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

Men Behind the Sun review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 2 October 2010 11:45 (A review of Men Behind the Sun)

Before I attempt to discuss this film's merit, I'd like to start by clearing up a few things that may be misleading or unknown to potential viewers. First off, despite the 2003 you see atop the synopsis, the actual production date of this film is 1988. This is useful when assessing the production value (the look) of this film. Secondly, this film recounts all too true events. Heinous acts committed on real people at a real time in history in a real place. Many more of the things that actually occurred were omitted or toned down for the film because they were even more cruel, gruesome, and demented than the tragic things dramatized in this movie. In light of these tragedies against humanity, most studious viewers of this movie will recognize that this film is a serious effort to depict the truth behind these events and to raise consciousness about the horrors committed by this unit of the Japanese empirial army, and about the horrors of warfare on a broader scale. Though at times tempting, I find it innappropriate to dismiss this movie as an exploitation film in the vein of notorious titles like "Cannibal Holocaust". Thirdly, keep in mind that there is a REAL human cadavor of a newly deceased boy used in one particularily troubling scene. This was done so with permission from the child's parents, and in compliance with local government and law-enforcement. Finally, I have my own strong opinion on the matter, but regardless of whether or not an actual LIVE cat was killed on film, it IS convincing, and it WILL disturb. That said the dubbing (if you find a subtitled version, awesome!) detracts from very strong performances, the film is ambitious, well-made, and surprisingly nuanced in its treatment of its characters. This is legit, but EXTREME.

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Hero review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 2 October 2010 11:38 (A review of Hero)

Hero is without a doubt one of the most visually striking film I've seen in a long time. Imagine Crouching Tiger as a Kodak film commercial and you've only begun to do it justice. As a good friend put it, you could take a still frame from nearly anywhere in the film and hang it on the wall. No one would question its beauty. Just as sublime is the story, a welcome retreat to the good ol' days of honor, sacrifice, discipline, vengence, and the high arts. We watch the events of the story unfold from three perspectives, each arriving closer to truth and revelation than the last, until the final telling reveals the spirit of the film, similar to the effect of a haiku. While this lends a poetic charm to the film and succeeds in providing a gratifying sort of philosophy-in-process, this approach does burden (if only slightly) the movie with an episodic feel. We're left to ask ourselves how much of a stronger emotional plane could have been achieved if the whole (un)reliable narrative question had never been raised. As a whole Hero, while very good, never quite reaches greatness, in part due to its rather elementery (gimmicky?) story construction. We don't move with the characters in any steady direction long enough to grant them our full emotional attachment. Consequently, the Qin king emerges as the richest, most truly human character, despite the fact that he doesn't physically move an inch (well, more than a few feet anyway) throughout the entire film. The rest engage in dramatic fight scenes and roam country sides, but their journeys are their own, never fully ours. The end result is a beautiful, entertaining, serious, and noble film that doesn't fully engage.

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She's Out of My League review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 2 October 2010 11:37 (A review of She's Out of My League)

This is a bottom-shelf comedy with a few funny jokes, and far too little going on to set it apart from any other forgettable misadventure-romantic comedy about aimless 20-somethings. I know...that sounds cynical or overly critical. But trust me, I really wanted to like this movie.It's just that it simply refused to meet me half-way on anything. Jay Baruchel's performance is merely adaquate, nothing more. And besides, it's the same character we've seen from him since Undeclared all those years ago. It's reached its last wind, and here collapses long before the finish line. Alice Eve, our heroine, doesn't have the chops to carry her end of the bargain either. Fortunately for both of them the script does little to push them toward anything challenging, revealing, or transformational, so neither of them actually fail outright. But what we're left with are two characters that do little to impress to begin with and then refuse to evolve over the course of 100 minutes. Surely, reader, you have something more pressing to do with your time. I know I did.

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Altered States review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 2 October 2010 11:34 (A review of Altered States)

Altered states is a very well-acted, cleverly written, and conceptually ambitious Sci-fi thriller that, like so many other praise-worthy titles, has been almost completey forgotten today, 30 years after the making. The little recognition it does still recieve is due largely to its appeal toward drug sub-culture, but this is far from the most interesting aspect of this film. Where the movie truly sets itself apart is in its treatment of large scientific, evolutionary, and theological ideas. Anyone who approaches psychology or the conversation about the evolution of man and the origin and evolution of thought will take something away from this film. It also explores ideas about purpose and finality that are sure to spur conversation, argument, debate, contemplation etc. Whether the film-makers realized it at the time or not, with Altered States they created an important film that engages far beyond its high entertainment value.

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Freaks review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 2 October 2010 11:32 (A review of Freaks)

Freaks is a cult-classic for obvious reasons that tight-rope walks a fine line between exploitation and authentic story-telling. At times it veers too heavily toward sensationalistic self-indulgence or misplaced sympathy/false nobility, while at others it strikes an earnest tone, providing a complex study of human behavior at its best and worst. Anyway you slice it, the film ultimately suffers because of its failure to reach a coherent underlying identity. Equally unfortunate is the fact that there's no chance of the performances redeeming the shortcoming of the script. Most of the major players are not actors, reflected quite obviously by their performances. This is not a criticism, only an observation of the difficulty inherent to making a too often unmoving story moving without the benefit of top-notch talent. Personally I found it difficult to become engrossed in a story that the story-tellers seemed ambivalent about. See it if you're one of those people like me who insists on witnessing ground-breaking achievements in cinema, but otherwise don't go out of your way.

