really, everyone is perfect in their roles. It's a bummer that Keri Russel doesn't have that much of chance at winning much and will be looked over a lot because of other performances getting bigger buzz but she is perfect in the film as well.

The film also has this sort of special bittersweet borderline tragic feeling to it all even though it contains one of the most beautiful endings from this year. It makes you wonder about what could have happened to Adrienne Shelly since this was her big breakout and watching the film from the perspective of someone who read about that whole horrible incident really makes the film seem a lot more intimate, sweet, and beautiful.

I really loved it and my friend Dan put it best by saying that the film was just "special". I cant pin point what exactly makes it feel like that, but there is just something about it that wins your heart over.

- ***1/2

Mr. Brooks (2007, Bruce. A Evans)

I will watch anything with William Hurt in it. This is the main reason why I always put Mr. Brooks on my "to watch" list. I heard some mixed reactions to the film and I also heard a lot of negative reactions to it. I never bothered to read into it since almost everytime I would begin to do so there would be a spoiler alert. Or every time that I would talk to someone who had seen it they would begin with "I'm gonna spoil it for you..." and I would just stop them there.

If you do not want this movie spoiled then don't keep reading.

Just looking at the trailers and TV spots of the film made me wonder where all the hate was coming from. The logical guess was Dane Cook. I thought that it had to be Dane Cook, right? Wrong. I also heard a lot of bad things about the Demi Moore subplot. That had to be it then, right? Kind of. The real reason why Mr. Brooks is horrible is not because of one or two things. It is because of several things that just become too much and destroy whatever good things it had going for it. Oh, and Dane Cook is actually one of the best things about the film. Seriously.

The main problem that Mr. Brooks has is that it crams way too much plot, story, characters, subplots, and even more sub-sub-plots to the point where it loses focus on what makes the film so interesting at times - Mr. Brooks. First, let me list down all the plots and subplots. While watching the film I was really into it at first but then after a certain scene (more on that later) I just went into "this is fucking ridiculous!" mode and started seeing the film spiral out of control and gather up plots.

So, here are the plots/storylines that the film has going on during its 2 hour run time.

1. Mr. Brooks (Kevin Costner) trying to get rid of his addiction of killing

2. Mr Brooks being blackmailed by a normal guy (Dane Cook) and forcing him to teach him how to kill.

3. Mr. Brooks has a female detective (Demi Moore) on his ass.

OK. Lets pause here. These 3 plots are great enough. Sure, they are a little bit cliched but it could get by with just having these 3 plots. But nooooo...

4. The female detective is getting divorced and her husband wants millons of dollars. Uh...why is this here?

5. Mr. Brooks daughter just dropped out of College and she is hiding something.....she is a killer too!! (OMG!!!!!!!)

6. The female detective also has to deal with this other serial killer which just recently broke out of jail and wants to kill her. Seriously, why is this here?

7. Mr. Brooks has to save his daughter from being caught by the police.

I think that's all of them. The film just keeps on adding on so many subplots and subplots to those subplots that it might leave you in awe. It did to me. Ok, maybe I am being harsh on it because of the many silly plots and plot twists. Ok. Now let me get back to that one certain scene I mentioned earlier.

There is a scene that occurs during this film which might just be the most ridiculous scene I have seen so far this year. Demi Moore goes to meet with her lawyer about her ongoing divorce (once again..why is this in the movie? I guess it adds depth or something to her character). They grab a cup of coffee and talk about how much Moore hates her ex husband. If this was not unnecessary enough they then say bye and walk their own separate ways. As Demi is walking away a van with an open door appears and a guy just snatches her from the street. Action music kicks in, 24 kind of cinematography kicks in too, and an action scene begins where the guy (who is the recently escaped convict she put away) tries to rape her and kill her. This whole scene ends with a car chase of sorts, the van hitting another car, and Demi Moore flying out of the van for a second or two and then into the windshield of a cab. The scene cuts and ashe is at a hospital only getting a couple of stitches. WHAT. There is really little to no purpose for this scene.

I'm sorry if I am ranting but I just cant help it. It was at that point where I just started to see the film spiral down a dark,dark hole.

