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

Happiness review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 3 October 2010 11:38 (A review of Happiness)

Watching Happiness lastnight, I kept asking myself if it was more focused than Magnolia or simply less layered. I think the answer is decidedly both. I'm not sure what this has to do with the rest of my review, but c'mon, this is a tough one to break into. The film presents viewers in the starkest of terms with tragic stories of loneliness and sexual deviancy in such a candid and unmanipulative way that we wish to learn more about these people, even as we are repulsed by them. Solondz achieves this by keeping each character's humanity intact, no matter how flawed or twisted it becomes. These people are not heroes of their own lives. None of them are bound for greatness. Their stories are in no way inspiring. But they are real people with real stories, and Solondz has decided that these too are worth telling. To broadly paint this film as satire is a bit misleading and dangerous. Satire suggests that the characters are merely devices, symbols used to illustrate larger truths. While I agree that the tone of this film is often satirical and ironic, I think in most instances the characters embody their own truths, albeit tragic and disgusting ones, truths that the camera refuses to look away from. Perhaps what the director is really satarizing is ignorance. Who benefits more from the facades that people construct? The person on the inside, or the people on the outside? How much are we really willing to know about our neighbors, teachers, sibilings, if at the same time we wish to preserve a veil of happiness?


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The Puffy Chair review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 3 October 2010 11:32 (A review of The Puffy Chair )

This is the movie I hope for every time I roll the dice on an obscure indie flick. Alarmingly simple in scope and story, like a piece of sublime poetry, The Puffy Chair takes the mundane and turns it into the extraordinary. It works mostly within the confines of a roadtrip plot, and focuses on a trio of 20- somethings with a sense of direction in life as questionable as your average mapquest results. This state of confusion and uncertainty is not treated with an indulgent sense of superiority or faux-sympathy, however. Rather, our young film-makers tackle the story with a remarkably authentic-feeling, fragile sense of wisdom. There are lessons to be learned here, having to do with where we place importance, how to recognize and be true to ourselves, and how, if we open ourselves up, a single, multi-state car ride can propell us to the inevitable conclusion to a chapter of our lives that may ordinarilly have taken months of pretending and heartache to reach. This is a film that values honesty over pretention at every turn and penetrates the complexities of the characters, making it truly seem as though they were real people who've lived real lives before the camera switches on and continue to live after the credits have rolled. The moments of comedy don't rely on script, but rather on our recognition of ourselves, of our friends in these characters. By the same token, the moments of small, pointed tragedy are equally effective. If you're looking for a hip, edgy movie filled with idealized dialogue and cute, pithy irony then this is not your movie. If you want an unassuming little story that captures the small dramas that we all live with unnerving clarity and realism then look no further.


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Shutter Island review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 3 October 2010 11:30 (A review of Shutter Island)

Scorsese and DiCaprio are back together doing what they do best-- making great films. This time around they benefit from the support of Ben Kingsley (this year's Christoph Waltz, who stole the show in Inglorious Basterds) and Mark Ruffalo (who, if you haven't figured it out by now, is among the most capable of all unsung actors working today). Perhaps mis-marketed as simply a gritty super-natural horror story, Shutter Island is so much more-- a convincing period piece, a visually stunning fever-dream, and, excuse the cliche, a top-shelf, knock em all over and win the biggest f***ing stuffed panda out of the sweat shop, psychological thriller. Granted, there's nothing in this movie, plot-wise, that hasn't been done before, it's just that it's seldom been done this well. Here Scorsese strays far away from his normal, taxi-cab-laiden streets or compelling, fearless bio-pics. It's as though Scorsese shuddered, pun regretfully intended, at the decline of the average movie-goers tastes, but figured, "hell, if it's creepy, atmospheric thrills with twist-endings they want, then that's what they'll get. But I'll be damned if I don't find a way to remain a relevant film-maker in the process."


