Saturday, January 26, 2008

Spellbound (2002, Jeffrey Blitz)

After watching Spellbound I came to the conclusion that I love documentaries which tackle on a competition. The only 2 other examples that I can think of which I loved are Mad Hot Ballroom and Wordplay, but I have a feeling that I just really dig this subgenre of documentaries.

So, because of this I don't know why I never caught up with Spellbound since it is considered THE documentary to see from this subgenre. It suddenly hit me out of blue that I should check it out finally and I was pleased that I did. It lived up to the hype and it was often times a mix of cheering on your favorite kid, laughing, and just getting really into it and feeling the tension when it came time for them to compete against eachother.

- ****

Zach Galifianakis: Live At The Purple Onion (2006, Michael Blieden)

I didn't know if I should write about this one or not. I dont know if stand up specials can be considered films or not but I think as long as there is a cinematic element to it, it should be seen as a film. Since, this stand up dvd of Zach Galifianakis chooses to intercut his stand up with clips of him being on the road with his friends and even some mock interviews with his fake twin brother "seth" I think that the stand up comedy special turns into a stand up comedy film.

I dont know much about stand up comedy but Zach Galifianakis is one of the few stand up comedians which I am a big fan of. I love his sense of humor and I love the way he presents it with different personas, a child's choir, storyboards, and most of the time just by playing a nice melody on the piano meanwhile he tells random jokes.

So, given that I am a fan I enjoyed the film. I will say that some bits where Galifianakis decides to bomb on purpose or just break off from his prepared routine and interact with his audiences at times become too much and you are just waiting for him to get back on stage or for the film to cut back to him on the road or a mock interview.

Still, if you are fan, you will find it funny and entertaining.

- ***

The Comedians of Comedy (2005, Michael Blieden)

I thought I was just going to watch a normal stand up special but instead got a great behind the scenes documentary. It was funny and actually informative at times. There is no drama, no emotional scenes, and no mind blowing scenes. It's as if the 4 comedians hired a guy to just make a long home movie while recording them on tour and then after when everything was over, he just got all the footage and was able to make a documentary out of it.

- ***1/2

Personal Best (1982, Robert Towne)

I have been wanting to watch this film for a couple of years now ever since I read Easy Riders, and Raging Bulls and this film was mentioned in it during the final chapters. Due to the lack of a dvd I was never able to get a hold of it but as soon as this one popped out on dvd a couple of weeks ago I was quick to watch it.

Personal Best is a film about a group of women athletes competing and training in order to get into the U.S.A. Olympic team. The film seems to put this to the side and instead focuses more on the story of a young athlete falling in love with the older and wiser girl on the team. Of course, emotions get in the way and when the film resorts back to its overall story arch of these women competing to get on the U.S.A. Olympic team everything has a much more emotional weight to it when the final competition begins.

Personal Best makes me want to rewatch all of the films of the 70's and early 80's again since it reminded me of why I loved going through that era of film when I was starting out being a film buff. Personal Best contains all of the trademarks which I have come to love from this era of film. It contains extremely strong writing, performances, and direction which is subtle yet still with some style which is enough to catch your attention. It also takes its time to create its character and make a great character driven piece without falling into Hollywood cliches.

There is really not much more that I have to say about it. I really enjoyed it and particularly enjoyed Scott Glen's performance as the coach to the all women team. Robert Towne's writing is also top notch.

- ***1/2

This Filthy World (2006, Jeff Garlin)

My friend Greg over at Sex,Drugs, and Cinema told me this was "like stand up for film buffs" and he was 100 percent right.

I am not a fan of John Waters' films, except for Serial Mom which I consider to be an underrated film. Having said that, I love hearing John Waters speak in documentaries and I love reading his writings. I find him hilarious and always insightful and I applaud him and what he has done with his films and also with his support towards cinema. He is a one of a kind character and I like seeing him play that character..which is himself.

So, there is no surprise that I loved This Filthy World, which is just John Waters speaking to a crowd for about an hour and a half. He talks from everything from Michael Jackson to his fights with the MPAA to him going by film by film and telling stories from each. His one man show presents him as the character which film buffs have come to adore and it's easy to see why there is such a love towards him after watching it.

