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

Videodrome (The Criterion Collection) review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 3 October 2010 10:32 (A review of Videodrome (The Criterion Collection))

Videodrome is a total mind-fuck. It is also a bizarre, dark, unnerving art-house sci-fi film about ideas. Big, scary, not best-suited for polite conversation at the dinner table ideas. The premise of a sleazy, opportunistic television executive for a small Toronto-based soft-core porn station looking for something harder, darker, and more deviant so he can really narrow in on specific demographic is challenging to the film's viewers to begin with. From there Cronenberg delves deeper into a Marquis de Sade meets bad acid trip world, and I suspect most audiences will by this point begin to wonder if perhaps they got more than they bargained for. And despite my 8 star rating, this remains a legitimate question. The difficulty distinguishing between reality and hallucination makes this a difficult watch, a sadistic blend of frustration and fascination. But of course this is the point. Cronenberg wishes to explore the deeper questions and motives behind instant-gratification. And that can be a real pain in the arse, or, in this case, a real pain in the vagina-looking, bloody, gaping abdominal gash. Beneath the nightmare circus of prosthetics-gore lie ideas about mind-control, public manipulation in religious and political contexts, and moral accountability vs. private pleasure-seeking. This film is haunting and though-provoking and I'm almost positive I liked it.


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Melvin Goes to Dinner review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 3 October 2010 10:28 (A review of Melvin Goes to Dinner)

This is an extraordinarilly original and brave piece of movie making. It is brave in that it relies almost soley on the strength of the writing and on faith in the actors, without any tricks, gimmicks, or false sense of style thrown in. And because the script is in fact very good, and the actors all give such amazingly natural, real, and authentic-feeling performances, Melvin Goes to Dinner improbably became one of the most interesting and endearing independent films I've seen. As a viewer I felt priviledged to look in on the intimate, philisophical, and anectdotal conversations happening around the dinner table. I truly felt as though I were among real people, with real histories, flaws, and hopes. And it's remarkable how the director reveals exactly the right amount of information to the audience at exactly the right times, as the characters themselves learn about each other and about how they're connected in ways they never knew. All this works so well, that a second viewing of the movie (now that we know everything we know about these people) is even more satisfying. The performances that were already so strong are lent a whole new layer as suble gestures, facial expressions, and reactions to one another are given new meaning. For such a small little film there are some very big and worthwhile ideas being examined and celebrated here. Definately go out of your way for this one and watch it with a good friend, preferrably at a time when you've got a spare hour afterward to just sit and talk.


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Laid to Rest (Unrated Director's Cut) review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 3 October 2010 10:26 (A review of Laid to Rest (Unrated Director's Cut))

Laid to Rest began with a lot of promise that the movie just never made good on. We begin with some highly stylized (probably over-stylized) editing that preps the audience with a frantic slide show of the macabre, until we settle in on a young, attractive, very alive woman inside a coffin. She has no idea how she arrived at such a horrible situation, only that her head hurts like the devil and that she can't seem to remember anything, including the names of some basic everyday objects, or even her own name or history. We the audience are lost in the dark too. Less than five minutes into the film and we already have our first mystery on our hands. The movie flows almost effortlessly thru the next 30 or 40 minutes, highlighted by a couple of VERY good and very graphic kill scenes that should please even the most discerning gore hounds. Equally impressive is the first batch of characters we meet, all of whom are likeable and developed around strong, believable performances. Unfortunately it is around here that the entire film derails. This most obvious problem lies in the killer himself. A good slasher film needs a good slasher and this movie simply fails. A good chase film needs suspense, and here the movie fails too. The characters just meander around from point A to point B then back to A, and so on while the dialogue gets worse, the characterization falters, and the killer becomes less and less scary. None of the mysteries within the movie are handled with any kind of skill, no satisfying information is learned about anyone and by the end there simply isn't much to care about. Only the biggest and most easily satisfied of slasher fans need bother with this one.


