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Tetragrammaton
11-29-2008, 12:10 AM
As some of you know, I am a huge movie fan. I just recently acquired Netflix, so I am watching a lot of indie films I have missed, as well as many classic films I have never seen. I figured I would do some reviews of some movies I watch, since a lot of people have similar interests to mine. It would be cool if other people could do their own from time to time.

I am going to start off with a film I had never seen until now - Taxi Driver.

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TAXI DRIVER
DIRECTED BY: MARTIN SCORSESE
WRITTEN BY: PAUL SCHRADER

One of the most maddening aspects of 1970's film is lighting. From not being able to make out the Corleone Family in parts of THE GODFATHER to being bewildered at the events at the end of DOG DAY AFTERNOON, the seventies could not light a scene well. While some of the darkness in this film was necessary because of the unprecedented violence, there is no reason for most of it. Unless Travis is standing outside in the middle of the day, it is tough to see clearly.

Most people know the story, so I will not spend time giving a lengthy summary. Basically, it is about a name named Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro) who, while suffering from insomnia, begins driving a taxi to keep himself busy. We follow his descent into madness and watch his actions with women, chiefly Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) and Iris (Jodie Foster). He is angered at the urban decay around him, and begins to focus on people he perceives as enemies, including Senator Palantine (Leonard Harris) and "Sport" (Harvey Keitel).

I must say that I did not catch the greatness of the film. It was a breakthrough in portraying madness and in violence in its day, but I feel that Scorsese topped both in RAGING BULL, as well as some of his other works. Maybe it is my desensitization due to my age, but plenty of other classic films still resonated to me.

That isn't to say the film is not good, however. I enjoyed it, although watching it with knowledge of what is to come makes it difficult, as the first hour and a half is plot until we get to our climax. DeNiro is solid as Bickle, and he reminded me why he is so well regarded. While I have watched most of his classics, they have mostly been the same: reserved, quite mob tough guys. It is hard to believe that the man wasting his career on trash like MEET THE FOCKERS was able to perform these roles on a regular basis.

The supporting cast is stellar, including Harvey Keitel as a pimp who looks like John Travolta, and Scorsese himself in a brief cameo. While he is able to act sufficiently, I am reminded of the current Scorsese in credit card commercials, and the effect is gone.

BEST SCENE: While it is tempting to pick the climax, there was a much better scene, where Travis Bickle meets with a gun salesman named "Easy Andy" (Steven Prince). While the character is a throwaway to most, Scorsese is really saying something about urban decay. Easy Andy carries two cases full of guns, but that is not all. He also happens to be selling stolen Cadillacs, as well as the best drugs around. The brilliance of the scene is his composure. He looks like any other businessman at the time (goofy seventies suit, bad hair), but here he is dealing completely in vice. If he wasn't supplying Bickle, he would be target number one.

VERDICT: 4 STARS OUT OF 5.

MoFinz
11-29-2008, 12:15 AM
Awesome movie and great review.

CedarPhin
11-29-2008, 12:32 AM
Scorcese makes fantastic movies.

Tetragrammaton
11-29-2008, 12:38 AM
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4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, AND 2 DAYS
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: CRISTIAN MUNGIU

I have been meaning to watch this for some time. It has a whopping 97 out of 100 on Metacritic, higher than all of the Oscar nominees for Best Picture in 2007. I will admit I was hesitant because it is a Romanian film with subtitles. But I got over my laziness.

For me, a sign that I am watching a great film is that I hate it until the end of the film. I will be bored and tired of meaningless plot points and details, and even at the end, I won't appreciate it yet. Films that I love instantly I usually end up scrutinizing later, but great films make me think about what it was I just saw. I was not impressed after initially watching this, but it has grown considerably now.

The plot is about Romania at the end of the 1980's, shortly before the fall of communism in the country. Under this totalitarian regime, abortion is illegal, but our lead character Gabriela needs one, and her friend Otillia is going to help her. The only other significant character we meet is Mr. Bebe, a back-door abortionist who extracts payments in ways that you must watch to find out.

