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All reviews - Movies (58) - DVDs (72)

Drop Dead Gorgeous review

Posted : 11 years, 4 months ago on 24 September 2010 11:01 (A review of Drop Dead Gorgeous)

Rate 5 starsRate 4 starsRate 3 starsRate 2 starsRate 1 star.If you like your humor and satire extremely obvious and incredibly unclever than this just might be the movie for you. Imagine if you crossed Little Miss Sunshine with Fargo...that is if Little Miss Sunshine sucked and Fargo was one of the worst films of 1996 instead of one of the very best. Then cross it with a bad TV sit-com and tack on a faux-documentary style. That's Drop Dead Gorgeous. Really. That's all it is. Not much to "get" here. Just the same clumsy social satire and heavy-handed jokes over and over again. The film eeked out a second star from me based on the reasonably adequate performances by most of the actors given what they had to work with. Unless your tastes are drastically different from mine, or you would rather not bring/take away much intelligence to/from a film you can probably just avoid this one.


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Cyrus review

Posted : 11 years, 4 months ago on 24 September 2010 11:00 (A review of Cyrus)

Cyrus is a perfect example of a lot of talent with too little to do. There just wasn't enough going on in this film to keep the story moving and audiences interested. And as a big fan of the Duplass brothers' work, it really is a shame. Despite the comedy sprinkled throughout the script, Cyrus is a very serious film about a 23 year old kid without a father who is overly attatched to and protective of his mother. What makes the material darker is a smartly written subtext involving emotional manipulation and unhealthy control issues projected from Cyrus (Hill in a suprisingly delicate and solid performance) onto mom (Tomei). Truly this is their story at heart while the struggling divorcee (Reilly) haplessly wanders into their lives with noble intention and unfortunate outcome. Interesting is the issue raised about just how much is asked of women today, particularilly mothers, and even more-so with single mothers of socially maladjusted children. Tomei is brilliant in her portrayal of a middle-age woman trying earnestly and against all odds to satisfy her responsibilities to her son, her desires for herself, and the possibilities introduced by a new, promising, and essentially healthy relationship. Reilly is strong as well, playing everything from lonely and desperate to cautiously smitten to heartbrokenly defeated, to blissfully hopeful-- all convincingly. Keener receives less screen-time but as always turns in a stunning performance. (This whole acting thing just seems so easy for her.) Why then didnt this film get more mileage out of all this talent? Dubious production value aside, the film suffers most in its inability to capture and sustain any kind of energy, dramatic or comedic, striking one tone very well, but others not at all. Cyrus ultimately plays much like a very adept pianist using only 8 of 88 keys.


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The Last Exorcism review

Posted : 11 years, 4 months ago on 24 September 2010 10:58 (A review of The Last Exorcism)

The Last Exorcism is yet another entry into the faux-documentary horror sub-genre, an approach to filmmaking that for me has lost every bit of the little charm and intrigue it ever held. Its especially frustrating here, because an interesting concept and admirable performances power this story along nicely. If only they werent caged by the limitations and short-comings inherent to this tired, post-vogue trend in movie-making style. We couldve had a really good film here, rather than an adequate one. Oh well. Fortunately The Last Excorcism looks better than many of the hand-held thrillers that have come along in recent years. The film-quality is good enough not to call attention to itself, and the camera work generally adds to the film more than it takes away. But when a studio adds ambiance music and pieces of horror score on top of the real footage it breaks the tone, the suspension of reality, and the rules of the entire game. This film doesnt understand that you cant have both. The last Exorcism is lower in scares and creepiness than I hoped, but far higher in acting ability and screen-writing than Id ever have imagined, so I must applaud it for that. Sadly this all only makes the largely disappointing, tacted-on, PG-13-as-hell final act all the more unsatisfying.