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I'm Reed Fish review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 3 October 2010 10:23 (A review of I'm Reed Fish)

I'm Reed Fish is a nice movie about nice people leading nice, quiet little lives in a nice, quiet little town. If this sounds terrribly boring to you, well, you'd be right. I'm Reed Fish is actually a movie within a movie and, quite honestly, neither of them are impressive. The writing is painfully obvious throughout, to the extent that one can predict what the characters will say next with an alarmingly high success rate. Most of the performances are actually adaquate, but they are so limited by such a lack of imagination in direction and script that by the end they are tiresome as well. Despite these harsh criticism, however, I did not hate this film- not at all- and I want that to be clear. I'm Reed fish was too sweet and innocent to hate. It would be akin to downright hating the Coca-Cola polar bear cub, or a month-old kitten. I guess I'm saying I'm no monster, but neither do I like cats. If this movie was obnoxious, self-important, and full of false earnesty I'd have surely hated it. On the contrary, I'm Reed Fish was good-hearted and innocent and aimed for emotional sincerity all the way through...but it was so painfully dull and unmoving. By the end I was hoping someone would light something on fire, hoover a line of blow, or throw someone down the stairs, just to mix it up a little. (And trust me, I like plenty of movies that contain NONE of these things. But then again it's usually because they are good.) In the end, I suppose it may be that what really upsets me is the fact that this film was actually intented for loyal Gilmore Girls fans all along but somehow I ended up wasting my time on it.


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Who's That Knocking at My Door? review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 2 October 2010 12:24 (A review of Who's That Knocking at My Door?)

Scorsese's first feature film is by all standards a remarkable debut. The movie starts out charming and playful, as we watch J.R. (Keitel) first meet the young woman who is never given a name (simply christened, the girl). Within the first 15 minutes it is apparant that Scorsese is a real talent in the making, with a unique, stylistically ambitious way of sharing his vision. Just as quickly he tips his hand as a born and bred cinephile; as the young couple makes small talk, J.R. raves about John Wayne and iconic Western dirctor John Fords The Searchers. To say that this film is, among other things, an audatious debut would be a fair assessment. But even in this early work, Scorseses passion for cinema is contagious, and it isn't long before we are infected and attentively caught up in his world. The movie quickly asserts itself as something far more bold and powerful than I'd have imagined as a central theme involving religious guilt emerges(the Catholic complex would reappear in Mean Streets). The inner spiritual conflict that J.R. faces is smartly (if at times too obviously) depicted visually throughout the picture by way of set design, costuming (look at Keitels neck and shirt collar in his mothers bedroom scene) and music. Already Scorsese is creating a masterful visual language seperate and complimentary to dialogue and traditional story-telling devices. The movie falters a bit about two thirds of the way through, as the story begins to feel a bit disjointed. Luckily this early performance by Keitel is strong enough to carry audiences through to the films conclusion-- one that is as tragic and heartbreaking as it is thought provoking. Keitel combines youthful exuberance with a kind of old-soul seriousness and solemnity in such a perfectly nuanced way that it's no surprise he's grown into the accomplished actor that he's become. For anyone that is a film-lover this movie really is an important and rewarding one to go back and watch.


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Mean Streets review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 2 October 2010 12:21 (A review of Mean Streets)

Going back and watching Mean Streets today it's little wonder that Scorsese has evolved into the great and iconic director that he is today. This film reveals glimpses of so many of the stylistic touches that have made Scorsese a one of a kind director. His use of space, music, and lighting, and the absolute diliberateness in which he uses the camera to evoke mood, energy, and emotion are all here. It is only the pacing and the story construction that weigh this film down and that make this early Scorsese effort a somewhat forgetable one. Mean Streets is not as poetic and spell-binding as Taxi Driver, nor is it as timeless and haunting as GoodFellas. In fact, it is no where close to either of these films in terms of greatness. (Though the first ten minutes, and the final 20 minutes of the film are very good.) Throughout most of the movie the stakes are simply not high enough for the viewer to truly get involved. At points it feels too "slice of life". We sense that Scorsese has an important story to tell here, but he meanders too much in the telling. Some very captivating performances from De Niro and Keitel elevate the story at points, and they must have been a real feast for movie goers at the time of this film's release, but they just aren't enough to mesmerize modern audiences (viewers who by now know the magnitude of talent in these two) Fans of Scorsese's work should definately go back and watch this one, but there's no immediate, compelling reason for the casual movie lover to worry about missing it.


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Mad Dog and Glory review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 2 October 2010 12:20 (A review of Mad Dog and Glory)