Since it is a Romanian film, I did not recognize any of the actors, which helps add to the realism. It feels more realistic when the Keanu Reeves and the Tom Cruise's of the world do not pop in. The three actors are all solid, and from what little research I could do on them, they are very well respected in their home country.

This movie is about message, but it isn't going to hit you over the head. It is both pro-life and pro-choice at the same time. We see the gruesome aspects of the abortion, but we are also reminded that this is what people have to go through when the act is outlawed. The film is saying that its a terrible practice, but one that is necessary, and you can take it or leave it.

One of the beautiful things about this film is its portrayal of totalitarianism. It doesn't cheat us with men marching in boots or propaganda being projected on the radio. Instead, it is the little things. You have to show identification every where you go, and everyone has to be accounted for at every second. We don't know what will happen if they are caught, but we know they are fearful of the consequence.

BEST SCENE: After Otillia helps set up the abortion proceedings, she goes to have dinner with her boyfriend's family. She sits at the dinner table, silent and pale, as the family discusses basic issues, like careers and life. We see that they are not different than us fundamentally, but it is the little things. The kids are not worried about what they want to do, but what will keep them from being moved to certain parts of the country. The adults seem neutered, resigned to their fates, while the younger members are full of optimism.

VERDICT: 5 STARS OUT OF 5.

CedarPhin
11-29-2008, 12:44 AM
I can't wait for MS's flick about Jordan Belfort to come out.

Tetragrammaton
11-29-2008, 12:57 PM
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THE DIVING BELL AND BUTTERFLY
DIRECTED BY: JULIAN SCHNABEL
WRITTEN BY: RONALD HARWOOD AND JEAN-DOMINIQUE BAUBY

This film will test your patience. It is very slow and offers very little in the way of exposition, instead forcing you to listen intently to understand everything. The actors are all bilingual, and a dub is available, but you have to watch it in the original French to appreciate it best.

The film is about Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Almaric), an editor of a popular French magazine and an all-around playboy. However, fate decides to call an audible, and he suffers a stroke that leaves him paralyzed except for one blinking eye, called Locked-in Syndrome. The film follows Bauby's writing of his memoirs by blinking to specific letters, and chronicles some of his life before the stroke.

Those of you who have seen QUANTUM OF SOLACE will recognize Almaric as the Bond villain, but he is widely considered one of the greatest actors in France. As the paralyzed Bauby, he gives us nothing more than inner dialogue for most of the film, because we see from the point of view of his one working eye. In flashbacks, however, he is very good at helping us understand the man we barely get to know.

The supporting cast, however, was my favorite. The two standouts are Henriette Durand (Marie-Josée Croze), the speech therapist who initially helps Bauby start writing his memoir and falls in love with him, and Mr. Bauby (Max von Sydow), Bauby's father who is too crippled to come see his son.

This movie is heavily flawed, though. One questions the notion that all of the women in Bauby's life (the speech therapist, his wife, his mistress, and an aide sent by the publisher) are all gorgeous. While French women are beautiful, how many of us have seen this many home runs? While his wife Céline (Emmanuelle Seigner) and his mistress are understandably beautiful given Bauby's fame, why are his speech therapist and the aide (Anne Consigny) also beautiful? Surely Schnabel doesn't think he can fool us, right?

BEST SCENE: This is tough, as there are two I liked a lot. I am going to go with a scene where Bauby's father talks to him on the phone via the aide, who has Bauby record his responses by blinking out the words. Bauby's father is trying to hold it together, but is ashamed he can not make it out to the hospital and realizes he is going to die before he ever sees his son again. It is able to escape the traditional movie clichés, but the rest of the movie does not.

VERDICT: 3 STARS OUT OF 5.

MoFinz
11-29-2008, 02:01 PM
I watched The Diving Bell the other night, and it so reminded me of the book "Johnny Got His Gun". I thought it was an incredible story and honestly, it did make me cry. Something about being trapped inside ones self that just fascinates me i guess.