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The Kids Are All Right review

Posted : 11 years, 4 months ago on 24 September 2010 10:56 (A review of The Kids Are All Right)

This is the exceptionally rare dramedy that completely satisfies on both dramatic and comedic levels without compromising either aspect. If you've read or seen anything to do with this film you will observe that the Kids Are All Right tackles some socially and, in today's world, politically sensitive material; it does so with absolute grace. The film is never overly-P.C. nor simplistic and irreverent in its treatment of its situations and characters. Rather it assumes a matter-of-fact position depicting reality as reality, (Bold, I know) where a long-term lesbian couple happens to center the story. Director Cholodenko takes a hard-line toward realism at every chance, with a pitch-perfect ear for dialogue, and an uncanny instinct for displaying authentic, recognizable humanity at all turns. Just the right touch of subversive satire is thrown in to keep this film from delving too deep into melodrama, and this highly talented cast delivers top-notch performances all the way through. With a script this smart, this film was almost bound to be good, but the likes of Bening, Moore, and Rufulo all clocking in at their best elevate this film to GREAT status. Fine, emotionally charged and mature performances from the teenagers go a long way in this film too, and given what this movie sets out to achieve I really can't point toward anything that demanded improvement. It handles relationships and life-stages in a way that will force audiences to recognize pieces of themselves somewhere or another, without ever implying an oppressive directoral attitude toward its subject. Charcters are left to work out their hang-ups, insecurities, and short-comings under their own steam, more or less moving toward a bittersweet place of alrightness. And it's rarely felt this good.


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Inception review

Posted : 11 years, 4 months ago on 24 September 2010 10:53 (A review of Inception)

A second viewing of this movie may warrant a tenth star (It's not terribly often I award a film 10 stars after one viewing, especially one as cerebral as this) but then again, it easily may not. I do know that I just saw something bold and important, maybe even the so-hard-to-come-by these days film that continues to get talked about years after its release. But for everything I loved about this film, there are some things that disappointed me that can't be ignored. For one thing, this film deserved to be, if not NEEDED to be, 30 minutes longer. I know that sounds ridiculous, but wait. The concept at the heart of this film is SO interesting and SO mind-bending that it demands lengthier back-story (not necessarily explanation) than were given. Some of the most interesting, captivating moments of this film arrive not during the action sequences, but as the characters are talking, experimenting, wondering over the technology, psychology, biology of the phenomenon and practice at the heart of the film. Many questions are left unanswered in this film (most for good, delightful reason) but the frustrating ones are basic and should be taken care of uptop. Other complaints are minor, barely worth mentioning. Much applause needs to be given to the PHENOMENAL visual conception throughout the film. See it on the biggest, loudest screen you can. The action sequences are superb, original, refreshingly true to life, physics, etc. Every single performance is strong, and Leo gives the performance we've come to expect from him, which is basically the highest and sincerest compliment one can give, so great has he become. Inception is a lot to keep up with, but well worth the effort.


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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World review

Posted : 11 years, 4 months ago on 24 September 2010 10:48 (A review of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World)

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a highly immaginative film directed by Edgar Wright, the emerging talent behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. As with his previous films this too is a genre mashup of sorts, this time a 20-something slacker Rom-Com meets video-game inspired comicbook madness with a bit of Kung-Fu flavor. The result is a quick moving, stylish visual feast, unique in its visual storytelling, and extraordinary in its ability to maintain a cohesive identity all the way through. To be sure this film knows exactly what it is and it is well researched in everything it mimics, parodies, and pays homage to. Scott Pigrim vs. The World greatly benefits from this self-awareness. Even so, I'm afraid that there is far more style than substance going on. At no point in watching the film did I feel there was much at stake for any of the characters, despite all the melodrama and endless Street Fighter-esque show-downs. Most of the actors turned in strong performances and yet I had trouble attaching myself to any of these characters. And while there were a few laughs here there just wasn't much in the way of real joy or humor to be had. Chalk this up to largely shallow and formula-driven subject matter I suppose. While worth seeing for its ambitious visual handling and commentary on all things "Trending Now", I couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed at the amout of oridariness also going on here.