- ****

Cloverfield (2008, Matt Reeves)

It seems to be the love/hate film at the moment and I belong to the camp which love it to death. Without a doubt a stunning feat and one hell of a movie. Check out Sex,Drugs, and Cinema's review of it HERE since he hit the nail on the head with my thoughts towards it as well.

- ****

The Nines (2007, John August)

This movie broke my mind many times while watching it.

The Nines is a very out there and very original film. I still don't know what to make of it exactly but I know there is a great film somewhere in the mess and the craziness that it is. Some people are quick to hate on it and say that it's just a bunch of weird shit but I choose to applaud it for actually trying to do something original and out of box. Now, if it has some odd steps in it's execution and direction is a whole other thing. The one example that comes to mind is a musical sequence which is just there for the sake of making it all more weird. There are some things which I can not see making any sense at all even if the director were to personally explain it to me, but despite all these flaws, it is still one hell of a mind trip.

- ***

The Naked Prey (1966, Colonel Wilde)

I was absolutely blown away by this film. I was reminded about another film which I really love, Quest for Fire, while watching it and I think I have come to the conclusion of why I love both films so much. The thing that they both share in common is that there is little to no dialogue and for the most part everything is told visually.

Meanwhile Quest for Fire was about...well... a quest for fire, The Naked Prey is just one man running away from an African tribe and trying to survive for 90 minutes. I found it to be always thrilling, intense, and at times just bad ass.

I really don't have much else to say. I liked it a lot and loved the execution of it all.

- ****

Persepolis (2007, Vincent Paronnaud & Marjane Satrapi)

I really hate when I run into one of these kinds of films. I am talking about the kinds of films which I can watch, not get bored by it, respect it, and admire it greatly from a film buff point of view...yet I was not blown away by it and never really felt anything towards it except for respect and admiration.

It's a great film but not one that I think I will be revisiting anytime soon. I can only admire it from a distance.

- ***1/2

Demons 2 (1986, Lamberto Bava)

Pretty much the same thing as the first film (which you can read my thoughts about it here) only instead of a closed in movie theater being attacked by Demons, it is a start of the art apartment building which is sealed shut. It's once again just an excuse for style and set pieces which are always amusing. The only thing is that since this is the 2nd time around everything that felt fun and original about the first film just feels like more of the same ol' thing this time around.

It's still fun, though.

- **1/2

When We Were Kings (1996, Leon Gast)

Without a doubt one of the best documentaries I have seen. The fact that it was decades in the making makes it all the better. The way it presents the film using the original footage of Ali preparing for his fight against Foreman in Africa mixed in with interviews from modern day with the people involved along with admirers of Ali makes it one of the best sports films that I have seen as well.

I know of Ali and his legacy but I never knew about it fully until watching this documentary. You really get a sense of why he was such a legend in his own time and an icon now. I loved it and made me appreciate a time in history that I didn't know much about.

- ****

Project Grizzly (1996, Peter Lynch)

This was a pretty funny documentary about a man who is obsessed with creating an indestructible suit so that he can view and study grizzly bears up close. I don't really have much to say because there isn't much to it. It's funny and nothing more.

= ***

Catching Up

I wanted to do a full write up for every single movie that I have seen in the past couple of weeks but there are just too many of them and I am just too lazy. So, I am just going to do a paragraph or a couple of sentences for each one.

That is all.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Oscar Nom Predictions.

Its 3:10 am and I am trying to stay up all night that way I can watch the nominations being announced at 5:30. are my predictions for the nominations just because I find them fun to do.

Best Picture

Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Into the Wild
No Country For Old Men
There Will be Blood

Might Sneak in: Atonement, Sweeney Todd, Michael Clayton

Might be the biggest surprise/shocker (!!) - Atonement will not get a nomination. Maybe even some out of left field best picture nomination for Eastern Promises.

Best Director

Tim Burton - Sweeney Todd
Joel Coen - No Country For Old Men
Sean Penn - Into the Wild
Julian Schnabel - Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Paul Thomas Anderson - There will be Blood

Might sneak in: Joe Wright for Atonement

Might be the biggest surprise/shocker (!!): Jason Reitman gets a nomination for Juno OR Cronenberg gets a nomination.