Also, if one unnecessary action scene wasn't enough there is another one later on in the film. Moore meets up with the baddie in the van and a shoot out (I kid you not) kicks in with some action music and the lights going on and off. I wish I was making this up. It really is cringe worthy bad.

All while this is going on...for I don't know what reasons...Mr. Brooks is busy with his many subplots. I wont go into that. I am already tired about writing on and on about this mess of a film.

I will say that the film does have a couple of good things. The Mr. Brooks storyline is actually interesting when its not distracted by other storylines. I really liked the interactions of William Hurt, playing his alter ego, and Kevin Costner. If the film would have just been them two and the conflict with the a man blackmailing them, it would have actually been pretty great. Other than the Hurt/Costner relationship the only other thing that is good is Dane Cook as the guy blackmailing Mr. Brooks. Sure, he doesn't knock it out of the park but he surprisingly brings some fun to the film and doesn't do a bad job at all.

I don't have anything witty or clever to write as the final paragraph for this long rant. I will just end it on this note: fuck this movie.

- D

Oh shit! I was about to click on "publish post" but I forgot to write about one major thing...the ending! I won't give it away but I will say that it does the always charming "wow...I cant believe that happened....oh wait was just a dream". It's as if the film tells you "Oh, so you think I'm being ridiculous? Well, check this shit out!" Incredible.

Three O'Clock High (1987, Phil Joanou)

Three O'Clock High is a very fun, fast paced, and often times just surreal and crazy film. It certainly lives up the cult status that it has achieved and it's also one of the best teen comedy films that I have seen from the 80's so far.

The film is basically an adaptation of sorts of High Noon ,but set in a high school. The all around nice guy senior accidentally runs into the new kid at school who happens to be a violent bully and it doesn't take long before he challenges him to a fight at Three O'Clock. From then on the film follows the nice guy as he tries to get out of the fight in every single way until the showdown arrives. What's fun about this is that the film builds up a string of entertaining scenes by using the surroundings of a normal high school day. So, you have a pep rally, lunch, quick breaks between classes, and a boring science class to become showcases for fun.

The main point to why the film bursts with this odd sense of amusing oddness is because it is really just another excuse to showcase the unique cinematography of great cinematographer turned mediocre director, Barry Sonnenfeld. The guy goes all out on this one and does his work as if he is working on another Coens Bros. film. It really is what made the film stand out a lot to me. You just can't beat this guy when it comes to fun cinematography. I just love his stuff.

Another thing worth pointing out is the score by Tangerine Dream. I still don't know who exactly this group was at the time or what was their claim to fame was. I just know that I really loved their score for Moonlight Mile and now their score for this one. Sure, it sounds very 80ish but there is just something about it which makes it stand out.

Oh..and this is also known as Steven Spielberg's stab at producing a teen comedy. It's very odd that he chose to remove his name from the credits since the final product is a lot better than other teen films during that time.

- B+

Friday, December 7, 2007

Done, bitches.

I am finally all up to date and caught up. Now I will make it a duty of mine to keep this up to date with everything I see and with everything that I just feel like writing about. I kind of hate having to play catch up.

Once (2007, John Carney)

I loved this film. A lot. I mean I really loved it a lot.

Much has already been said and written about how charming, beautiful, and great the film is so I will once again try not to write too much about this film and will just basically echo what everyone else has already said.

I love musicals and this might be one of the best musicals ever made. Yeah, I went there. I think it is that good. It's so unique and heartbreaking beautiful at times that it feels like something that has never been done or achieved before. The only other film that I can think of is Dancer in the Dark. Even though the style can be compared because of the realistic style to it all, the execution is very different. In Dancer in the Dark the musical numbers were surreal, but in Once they are realistic in every single way. This realistic approach to it all is what makes the film the film that it is. The feeling you get when you see the two lead characters break out in song together for the first time in a music shop without any track playing over and them singing and performing on the spot is just magical. You just get chills, and this is just one of many scenes which gave me chills and just made me smile.