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The Brood review

Posted : 11 years, 4 months ago on 24 September 2010 10:43 (A review of The Brood)

In less competent hands The Brood could easily have become a cheesy, ridiculous, throw-away horror film. Instead, Cronenberg has crafted this film into a dark, haunting tale that viewers won't soon forget. This is due in part to the way the director handles the dramatic aspects of the movie with as much care and credence as he does the horror elements. Rarely in the horror genre do we find a character as complex, menacing, and difficult to read as the experimental psychiatrist, played expertly by Oliver Reed. And equally challenging is the way the mother-figure is portrayed in this film. Cronenberg breaks many rules in the way Samantha Eggar's character is written. Creepy, trecherous, and utterly insane by turns, she somehow evokes the audiences pity, even as we assault her with our dark wishes and ill-will. The concept behind the actual physical threat in this film is downright chilling, even if a bit clunky and awkward. All in all The Brood is a satisfyingly creepy, brave film that stands out from the crowd.


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My Winnipeg review

Posted : 11 years, 4 months ago on 24 September 2010 10:39 (A review of My Winnipeg)

With my Winnipeg, Guy Maddin offers audiences an intensely personal, poetic, and passionate film. The mood of this work wavers from bitterness, nolstagia, regret, blissfulness, and estrangement, but in the end evokes more feelings of LOVE--the real kind, at times murky and complex, at others luminous and simple--than the last 10 films I've watched combined. For in the end, that's what My Winnipeg is- a true labor of love from a serious artist. Viewers will recognize hints of German expressionism, French surrealism, Citizen Kane-esque shots, an entire history of film technique that Maddin employs as he tries to unravel the fibers of his soul, the heart-strings that bind him to his beloved town in a knotty, tangled mess. This is a film that investigates cause and effect, nature and nurture, the truths and untruths we carry with us, how they've shaped us and we them. Please do not take all this to mean that this is one of THOSE CEREBRAL ARTHOUSE FLICKS, the kind most people only pretend to truly enjoy. Instead view this film as an invitation to revisit your own life story, your own geographical and spiritual landscape. Because as Maddin tells us, "the truth is relative".


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Irreversible review

Posted : 11 years, 4 months ago on 24 September 2010 10:38 (A review of Irreversible)

If you're reading this, you most likely have an idea by now of what this film is, what it contains, and how it is achieved. Curiosity finally got the better of me too, and I'd be lying if I didn't say a large part of me regrets it. I do not, however, wish to blame the film-makers, as given the content and message behind the movie, I can't think of any way to improve upon the ultra-tragic nightmarish effectiveness of the film. Nope, I simply blame myself. I am not, you see, a film historian, nor am I in the middle of writing a thesis on the impact of film as an artform and it's role in the critique and analysis of violence in modern French society. Alas, I am merely a movie-lover, a somewhat studious, but relatively casual appreciator of film as art, film as storytelling, and film as escapism. And while I hate to admit it, this is one of those rare movies, one of maybe two or three that I've seen, that truly demands stricter credentials than those I have to offer. I guess what I mean to say is that, while this is a very good film, if you don't HAVE to watch it, maybe just don't watch it.


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Machete review

Posted : 11 years, 4 months ago on 24 September 2010 10:27 (A review of Machete)

I expected the violence, the lewdness, the irreverence, the humor, and the over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek, self-indulgent style. What I did not expect and only dared hope for was a nearly Great film. Machete is a very nearly great piece of cinema. The only things holding it back from 9 or 10 star territory are a couple of clumsy, forced, exposition-heavy scenes that interrupt the frantic flow of action and otherwise gracefully self-sufficient story-telling, as well as a couple of mundane performances in an ensemble cast that for the most part delivers. At certain points Machete falls dangerously close to becoming a straight parody of itself but Rodriguez and Co. somehow manage to elude this common pitfall. Overall, even at its most ridiculous, Machete manages to entertain us and suck audiences further into the experience rather than trip over itself and alienate us from the viewing experience. Looking beyond the exploitation, grind-house material it is obvious that there is some real talent behind this film with a discerning sense of what works and what doesn't, what the audience can accept and what they can't. That's not to mention the nearly palpable love for cinema that this film's directors exude with almost every shot. When Machete is at its best this passion is purely contagious. Know what you're in for here. Machete is dirty, gritty, bloody bloody bloody, and carnal. But if none of that puts you off it's also one of the best times to be had in the theater all year.


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