Best Actor

George Clooney - Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will be Blood
Johnny Depp - Sweeney Todd
Ryan Gosling - Lars and the Real Girl
Viggo Mortensen - Eastern Promises

Might sneak in: Emile Hirsch for Into the Wild

Biggest surprise/shocker (!!) - If Gosling gets in everyone will proclaim this to be a shocker. I will instead be shocked if they were to replace one of my other 4 pics for Hirsch since I feel that its Gosling vs Hirsch at the moment for the 5th spot. The other big shocker will be McAvoy getting in.

Best Actress

Amy Adams for Enchanted
Julie Christie - Away From Her
Marion Coiltarrd - La Vie en Rose
Angelina Jolie - A Mighty Heart
Ellen Page - Juno

Might sneak in: this is a hard one. I put Adams up just because I think the strong BO of Enchanted and the fact that she jumped up to the A list and became an "it girl" because of that performance gives her a little, tiny, bit more of a chance. Saying that there are so many that can get the 5th spot. Linney, Blonsky, Knightley, Carter, and my friend just remined me of Blanchett just now. So, her too. I will be very curious to see who makes it.

Shocker: Blanchett gets in.

Best Supporting Actor

Cassey Affleck - The Assisignation of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men
Hal Holbrook - Into the Wild
Tommy Lee Jones - No Country for Old Men
Tom Wilkinson - Michael Clayton

Might sneak in - Paul Dano?

Shocker - Paul Dano?

Best Supporting Actress

Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There
Ruby Dee - American Gangster
Sairose Ronan - Atonement
Amy Ryan - Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton - Michael Clayton

Might sneak in: Catherine Keener for Into the Wild/Kelly MacDonald for No Country

Shocker - Jennifer Garner for Juno

Best Screenplay (dont want to go get the names. Sorry)

Lars and the Real Girl
Michael Clayton
The Savages

Best adapted Screenplay (dont want to go get the names. Sorry)

Diving Bell and the Butterfly
No Country for Old Men
Into the Wild
There Will be Blood

Best Animated Film

The Simpsons Movie

Best Cinematography

Roger Deakins - The Assignation of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Roger Deakins - No Country For Old Men
Robert Elswitt - There Will be Blood
Janusz Kaminski - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Dariuz Wolski - Sweeney Todd

Best Foreign Film

Ummmm 4 other movies and The Counterfeiters. I am out of the loop with this catagory and all the films that I could have sworn would get nominations became ineligible.

Best Original Score

I am going to play the "fuck them" card in this one and not even pick anyone who I think deserves a nomination. After reading about how Jonny Greenwoods brilliant and best score of last year became ineligible for such bullshit reasons, I could care less about this category this year. It may seem like I am bitching too much or being melodramatic but I just really don't care.

I know that I left out a lot of categories, the biggest maybe being Best Documentary, but thats jsut due to me not knowing too much about them, being too lazy, or me really not caring all that much about the category (I'm just being honest).

I will, however, say that I am really looking forward to seeing if Falling Down from Once will make it. I'm rooting for it but I dont know if it became ineligible or not.

And thats that. I cant wait to tune in in about 2 hours. I know I will be nervous, giddy, mad, and happy within the course of 30 minutes, but I look forward to it every single year. I really cant wait.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Bourne Series

I felt out of the loop with the Bourne trilogy and all of the people who just love them. I saw the first film when it first came out on dvd and I thought it was just "ok" nothing more and nothing less. I remember that I tried to watch the 2nd film a couple of times on cable and I just couldn't get into it. I just couldn't get why people loved them so much.

So, after seeing The Bourne Ultimatum get so many rave reviews and get on so many peoples top ten lists, I became curious in checking them out. I wondered if I really was missing out on things and because of this I got all 3 films and decided to see them all over the course of 2 days. I can now happily jump on the bandwagon who love these films.

The Bourne Identity is a solid film. Despite some genre cliches, it is still a very solid film. I have no major complaints and didn't think it was perfect but still great. I was interested in seeing how the 2nd film would measure up since people seem to say that its the worst of the trilogy and I was embraced for the worst. Instead, I found it to be just as great as the first film. No complaints from me at all and I liked how it now only continued the story from the first film but also added some backstory to the overall story from the 1st and now 2nd film. it seemed as if it created a mythology to everything and I was pleased to see it take that form.

Now this brings me to the 3rd film which I just loved,loved,loved.