The film also has a lot going for it other than just the musical aspect. A lot of people tend to only focus on that, but really the film offers a lot more under the musical surface. The film presents what might be one of the sweetest love stories I have seen in a film in a long time. The way the actors perform (ha! Get it?) off eachother is just perfect and feels so realistic that you just buy into their relationship. So, when you have this perfect little love story going on with these characters and then they just start singing together, it is just so simple and beautiful. The way their relationship plays out during the film might be my favorite aspect to the whole film. It's more charming that the musical scenes to me and is the heart of the film.

Even though I will end up placing films like Zodiac and No Country for Old Men over it when the time comes to make a "top ____ list" for this year I know that this is the film that I will end up rewatching more than those films over the years to come. It may not be the best film this year but it might be my favorite at the moment.

The songs are excellent, the performances are perfect, and the story it tells is beautiful. I absolutely loved it. It's just a perfect little film.

- A+

It will also be a crime if this film doesn't win the Oscar for best original song next year.

Danger: Diabolik (1968, Mario Bava)

What you see above this sentence is one of the coolest posters ever to one of the coolest movies ever made.

Danger: Diabolik is based off of a famous Italian comic book at the time named Diabolik and this is present in almost every single frame of this film. Mario Bava uses his famous style to create what might be one of the funnest and coolest films I might ever see. It really does feel like you are watching a comic book for it's entire running time and I would easily rank it up there with Dick Tracy as a comic book film that actually looks, feels, and sounds just like a comic book.

The premise is simple - Diabolik is a master thief who loves the rush of stealing stuff for his girlfriend. That's it. That's the whole plot basically. I say this because no matter what happens in the film's plot as the film goes along like a police captain trying to catch him or a rival thief also trying to catch doesn't matter. What does matter is that you are sure that Diabolik will not give a fuck, steal stuff, and make out with his hot girlfriend after or while he does this. He's just that cool. It's just hilarious seeing him laugh his ass off while stealing stuff or seeing him wink at the camera like hes telling you "you know what's up." So cool and hilarious and it's meant to be just that which makes it even better.

That's really all I got. I laughed hard and enjoyed every minute of it. There were a couple of small problems I had with the film. One of which being that the film probably has about 20 minutes of Diabolik just making out with his girlfriend in his cool underground layer while a cool Ennio Morricone score is playing. You kind of get the point after the first couple of times that this happens but it doesn't matter too much because every single one of these underground layer scenes is just another excuse for Bava to explode the frame with color and style.

Another thing worth pointing out is what Bava does in this film with such a low budget, a couple of actors, and camera tricks. it's very impressive and still holds up perfectly . I still cant tell what was actually there and what was just a painting mixed in with a camera trick.

I hope I can buy this one soon in order to enjoy it some more. This one really lives up to it's cult status. It's just

- B+

Here is the Beastie Boys music video which uses scenes from the film. Also, very cool.

Flash Gordon (1980, Mike Hodges)

I was able to see this on the big screen as part of a film festival that Edgar Wright is doing over here. I didn't know what quite to expect of it since I had never seen it and have really never ever even heard anyone talk about it. I wasn't even looking forward to watching since I was there in the theater because I was looking forward to the 2nd half of the double feature (Danger: Diabolik) that this was presented with instead. I just thought of this film as a bonus with Diabolik being the main attraction.

Edgar Wright introduced the film and the first thing that he asked as soon as he got the mic was "Who here hasn't seen Flash Gordon?" About half of the theater raised their hand. He then smiled and said "ohh...prepare to have your socks rocked off" He was so right. Flash Gordon might be one of the greatest movies ever made. It's up there with Commando and Cobra as being one of the most awesome films ever made.

Edgar Wright also decided that instead of introducing the film he would list a "top 10 reasons why Flash Gordon is fucking awesome list" Although I cant really remember all 10 reasons that were on his list, I can say that he was dead on with the ones that I remember. This film is so deliciously awesome that writing a paragraph doesn't do it justice. I wont do a top 10 reasons but I will just list down things that made it awesome for me.

- Flash Gordon is just a quarterback for the New York Jets who by accident gets on a planet where they want to kill him and destroy earth. He wont stand for it. Great plot.

- Flash Gordon wears a shirt that says "FLASH" on it for the 1st half of the movie.