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Tetsuo: The Iron Man review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 3 October 2010 11:28 (A review of Tetsuo: The Iron Man)

Wow. That was truly brutal and truly gorgeous all at once. It's incredible how many interesting things can be done with a camera when plot and narrative take a back seat and visual storytelling is allowed to run amok. Image Eraserhead, the poetic nightmarishness of Metropolis, the cringe-inducing scenes from the NIN Broken videos, and Cronenberg at his most daring, all wrapped up into 67 frantic minutes. If you aren't familiar with any of these comparisons, well...where does one begin? Without giving too much away, (much of the narrative is presented non-linearly anyhow), the essential story involves a young man who has a fetish for inserting metal into his skin. Having inserted a metal rod in his leg (you won't need to use your imagination), he sprints down the street only to be hit by a car operated by a business man and his lover. The young man not only lives, but seems to have obtained super-powers, allowing him to infect the guilty party with some sort of cyber/metal/terror virus. A revenge-plot of sorts ensues, and much can be made about themes of industrialization taking over humanity, the struggle for organic authenticity in a technological era, etc. The narative is loose enough, however, that it encourages, even demands, all kinds of interpretations, so go wild. There's plenty of sexual imagry for example, and it shouldn't be difficult to nuture theories about the implications of sexual fantasy, intamacy, violence, feminism, or male power-paradigms. The scant plot and sparse dialogue of course leaves all kinds of room for stunning, grotesque, and beautiful (just pause the movie at nearly any moment and LOOK at that black, white and silver frame) visuals propelled by a cold and manic industrial score. Despite my best attempts to try to categorize Tetsuo, it really is a work unique from anything else I've seen. I'm ready to watch it again!


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It (Stephen King's It) review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 3 October 2010 11:26 (A review of It (Stephen King's It))

If I try really, really hard I can almost imagine "It" being an enjoyable experience in its original mini-series form. In fact, right now I'm pretending that it is the year 1990, that I'm a, let's see, an under-appreciated house wife-- no, no let's say an over-worked para-legal at a struggling law firm. It's a Thursday night (only one more day till the weekend, thank god!) and I'm too tired to worry about the fact that the kitchen's still a mess, the bills need to go out, and I really should have that windshield-wiper motor looked at during my lunch-break tomorrow. Basically, I'm too tired to think about anything. Instead I fix myself a cocktail, flop down on the couch, and click on the tv. Next I imagine I silently criticize myself because there really are better ways I could be spending my time. If nothing else, I'm still only halfway through that copy of Salem's Lot and it was due back at the library last week. But to hell with it, I take another sip of my gin & tonic. Run-down as I am, I can already feel it's comforting effects as I flip through the channels. At this point I imagine that I stop on ABC as the intro credits to, you guessed it, "It", roll across the screen. Fatastic! I now have a mindless way to effectively distract myself from life for 30 minutes at a time for the next 6 weeks. Yes, I can see it now. Under these circumstances, perhaps...nah. You know what, I'm not buying it. I'm sure "It" sucked even way back then and it's certainly a godawful experience now in it's painful 193 minute dvd form.


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Fright Night review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 3 October 2010 11:25 (A review of Fright Night)

When I came across this film here on Netflix my first thought was "oh, yeah! I always meant to watch that." Visions of wandering through the local video store as a child raced through my mind as soon a I laid eyes on the unforgettable cover art. After browsing through many of the reviews I was suprised at how almost universally loved this film is on this site. Anticipation grew as I turned out the lights and promptly clicked "play". Now, two hours later, I feel disappointed and sorely mislead. My surprise at the strong ratings has quickly turned to utter shock, borderline disbelief. Did I watch the same film? Because the one I saw contained zero thrills, which would be forgiveable if only the movie made up for it with a laugh thrown in here and there. But sadly, these were no where to be found, either. What this movie did have in ample supply was poor acting, bad pacing, and unacceptable editing. Watch the initial bedroom scene between Charlie and prince Humperdink again...Yeah, you see what happened there? Twice? Ok, so I guess I did let out a couple of hearty laughs. I will credit this movie for some sharp special effects for eighties standards, or any standards really. Unfortunately many of them are buried in a third act that runs WAY too long so that rather than being greeted with appreciation and wonder they turn into just one more thing holding up the end credits. I guess my mother was wise not to allow me to rent this movie as a kid.