The Bourne Ultimatum is one of the best action films in recent memory without a doubt. My friend Dan told me that it was basically a 2 hour chase film and he hit the nail on the head with that phrase. I am amazed that Greengrass was able to create such a non stop action film without the action ever getting old or annoying and without ignoring the film, and series, story and characters. It really is a great accomplishment, in my opinion, in not only the directing but also the writing behind the film. It is also very cool to see Damon fully flesh out a character through 3 films and finally with the 3rd film create a character that will be remembered for years to come.

I also loved how the overall story arch that began with the 1st film becomes a full circle but is given enough breathing space where ti could continue on through other films. After saying all of this...I also LOVED the way the 3rd film connects back to the 2nd film and in a way makes the 2nd film even better. It might be a gimmick but it is a brilliantly executed gimmick that had me smiling and wanting to revisit the 2nd film immediately.

In short and simple words...the Bourne Trilogy is awesome.

The Bourne Identity (2002, Doug Liman) - ***1/2
The Bourne Supremacy (2004, Paul Greengrass) - ***1/2
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007, Paul Greengrass) - ****

The Commitments (1991, Alan Parker)

i had forgotten all about this film until now and I only saw it about a week or so ago. To make this short...I hated it.

Although I have not seen too many films by Alan Parker, I do like him from what I have seen. I always see him pop up on peoples list of underrated or overlooked directors and from the couple of films of his that I have seen, I agree. Angela's Ashes, and The Wall were good. While Angel Heart is great and Midnight Express is just a masterpiece. So, based on these films that I have seen from him, I was expecting something solid. I was just very disappointed with what I saw.

The comedy is too obvious and tries too hard. All of the characters are unlikable and uninteresting to me, at least to me, and the musical was pretty good. I will give it that. Other than the music...there is nothing that I liked or even enjoyed.I get that Parker was aiming for a feel good comedy film but it just didn't work for me at all. Looking back on it the first negative thing that I can think about is the main actor and how much I just wanted to punch him in the face. I guess when a films main character brings out these emotions from you there isn't much hope that you will enjoy it. This is the case with me.

I don't have anything else to add on. I'm sure my parents would find this enjoyable and for fluff it might just be that. To each his own, but I just couldn't get into it.

- *

Hell House (2001, George Ratliff)

The person who recommended me this movie told me it was "the best film that Christopher Guest didn't direct" and he was spot on.

Hell House is an odd film to write about. I imagine that some will look at it in disgust and will be shocked by what it presents, sort of like how people approached Jesus Camp. While others, I feel, will look at it as a dark comedy with lots of dry humor. I chose to look at it as a comedy since it seems that the director is aiming for that most of time, and as a comedy it is fucking hilarious.

Hell House, for those that do not know, is a documentary which chronicles the auditions, planning, and execution of a haunted house that a couple of Christians put on every year. The twist is that they use planed scenes performed by actors involving issues of school shootings, abortion, the dangers of raves, and being a homosexual to "scare people" who are not accepting God and are not living the way that God wants them too.

The thing which I loved about the film is that it takes what could have been a touchy subject and makes it a subject that is still touchy but given that the people within it are so ridiculous and such character straight out of fiction that you cant help but not take it too seriously. I will also say that another aspect that I loved about the film is that instead of just presenting these characters and making fun of them from a distance the director, George Ratliff, gives enough background to these characters that we can sort of "get them" and we cant hate them. We actually see why some characters are the way they are towards religion. We can only laugh but not point a finger.

That is really all I have to say about the film. I will give it ***1/2 stars for now even though I want to give it 4. This is only because I still want to rewatch the film one more time to see if I was just looking for laughs too much or if the director was really aiming for laughs during some scenes. I guess the grey area that exists is too grey for me for now.

- ***1/2

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Golden Globe Predictions

There is about an hour left until the Golden Globe presentation begins. So, I might as well do my predictions right now just to see how everything plays out. we 1st choice will be in red with the runner up being just in bold.

Best Motion Picture (Drama):
American Gangster
Eastern Promises
The Great Debaters
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
There Will be Blood

: No Country has won almost every single award so far and I think that its a lock to win both the globe and the Oscar. As much as I want to pick There Will be Blood as the runner up I think the votes will split between No Country and Blood. So, except Atonement to maybe be the shocker for tonight given it's multiple nominations.