- Max von Sydrow is an evil villain with a magical ring that has powers who wants to sleep with Flash Gordon's girlfriend. Flash Gordon wont stand for it.

- There are half-human-half-hawks that fly around and drop bombs on people.

- Colorful and crazy action scenes set to Queen's rock score and songs. Awesome.

- CRAZY sets. CRAZY colors. CRAZY costumes.

- A showdown fight scene where Flash Gordon fights Timothy Dalton on a tilting circle which stands over a black hole and also contains spikes that pop out at random times.

- Intentional fun and campy dialogue.

- Awesome intro and an awesome finish....with awesomeness in between.

There are so many things that I am leaving out but I absolutely loved this film. Like, a lot. It's so gloriously over the top and campy with just the right amount of craziness that you can't help but love it if you are able to buy into it.

- Ridiculously Awesome

Paris, Je T'Aime (2006, various)

I really love the idea behind Paris, Je T'Aime. I love the idea of gathering a bunch of directors from all around the world and having them all make a brief short that deals with love and Paris. It's just a great idea. You can't deny that.

Yet, the film suffers the same exact thing that I feel anthology films always do; You will end up with a mix bag. Paris, Je T'Aime is the perfect definition of a mix bag. There are a couple of top notch excellent shorts. There are also a number great ones too. The problem is that there are too many mediocre shorts, with a few bad ones, that just leave a bad taste in your mouth after they finis. So, when you think back on the film you find out that the film was enjoyable but there were just so many mediocre shorts that the film becomes flawed as a whole.

I enjoyed myself during most of it. I just cant deny that there were a lot that made me not love the film too much or made me want to rewatch it all as a whole. Instead, when the film finished I just felt like going back and watching the excellent ones while skipping past the bad ones.

I do hope that they keep on making these films, though. I know that New York, I Love You is being made right now and will come out next year and I think that's great news. Like I said before, I just love the idea behind these films. I just hope that the next one will turn out better.

- C+

Irreversible (2002, Gaspar Noe)

I have long been wanting to watch this now infamous film for a couple of years now. When people talk about this film they are quick to mention the brutal violence and rape scene that the film contains. This is not the reason why I became interested in the film. Instead, when I heard that the cinematography was out of this world and that the Mementoesque way of telling the story backwards worked perfectly for it - I became interested.

Due to the film having an NC-17 rating I wasn't able to track down the film for a long time. I could go into a little rant about how the rating system works but I wont. I'm glad that at least a film like this exists and isn't banned from being distributed here. So, I was just happy enough to find this one and rent it.

Anyways, this is one intense and excellent film. That's the easiest way to put it. The film only lasts a little bit over an hour and a half but it's one dark journey to the end. The film has a basic revenge driven plot about a loving boyfriend tracking down and killing the man who raped his girlfriend. It sounds simple when its written down but the execution of it all is far from simple.

Immediately from the first scene you get a sense of what you are about to get into. The atmosphere and style of the film even begins from the opening backward credits. This is one of the 2 "gimmicks" that the film uses through out it's running length. This first gimmick is telling the story completely backwards. The second gimmick is it's outrageous cinematography.

The cinematography in this film is really something else. By using invisible digital edits and morphing effects each scene is one long 20 minute or longer take. The thing is that the camera never seems to stand still. It's often just falling all over the place and just spinning around while never focusing on anything except the blurs that it's creating by moving so much. It's annoying at first but if you manage to sit through the first scene that ends in one of the most violent scenes ever filmed, then you will easily buy into it and "get it". By this I mean that you will be able to see and understand what Gaspar Noe was aiming for with this effect. Which is, to give the film a unique and uneasy feeling of intensity. This is proven even further when as the film goes by and becomes less dark the camera seems to also calm down. It's as if the camera expresses the emotions that the characters it is following are feeling. So, when the characters erupt in emotions the camera erupts in a flurry of motions. This also happens when the characters are having a normal conversation and the camera just sits there without any movement. is just great and adds that extra kick that makes the film.