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Zero Effect review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 2 October 2010 11:29 (A review of Zero Effect)

An impressive debut effort from writer/director Jake Kasdan, Zero Effect is worthy of applause and deserves to be seen by a larger audience than it will ever have. Kasdan takes familiar arch-types to anchor this side-winder of a story and adds deft touches of nuerosis, complexes, and charcter quirks, played out marvelously by the entire leading cast. Kasdan paints with percision; you won't find many broad strokes here in his unique characterizations. Much of this is top-notch writing, though the story loses steam at a few points. A more taut, confident style of directing could easily have cleaned this up, but by and large this is a very strong and engaging independent film. Bill Pullman turns in a sublimely original and attention-grabbing performance here, and Stiller is about as good as I've seen him as well. Definately give it a watch.

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The Town review

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 2 October 2010 11:27 (A review of The Town)

Congratulations should go out to Ben Affleck. He's directed a very good film here. I've never much enjoyed him on screen, but this is the about the best performance I've seen from him. The Town is exciting, smart, and sentimental without being sappy. The film has a very sober, blue-collar feel to it, and is completely cheese-factor free. It doesn't reach too far to find its drama and the tension between the characters is expertly written and directed. The chase scenes, action sequences and shoot-outs are all taut, gripping, and great-looking and while comparisons to Heat and The Departed are inevitable, The Town is a very distinct, original movie. 25th Hour comes to my mind as well, which can only be a good thing. A bit self-indulgent at times, but hey, Affleck deserves to make the movie he wants, and at least he had the good taste to refrain from obnoxious Drop Kick Murphy soundtrack pieces. The Town is one of the better major-studio films of the year, but ultimately there's not enough at stake, and lacks enough fresh, noteworthy approaches at meaningful themes or ideas to be considered truly great. But that said, assuming you like movies, make a point to see it before it leaves theatres if you can.

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Happy Accidents review

Posted : 11 years, 4 months ago on 30 September 2010 10:55 (A review of Happy Accidents)

Happy Accidents is an incredibly imaginative and smartly written story quite unlike anything I've ever seen before. The premise is so absurd it had no business working at all. It ESPECIALLY should not have succeeded on any kind of serious level, and this is a movie that wants to be taken seriously. Somehow, against all odds, everything in this film works. The film grabs our attention from the first scene (dropping us in the middle of the story, before we go back to the beginning) and never lets go. Stellar performances from DOnofrio and Tomei make the ridiculous plot far easier to swallow and it really is difficult to imagine anyone else in these roles. Anyone. Tomei gives us the perfect balance of level-headedness, neuroticism, and urgency; DOnofrio offers a truly eccentric, articulate, and impassioned character. Before we know it, we are completely swept up in the realities of these characters, no matter how painfully familiar or incredibly bizarre. The writing and structuring of the film is done in an expert fashion that adds credibility and emotional engagement to this story as well, while a few very welcome flourishes in visual style add even greater depth. When judging this film for what it is (and that in itself is hard to define) its difficult to find anything at all wrong with this brilliant effort from a talented director and perfect cast. Suspend a bit of disbelief for a moment and curb a bit of cynicism and I promise you will find plenty to enjoy in Happy Accidents.

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Seed review

Posted : 11 years, 4 months ago on 30 September 2010 10:53 (A review of Seed)

A wiser man than I used to tell me, "Don't pay good money for a bad time." Simple words, usually simple enough to live by. Words that kept ringing thru my head as I sat through Seed. This is an empty excercise in vile, disgusting, and utterly unimaginagitve brutality of an extreme fashion. I am a true horror fan and enjoy the genre for its story-telling devices as well as for some of the more sensationalist aspects. Disturbing films are well within my realm of taste (I've got top ten lists that will attest to it) but I admit to feeling ashamed for watching this one. This film is demented, but not in any worthwhile way. Uwe Boll asks a lot from his audience and gives absolutely NOTHING in return. Nothing to contemplate, nothing to make you wonder, nothing to chew over, nothing to take away. Except perhaps a sharp feeling of remorse for offering him your time and attention. Or a few thrills if ( IF. As in ONLY IF) ultra-violent, sadistic voyerism to no greater purpose is your thing. Call me pretentious, but I enjoy horror with a brain. Brains dashed back and forth across living room walls doesn't count. Mindless horror can be fun too, but generally only if an inspired admiration for film itself or for visual story-telling shines though now and again. Not the case here. This is 90 minutes of cliches and contrived, lazy plot points that add up to one big genuinely bad time. As some have noted, there ARE capable actors working here. But nothing in this film did them any services. Finally, a big F**K YOU to director Boll for abusing a classic Hitchcock's Psycho sequence in his loathsome movie. In all sincerity dear reader, this is garbage.

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Rachel Getting Married review

Posted : 11 years, 4 months ago on 30 September 2010 10:50 (A review of Rachel Getting Married)

Aw damn it. This could have been really good. Rachel Getting Married is a film about suffering and about family. For fifteen minutes, buried about 2/3rds of the way in, it's a nearly great movie about those things. The rest is shit. It's the flashes of brilliance that make the overall experience so disappointing. Oh well. If you're thinking about watching this but haven't seen Ordinary People (1980) yet, please do yourself a tremendous favor and watch Ordinary People instead. TRUST.

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