Best performance by an Actress (Drama)

Cate Blanchett – Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie – Away From Her
Jodie Foster – The Brave One
Angelina Jolie – A Mighty Heart
Keira Knightley – Atonement

Why?: Julie Christie is a lock to win. I am 100 percent sure of this. As for Jolie...why not? Its between her and Knightley but I think Jolie is the 2nd favorite in this category just because A Mighty Heart seems to be a showcase just for her.

Best performance by an Actor (Drama)

George Clooney – Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis – There Will Be Blood
James McAvoy – Atonement
Viggo Mortensen – Eastern Promises
Denzel Washington – American Gangster

Why?: DDL is another 100 percent lock. Clooney is a safe bet for an Oscar nom and the couple of awards he has won for far from different groups and awards shows makes him a runner up.

Best Motion Picture (Comedy)

Across The Universe
Charlie Wilson's War
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

: I really,really,really,really want to see Sweeney take this one but my gut is telling me that it won't. I think its a close race between these two but the surprise box office numbers for Juno plus it's sweet nature is sure to get to the heart of the voters over the dark,violent, and odd film and musical that is Sweeney Todd. It could go either way, though.

Best Performance by an Actress (Comedy/Musical)

Amy Adams – Enchanted
Nikki Blonsky – Hairspray
Helena Bonham Carter – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Marion Cotillard – La Vie En Rose
Ellen Page – Juno

Ellen Page's performance is the heart and anchor of Juno. Everyone seems to be loving her performance and I expect it to be a lock for a win. However, Cotillard and Page have been fighting it out for awards the past weeks. It could go either way and they both will get an Oscar nom but for now I expect Page to take it.

Best Performance by an Actor (Comedy/Musical)

Johnny Depp – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Ryan Gosling – Lars and the Real Girl
Tom Hanks – Charlie Wilson's War
Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Savages
John C. Reilly – Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Why?: Depp will win this one. The SAG nominations for Gosling makes him my pick for the runner up.

Best Supporting Actress

Cate Blanchett – I'm Not There
Julia Roberts – Charlie Wilson's War
Saoirse Ronan – Atonement
Amy Ryan – Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton – Michael Clayton

Why?: Ryan is a 100 percent lock for this one. As for Ronan...why not? Her young age and her scene stealing performance in Atonement is sure to get some votes.

Best Supporting Actor

Casey Affleck – The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem – No Country For Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman – Charlie Wilson's War
John Travolta – Hairspray
Tom Wilkinson – Michael Clayton

Why?: Despite most people calling Bardem a lock, I still think that its a close race between him and Affleck. I do, however, predict Bardem to take it.

Best Animated Film

Bee Movie
The Simpsons Movie

Why?: Ratatouille is a lock. Simpsons...why not?

Best Foreign Language Film

4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days (Romania)
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly (France, United States)
The Kite Runner (United States)
Lust, Caution (Taiwan)
Persepolis (France)

Why?: This could go either way between 4 Months, Diving Bell, and Persepolis. I am predicting Diving Bell to take it because of the best director nom that comes along with it.

Best Director

Tim Burton – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen – No Country For Old Men
Julian Schnabel – The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Ridley Scott – American Gangster
Joe Wright – Atonement

Why?: The Coens are a lock. I'm jsutp icking Schnabel as a runner up just because every article I read seems to be praising his directing a lot.

Best Screenplay

Written by Christopher Hampton
Charlie Wilson's War
Written by Aaron Sorkin
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Written by Ronald Harwood
Written by Diablo Cody
No Country For Old Men
Written by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Best Score

Grace Is Gone
Composed by Clint Eastwood
The Kite Runner
Composed by Alberto Iglesias
Composed by Dario Marianelli
Eastern Promises
Composed by Howard Shore
Into The Wild
Composed by Michael Brook, Kaki King and Eddie Vedder

Best Song

"Despedida" – Love In The Time Of Cholera
Music By: Shakira and Antonio Pinto
Lyrics By: Shakira
"Grace Is Gone" – Grace Is Gone
Music By: Clint Eastwood
Lyrics By: Carole Bayer Sager
"Guaranteed" – Into The Wild
Music & Lyrics By: Eddie Vedder
"That's How You Know" – Enchanted
Music By: Alan Menken
Lyrics By: Stephen Schwartz
"Walk Hard" – Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
Music & Lyrics By: Marshall Crenshaw, John C. Reilly, Judd Apatow and Jake Kasdan

And thats that.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Demons (1985, Lamberto Bava)

This one just has to be seen to be believed.