The other thing worth pointing out other than the superb direction and cinematography are the performances. The performances are so natural later on in the film and feel so realistic that the violent scenes that you see towards the beginning of the film turn into something completely else as the film progresses and you get to know the three main characters more. A couple of posts ago I wrote about Eastern Promises and how Vincent Cassel has turned into one of my favorite actors right now. This film further proves how truly great and underrated this guy is. The man brings so much intensity and heart to the film without ever being over the top or forced. He is always the best part of every film that I have seen him in so far (just watch Ocean's 12 and see how he steals the film) and he is once again the best part of this film. If there is any reason to watch this film, watch it just to see how awesome he is.

Oh, and I almost forgot to write about the rape scene and the fire hydrant scene which everyone likes to point out after having seen the film. I will just say what everyone else has said already...very fucked up stuff for sure. Very,very fucked up.

Like I wrote before - this is one excellent and intense film.

- A

Monday, December 3, 2007

2 more write ups...

...will be up later on today after I wake up. Instead of sleeping, I spent all night/morning talking about movies with friends online (I am so cool) while writing some stuff here.

It's now time for sleep because I no longer have the energy to do any more write ups or talk movies for a couple of hours. I will hopefully be fully caught up by tonight.

Anyways, in the meantime, here is a picture of Kuato from Total Recall.

I'm Not There (2007, Todd Haynes)

I'm a gigantic huge big fan of Bob Dylan now. I knew a couple of his songs a couple of years ago but after Scorsese's documentary about him blew my mind I was quick to get all of his earlier albums and I just went deep into his work. I listened to all of his albums up to John Wesley Harding over and over again. I saw Don't Look Back and No Direction Home a couple of times more too. I even read a book about him. Good times.

So, when I read that the guy who did Far From Heaven (one of my favorites from this decade so far) was doing a kinda-but-not-really biopic about him I was sold. I promised myself that I would go watch it no matter what as soon as it opened around me and I did just that.

My feelings towards the film are extremely mixed. I feel this way because I walked into the film as a big Bob Dylan fan, I watched the film as a big Bob Dylan fan, and I walked out of the theater as a big Bob Dylan fan. Because of this I felt that I for the most part (I still dont know what to make of Richard Gere's segment) understood the film. Or at least understood as much as there is to understand from the film from a first viewing. By this I mean that I understood all the references, I understood who was supposed to be who, and I understood and knew about some of the events that occur during the film. Of course, as I already wrote, I dont think I fully understood Gere's part. I mean, I understand what the general purpose of it and what the theme was about but it was just so odd and surreal that I just don't quite know what to make of it.

So, because of me being a fan I liked it. However, often times I was left wondering if what I was watching was just a circle jerk film for Dylan fans. I couldn't picture the film making much sense to someone who doesnt know much about Dylan. I could of course be wrong but I will never know since I will never see the film from that perspective. From the perspective that I watched it from - I don't see it making much sense at all. I don't consider this a good thing at all.

I'm not going to go into the whole "Haynes presents a film as complex as Dylan blah blah blah etc.. etc.." thing. Read any of the many reviews that are out right now for the film and you will find that there. I liked the films unique artistic approach and I also liked the film for flipping the "music biopic" genre on it's head after all of the recent films from that genre that we have seen. I also agree with a lot of critics when they have pointed out how after watching this film it is really hard to imagine anyone doing a straight biopic on Bob Dylan.

I don't think there is much more I can write about it. I will have to watch it a couple of more times to fully grasp everything the film is offering since this is one film that has so much going on that one viewing doesn't do it justice.

Also, because the couple of people that I have talked to about regarding this film have all asked me the same question of "So who did the best Dylan?" or "Who had the best segment" OR "who was the best actor?" So, I will just break it down for anyone that is wondering any of this...which I am sure all of you are *sarcasm*

If I could rank the Dylan's (in terms of getting Dylan 's actions and movements down. Not performance wise) it would go...

1. Cate Blanchett (She lives up to the hype.)
2. Ben Wishaw
3. Christian Bale
4. Heath Ledger
5. Marcus Carl Franklin
6. Richard Gere

If I would rank the segments (which I don't think is right in an odd way) I would rank them...