Mad Dog and Glory is a very over-looked film from the early nineties, which I find odd, given the star-studded cast. I suppose this can be attributed to the fact that it just doesnt fit well into any genre-mold. It has shades of alot of things (mob-movie, romance, dark comedy, spoof, cop-drama) but doesn't quite commit to any of them. I guess this could be frustrating to some, but I think this film's charm lies in its versatility. Mad Dog and Glory is a fun and watchable film that doesn't call too much attention to itself. It works best as a comedy, many of the jokes flying under the radar, and many of them subtley poking fun of overly-dramatic mob films by providing a more understated-- perhaps more realistic-- alternative. Other points of humor are dry and abundant. And when I wasn't laughing I found myself engaged in this movie's romantic side. While not the most moving love story ever told, it is a sincere one with enough at stake that we really want things to go right for the smitten De Niro and Thurman. De Niro shines in his role as a veteran cop, and an all around good man, a lonely man. And Thurman is endearing as a common, every-day young woman, energetic toward life, and noble in her ordinariness. Opposite our two unheroic heros is Bill Murray, a somewhat sleazy opportunist, who despite his lesser traits, maintains a certain, sort of backward sense of honor and decency. Finally, David Caruso is as good as I've seen him in this one as the hard-boiled, smartass cop who at every chance looks out for his partner and strives for a general state of rightness in the world. And it doesn't take much imagining to see his character as a point of inspiration for Mark Whalberg in The Departed. Best of all, with all the strong characters and performances, the script doesn't insist on being a character too. In good movies we forget theres a script at all and thats what happens here. Instead the talented core of actors push the story along with natural, easy expertise.


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An American Werewolf in London review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 2 October 2010 12:17 (A review of An American Werewolf in London)

An American Werewolf in London is a goofy, at times atmospheric, fun horror movie with a lot going for it, but nothing that quite warrants a second viewing. Two twenty-something American backbackers are treking through the misty English moors when they stumble upon a rather hostile and mysterious pub. The locals harbor a secret too fearsome for the young men to imagine or believe, but of course we know just what hairy nightmares lay in hiding. The movie wastes little time before we encounter our first lycnathrope, and the fun begins. The leading man does a merely adaquate job, so it is fortunate that much of the weight of the story is shared by the lovely Jenny Agutter who plays the kind-hearted nurse, smitten and intrigued by the lone carrier of the werewolf curse. An uninspired and unsolved murder case/investigation surrounding the death of the second backpacker barely passes as a relevant side-plot, and unfortunately the psychology and back-story of the locals is never explored, but despite these flaws, the film gets by on enormous amounts of imagination. Ghosts of werewolf victims trapped in a state of unrest until the beast that slayed them is destroyed adds a very interesting and welcome twist to the wolfman lore that can otherwise become very tired very quickly. And special recognition must be paid to the special effects & make-up crew for an outstanding job through the first ninety minutes. (The final 8 minutes are comparatively laughable.) This one is about as 6 star as they come.


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Open Water review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 2 October 2010 12:15 (A review of Open Water)

Absolutely terrifying. Open Water is a gripping tale about what happens when things go completely, terribly, cruelly, wrong. Like, "how can there be a God in the universe" wrong. Everything about this film grabbed my attention-- from the amatuer production value and the none-the-less interesting and highly-skilled camera work, to the convincing, natural-feeling performances, to the growing sense of menace and hopelessness. The human survival instinct element of this film creates immense feelings of tension, sympathy, and dread for the stranded couple, and really hi-jacks the viewer in a visceral way. Before long we have more impending crisis on hand than you can shake a bang-stick at. Dehydration, hypothermia, exhaustion, mental breakdown, muscle cramps/failure, and, oh yeah, hungry mouths full of razor blades circling round and round. Nearly everything in this movie works. Finally, I tried really hard to recommend this film without once mentioning the immense aesthetic appeal of the lovely leading-lady (Blanchard Ryan), but it seems she has the kind of appeal that insists on being mentioned.


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Wicked Lake review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 2 October 2010 12:13 (A review of Wicked Lake)

Irredeemably bad. I found out that the great Al Jourgensen (Industrial music icon and frontman of Ministry) was the music supervisor for this movie and grudgingly decided it was worth a try. Ok, so the prospect of some boobage eased my reluctance, but in all honesty, the fact that Jourgensen's name was attached to this project is what gave me hope...terribly, terribly false hope, as it turns out. This movie is utter garbage. Its two selling points for me completely failed. (Only a couple instances of decent music-- all in the first 10 minutes-- and (surprise, surprise) maybe two of the four women that the film repeatedly tries to tell us are sexy actually are. The acting--and I hesitate to use that word--is the worst I've seen, and the writing is nothing short of unbearable. And if you're suspecting a hard-edged, but somewhat innocent teen-scream, Wild Things meets The Craft horror flick, then you're in for a shock. The content is at times very dark and very twisted. Ordinarilly I'd have no problem with this, but the movie is so depleted of any redeeming quality that it truly becomes objectionable and an empty excersice in foul taste. Just to be clear, I hated this movie. I hated it enough to turn it off with 40 minutes remaining in its run-time (something I RARELY do) without an ounce of hesitation. Please, please reader, do not waste a minute on this one.


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