The premise of the film is simple: a mysterious figure gives out tickets to a screening of a horror film to a small group of people. Once there, there is a weird mask in the lobby that scratches one person and it doesn't take too long before she transforms into a zombie/demon and begins to infect everyone that she scratches. Of course, the theater is all of a sudden sealed shut with no escape to be found. How will they ever survive...or will the even survive?

That is the plot to Demons in a nutshell. The logic behind almost everything gets thrown out of the window, nothing is explained at all, and it just becomes a showcase for style, action scenes, and gore. It's great

I really have nothing else to write about it. It really is just a showcase kind of film. Given that Lamberto Bava (Mario's son) and Argento were involved with the project, the film has a certain charm to it and becomes more that just a nomral splatter film. I even think that the film set out to be the ultimate splatter film at the time with it's over the top style.

Speaking about style, the influence that this film had over Peter Jackon's Dead Alive is very notable. When one character jumps on top of a motorcycle and starts killing the demons with a swords you cant help but think of Dead Alive's final minutes.

That's really all I have to say about this one. It's far from a great film and has a bunch of flaws but it's still a lot of fun. Its the kind of film that doesn't take itself too seriously and if you are able to do just tha towards the filmt, then you will enjoy it.

Oh...and the ending is pure gold.

- ***

Sunshine (2007, Danny Boyle)

This whole film brings out a big sad sigh from me.

While watching the first hour and 20 minutes it felt like I was watching flawed perfection. By this I mean that some small factors were getting in the way for for the most part the film was just beyond great. I felt like I was watching one of the best films from last year. It felt like I had discovered THE overlooked/underrated/underappreciated film from 2007. I was enjoying myself and just kept on asking myself "Why was this film not a huge hit" and then the final 20 minutes kicked in and it made me forget about everything the film showed for all those minutes leading up to it.

I cant think of another film taking such a nose dive to blandness like this one. The sudden tone shift from an intelligent sci fi film that stood over its genre to a horror/slasher film was just too much. it feels out of place and even the overall style of the film completely changes. I will say that this whole sequence is nicely shot and is intense but it just feels so extremely out of the place that it just makes you confused. It literally just ruins the film.

That's really all I have to say about Sunshine. I wish that I could be praising it more but I cant. The last part of the film just makes me wonder about what kind of film it actually could have turn out to be without it. I imagine that it might have turned out to be one of the best films in recent memory instead of the odd and for the most part disappointing film that it is.

I still don't know what exactly to think of the film as a whole just because I just cant get past my hatred towards the last 20 minutes. I will say that its worth a watch just to see the greatness that comes before it. I jsut wish that I could forget about the rest.

- ***

Before the Devil Knows Your Dead (2007, Sidney Lumet)

This film seems to split everyone's opinion. There is a group who hate it, a pretty big group who think that it's "good", and a very small group who consider it to be one of the best films from last year. I now belong to the small group who praises the film.

I can see why people are so mixed towards the film. Lumet seems to have crafted a film which sets out to challenge its audience with its characters, editing, and story. Even looking back on the film I don't think there is one thing in the film that people are supposed to "like" and "cheer for". If anything, Before the Devil Knows Your Dead is one of the darkest films that I have seen in recent memory. It's because of this reason that I loved the film.

I loved the aspect of creating characters which you just loathe but at the same time can feel sympathy for and then just seeing them self destruct for the next 2 hours. While watching the film I was reminded of Mike Nichol's Closer and how he, at least to me to me, tried to go for the same thing but I was instead left with characters which I just loathed. That's not the case here. Maybe its because of the whole heist angle or maybe its because these characters actually feeling fleshed out but I absolutely loved how at times I didn't know if I wanted these characters to succeed in their heist plan or see them get screwed over. I loved having mixed feeling like these during some scenes.

I also feel that Lumet has crafted one of the most intense films in awhile. the intensity that this film reaches at times was a bit too much for me, but I figure that that's a good sign that the film is doing what it set out to do. Few films have had that power over me and this is one of them.