1. Heath Ledger (This one surprised me a lot.)
2. Marcus Carl Franklin
3. Cate Blanchett
4. Christian Bale
5. Ben Wishaw
6. Richard Gere

I'm Not There is an easy film to hate on and it's easy to call it a pretentious film. I didn't find it pretentious in anyway and watching it from the perspective of a Dylan fan I always had a smile on my face and every time a new reference would come up I would get an even bigger fanboy smile on my face.

I also find myself really hating the Richard Gere segment a lot when I think back on the film. It really pulls the film down a lot in my opinion, of course.

- B+

No Country for Old Men (2007, Joel Coen)

I have a lot of films left to watch from this year, but I am pretty sure that I have now seen one of the best films that 2007 has given us so far. I'm also pretty sure that I have now seen one of the best films that this decade has given us so far as well. No Country for Old Men is as great as the hype surrounding it has made it out to be. It's even way better than the already great buzz that is has. It really is that good.

Much has already been said about it's greatness so I wont make this drag on too much and will basically just echo what others have said. The Coen Brothers have given us their best film since Miller's Crossing (in my eyes at least) and it's one that blends all of their style so perfectly that it's bound to leave everyone in awe of it. Every Coen Brother's trademark is here from the slight surreal atmosphere, the great cinematography, to the great dialogue, to the pitch perfect performances, to even the offbeat dark humor. It's all here and it's as if The Coen Brothers use each one of these elements to paint a film that is so good at times that it will give you chills and leave you on the edge of your seat often.

There are so many perfect,perfect,perfect scenes that you really get a sense that you are watching true masters behind the camera within the first couple of minutes. The Coen Brothers are now passed the point of just being "great directors" and have reached a league of perfection and mastery that few directors have reached. The confidence and execution of almost every scene is just amazing and something that you will just want to watch over and over again in order to pay attention to every last detail. One specific stellar scene that might just be their crowning achievement of their career so far is a shootout/chase scene in a hotel that is soooo good that when the scene finished someone behind me whispered to his friend "fuck, that was good". I agree with this exactly and that phrase basically sums up my feelings about the film.

There are some other things that are worth pointing out as well. The biggest of these things is, of course, Javier Bardem's performance as one of the greatest villains ever. This guy has to win the Oscar. There is no way that no one can not vote for him after seeing him in this. The man is having the time of his life with this role and he has created a performance that will be remembered for a long time to come. It's a bit of shame that this performance is so great that it seems to be drawing all of the award buzz because Kelly Macdonald, Tommy Lee Jones, and Josh Brolin all put in some great performances as well.

The final thing worth mentioning is what I'm sure will piss off a lot of people when they see the film. This film might just contain one of the most "WTF?!?!!?!" sudden out of nowhere endings that I'm sure will leave most people just scratching their heads. It left me like this but I felt that it was a perfect note to end the film with because it leaves you thinking about what you just saw. I'm not just talking about the specific ending either. It leaves the film stuck in your memory and haunting you for days to come. It's been a couple of days since I saw it and I still can't get it out of my mind.

This is simply an amazing movie that blew me away. If I wasn't such a cheap bastard I would have already gone back to watch again.

- A+

Control (2007, Anton Corbijn)

I've been a mild fan of Anton Corbijn ever since I bought the dvd box set that contained some of his work, which was mostly just a lot of his music videos. I say that I am a mild fan because I really like the images he creates. He has a unique visual style and that is clearly visible a lot of the time in most of his work and his photographs. Having said that, I often don't find his videos that entertaining and a lot of the time the images he presents are pretty to look at but lack much else. Ever since I watched those music videos and saw all the special features I started to wonder if he would ever jump on the bandwagon of music video directors becoming film directors. I also wondered what his film would turn out like and if it would face the same problem that I feel a lot of his videos have.

So, when I read that he was going to do a biopic on the lead singer of Joy Divison I was interested a lot. I'm not a huge Joy Division fan and I only know of a couple of songs by them, so my interest wasn't due to that. I just wanted to see what Corbijn could pull off with a full feature on his hands. When the trailers popped out I got the fear that the film would be pretty to look at but would have nothing behind it's style. I was still interested in watching it and now that I have I am glad that my fear was put to rest. Corbijn really knocks his first feature film out of the park.