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Oldboy review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 3 October 2010 11:23 (A review of Oldboy)

Please, please do yourself a favor and watch subtitled version of this movie. This is a terrific piece of film-making and the english dubbing will only mar its brilliance. You'll forget they're there in no time, I promise. So now that you've adjusted your audio settings properly, prepare yourself for a dark, playful, intense, and tragic (executed in a way that would make Shakespeare giddy) revenge story. Provided the material doesn't offend you, it's nearly impossible to find any flaws in this film. Park has proven himself to be one of today's most talented directors in his capacity to tell a story both visually and thematically. He seems capable of finding the perfect shot at any moment, no matter what the scene calls for, and with Oldboy he pulls some of the strongest performances from his actors that I've seen in a good while. HIGHLY recommended!


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Good Dick review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 3 October 2010 11:21 (A review of Good Dick)

Good Dick is one of those condemnable films that relies on a cheap, lazy plot reveal five minutes from the end to try and fool everyone into thinking that what they just watched was important. But what I just watched wasn't important. It wasn't engaging, it wasn't honest, and for nearly the entirety of the film it really wasn't about anything or anybody. And it's a shame too, because so much more gravity would have been lent to the interactions between the two very capable lead actors had the film makers not decided to keep its audience in the dark. Last second reveals and plot twists can work well with psychological thrillers and horror flicks. But if you're setting out to tell a heartfelt, slice-of-life tale about personal setbacks and recovery within the context of interpersonal relationships, as this movies sets out to do, those kind of tricks only cheapen the story and invalidate both the work itself and any emotional response it strives to achieve. Instead of a moving film, the end result here feels forgettable at best, unauthentic and insulting at worst.


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A Life Less Ordinary review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 3 October 2010 11:19 (A review of A Life Less Ordinary)

A Life Less Ordianary is little more than one big collection of sub-par efforts from a lot of Grade A talents. The first ten minutes are promising in that they could've set the tone for a dark, playful, fantastical, and edgy film that takes familiar themes (star-crossed lovers, free will vs. Determinism, fate vs. chaos) and spun them on their head. Instead, the movie falls into a weary groove of cliches and predictability. The film's humor is mean-spirited and unfunny, the attempts at romance are stale and uninspired, and any metaphysical questions the film begins to raise end in disappointment, as they are treated with ingenuous irony that leaves viewers feeling unchallenged and unmoved. All this said, I'd be remiss to not mention the fact that Danny Boyle does achieve some interesting things style-wise and one does get the sense that this really is a gifted-filmmaker in the making. But don't feel bad for skipping this one.


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Texas Chain Saw Massacre , The review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 3 October 2010 11:18 (A review of Texas Chain Saw Massacre , The)

Why the hell didn't I see this ages ago?! How many terrible, lame excuses for horror flicks have I sat through while this true classic sat right under my nose? Not only is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre an absolute lesson in Evil, but it is a very legitamate lesson in Great film-making on a budget. The editing is amazing, truly something to behold, and dances perfectly in step with some of the best sound-editing you're likely to encounter as well. The location shooting and set-design are incredibly solid, reminding us that broad daylight can be every bit as ominous as a dark hallway, that a dinner table can house more terror than a thousand haunted mansions. But if it's a race through the dark woods, screaming bloody-murder scene you want, TCM delivers here too. Oh, and if you like crazy, this film HAS crazy. Demented, unapologetic, shatter your faith in the world, evil crazy. If you're not sure what that looks like take one look at Sally's (played MAGNIFICIENTLY by an unknown Marilyn Burns) terror-stricken face and you'll get a good idea. Her performances in the final act and the way they are captured are stunning and uncomfortably believable. TCM is nearly everything good about the original Last House on the Left and more, notably a much higher fun-factor. If you're a horror fan this is a true MUST see.


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