I will say that the film wasn't perfect to me based on my first viewing. Even though I am going to give it 4 stars, I still had some small problems with the film. I would write out what those two problems are but they would spoil the film. I will say that I wasnt a fan of a certain scene dealing with Albert Finney and that I also wasn't a big fan of the way that the final shot was handled. It felt a little bit too easy and amateurish from such a veteran director. Apart from these flaws, I absolutely loved the film and consider it one of the best from last year.

I also might as well add that I think that Ethan Hawke and Phillip Seymour Hoffman are being overlooked for awards. In my opinion, they both give some of the best and most underrated performances from last year,

- ****

So...I haven't written anything in awhile

I haven't written anything about anything for awhile now just because I haven't been "feeling it" but I'm gonna write a little bit right now since I am trying to write something about every single movie that I watch this year.

I am not going to write anything too big right now, though. This is just because I have a lot of posts to do.

And thats that.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Charlie Wilson's War (2007. Mike Nichols)

My friend Dan over at The Public Enemy hit this one right on the head with his brief but perfect write up for this film, which can be found here.

Charlie Wilson's War is a film that is good, becomes great at times, and almost becomes excellent but never really achieves it. I don't know what is off about it but my guess is that the shifts in tone through out the film from comedy to drama are at times executed perfectly (when Hanks first meets Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the middle of him handling a scandal on his hands) while other times it just feels forced and not funny at all (the pilots having a conversation about girl problems before getting shot down....HILARIOUS!).

The other thing which really hurt the overall quality of the film, at least to me, was what I felt was a rushed and sudden conclusion which makes the final scene feel extremely unsatisfying on every kind of level. I seriously had zero emotions during the final scene and I wonder if Nichols really thought he could achieve just that with an audience. It just feels like the exact kind of Hollywood ending that you would expect from such a film. Sure, it might have happened like that in real life but it just feels like a bad cliche.

Apart from it's flaws, Charlie Wilson's War does contain one of the best performances from 2007. Phillip Seymour Hoffman completely steals the show from everyone and every single scene involving him turn out to be the highlights of the film. The man is one of the best actors out there right now and this is only further proof of this. I would be pretty disappointed to see this film become an Oscar favorite and get a couple of nominations. However, the man deserves all the praise he is getting for this performance and he deserves a nomination for this performance. He really does make the film as solid and enjoyable as it is.

- ***

Night on Earth (1991, Jim Jarmusch)

I feel like I should just copy and paste what I wrote for Paris, Je'Taime because both of these write ups are going to come out almost the same.

Jarmusch's Night on Earth is made up of 5 short stories/short films each filmed in a major city from all around the world which all deal with a cab driver and his or her experience with their customer through out a night. We see Winona Ryder drive a casting agent through L.A, a cab driver who doesn't know how to drive in New York, a man and a blind woman having a conversation in France, Roberto Benifni picking up a priest and confessing his sins to him in Rome, and a cab driver picking up a couple of drunk workers in Finland and then telling them the saddest story they will ever hear.

I have a couple of films left to watch from Jarmuch but for the most part I really like the guy, despite me having a huge hatred towards Stranger Than Paradise. I really like his minimalistic style and I like his dry sense of humor a lot. He is definitely one of the many directors out there whose full work I am trying to watch.

Now, I don't know what it is with me and anthology films. I love the idea of them and I always expect for me to enjoy them but I always find myself saying the exact same thing after each one of these kinds of films: they are always a mixed bag. Some turn out excellent, some turn out good, and one or two of them always turn out bad. Night on Earth suffers from this exact thing.

The film contains one excellent story where Benigni steals the show as the wild cab driver who begins to confess his sins to a priest while driving him. Apart from that, the film never really reaches such an excellent point as this one. The remaining 4 stories have their highs and lows and for the most part are enjoyable but there is never anything too amazing about them, sadly. However, there are no real bad apples in the bunch, which is a good thing.

The one thing that is amazing, though, is Tom Waits score and soundtrack to the film which is just as cool as you would expect. His musical style is a perfect fit to the mood that Jarmuch evokes through out the film. The film just wouldn't be the same without it.

I really have nothing else to write about. It's far from a great film but it's enjoyable enough. It's worth watching just to see the Rome segment with Begnini.

- ***