Instead of presenting a by the numbers biopic (like Talk to Me) Corbijn presents a biopic that is really a pure biopic for the most part. By this I mean that if you walk into this one expecting a music biopic with a lot of scenes behind the formation and troubles of Joy Division you will be disappointed. Instead, the film plays out like a profound character driven piece. The catch is that the character just happens to be the lead singer of Joy Division. And yes, it's very pretty look at too. The crisp black and white cinematography is gorgeous.

Control deals with the man behind Joy Divison. Ian Curtis. We rarely get scenes that explain much about what went into Joy Divison or what made them stand out etc... Instead, we get the life behind the voice of Joy Division. We see how much of a complex character he really was and how much a problem he had with controlling (get it?) his life, his terrible illness, and his sudden fame. At times the motivations behind his actions are unclear, while other times he feels cold and distant to the point where we can't really understand him. I feel that this is done on purpose because a couple of scenes later we are treated to Ian even wondering why he acted in such way. A normal by the numbers biopic this ain't.

Through Sam Riley's brilliant performance as Ian Curtis we get hints and moments of him getting a clear view of what his life is like at the moment and the detached sadness when he realizes this through a subtle glance is what makes the film stand out so much. It makes Ian Curtis out to be a complex and ultimately tragic character who cant seem to even grasp on to himself most of the time. So much so that it leads to him to commit suicide. The moments leading up to this is what makes the whole film fit into place and work as a heartbreaking and complex character study of a man who just happened to be in a band that achieved fame.

This , at least to me, is one of the best debut films in recent memory. It's also another favorite of mine from this year.

- A

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Eastern Promises (2007, David Cronenberg)

David Cronenberg's latest is yet another excellent film from the often odd mind of his. Now, after A History of Violence and Eastern Promises Cronenberg seems to be going a little bit commercial in terms of stories and genres. However, his past 2 films are anything but commercial films and the execution of both films really show that Cronenberg will never stop being an auteur and will never stop challenging his audiences. In other words; he wont be selling out anytime soon.

Eastern Promises is a very cold, brutal, and understated film. I can see why it got a couple of bad reactions from people because of this. However, Cronenberg's films have never been the kind that you want to cuddle up with. They are far from that, really.

Cronenberg this time presents us with a dark thriller with characters that we really don't get to know in a conventional sense. Instead, Cronenberg places them at a far distance and slowly pulls us in and the more he pulls us in the more we get to know the world that these characters live in. By getting to know this dark underground world we begin to understand and "know" the lives these characters live. They remain complex and because of this we are often times left with subtle hints to give you a clue to how these characters really are. This whole method of presenting all of these characters in this way is through Naomi Watts character as she stumbles into this dark world through a naive and innocent action. The more she falls into the world, the more the world and it's characters that live in it come to surface. It's some great stuff to watch and to experiences as everything becomes more clear and more things begin to surface.

So, whenever Cronenberg is not having fun with these characters we also get some truly stellar scenes. The now infamous naked bathhouse brawl is one of the greatest scenes from this year and offers more intensity than most films do as a whole. Apart from these stand out scene swe are also presented with enough low key scenes that feature interactions between characters that when you think back on them they also stand out in your memory and make the film as rich as it is.

Another aspect worth pointing out are the performances by Viggo Mortensen and Vincent Cassel (a new favorite of mine). Sure, everyone else gives some great performances, but these two just make the film as great as it is. Once again, these are two performances which also sadly be overlooked now during awards season. A true shame.

When I was talking to my friend Dan about the film he nailed right on the head when he told me that it reminded him of something that Scorsese would have done earlier in his career. This is a great comparison in the sense that Cronenberg has created a genre film that has so much subtle detail, a fantastic execution, and complex characters that it really rises from just being a genre film. It becomes a film that is interested more in the men behind these corrupt and violent acts than it is in the acts themselves. It's this simple aspect which puts films like this one and Scorsese earlier works in a league of their own.

This is one of my favorites of the year and another grand achievement by David Cronenberg and everyone else involved. I loved it.

- A