I highly recommend The Diving Bell...it does try your patience at some points, but when the whole story comes together at the end, you'll be glad you did.

Tetragrammaton
11-30-2008, 02:57 AM
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BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD
DIRECTED BY: SIDNEY LUMET
WRITTEN BY: KELLY MASTERSON

In an earlier review, I mentioned that I am initially unimpressed with great films, because they do not fit my definition of a classic. However, I quickly realize that the beauty is that it is something I have never seen before. The opposite is the film I love initially, but realize that I have seen before. This film fits.

The film is about two brothers, Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Hank Hanson (Ethan Hawke), who conspire to rob a jewelry store. The catch? The jewelry store is owned by their father, Charles (Albert Finney). Rounding out the cast is Andy's wife, Gina (Marisa Tomei) who harbors her own secrets that help lead the plot along. The film is also told out of chronological order, and jumps back and forth between time and shows different points of view of different events.

Ethan Hawke gives a great performance as the deadbat dad who still submits to his older brother, but Philip Seymour Hoffman steals the show. The beauty of Hoffman's character is how he is able to steal the show in what is really an ensemble cast. We do not find out exactly why he needs the money, but we know he is in trouble at the corporation he works for, where we see him as manipulating and cold, which drives his character.

Albert Finney also shines as the father. Finney does not enter the picture until the third act, but he is superb throughout. I wish I could elaborate, but his character's arc is tied so closely to the plot that I cannot. Marisa Tomei is effective as Andy's neglected wife, but she never gets a chance to shine as the emphasis is on the sons and fathers.

The problem with this film? Well, it has been done before. In fact, Lumet has made this movie before, called DOG DAY AFTERNOON. That is not to say this is not a good film, but if you are looking for a deeper look into greed and family, you may be disappointed. However, as a straight thriller, it is perfect. There is not a scene I would change or a performance I would alter.

BEST SCENE: I want to say the ending, because the last five minutes are the best part of the film, but I can't. Instead, my favorite scenes are all of Tomei's sex scenes. I did not realize how beautiful she is. We get to see as much of her as is usually acceptable in an R-rated movie, and it is hard to look away.

VERDICT: 3 STARS OUT OF 5.

Blackocrates
12-01-2008, 07:32 PM
I'll be checking this movies out but it's going to be a while. I actually had to get another account because my queue was too long. So I'll definitely let you know what I think of them when I watch them. Keep posting, your write ups are good.

p.s. I have seen Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, I really enjoyed it. Marisa Tomei is deceptively hot. I can't believe she still looks like that at her age. Her breasts are perfect, and so upright. :lol:

Tetragrammaton
12-01-2008, 08:04 PM
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ZODIAC
DIRECTED BY: DAVID FINCHER
WRITTEN BY: JAMES VANDERBILT

I was going to write this review yesterday, having watched it on Saturday, but I held off. Surely I missed something. Surely this is a great film but flew over my head. So I spent time reading the reviews done by some of my favorite critics, and I realized I missed nothing. I caught everything they praised it for, I just think there needs to be more.

This film is about the Zodiac killer, a real life serial killer who terrorized California in the sixties and seventies and was never caught. While the film focuses on different people, our main players are Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal), a cartoonist, Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.), a crime reporter, and Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo), a detective. Toschi is the lead investigator in the crime, and works with Avery because the Zodiac killer sends letters to the press. Graysmith gets involved because of his ability to crack the code, and it is from him that the book that this movie is based on was written.

Gyllenhaal and Downey are solid in their roles, but Ruffalo shines as the detective. The only other role I have seen him in was as one of the technicians in ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND and I couldn't believe they were the same person. His role is underwritten, as Graysmith practically gave himself credit for the case, but he is the most believable.

However, this film is a mess. We know the killer is never caught, so what suspense can we have? We know every suspect is not found guilty, and the film is boring without it. To further inflict pain, Fincher allows his excesses to take hold, making the movie over two and a half hours long, mostly with scenes we didn't need or didn't ask for.

The most grinding thing in the film is the relationship between the hardened reporter Avery and the young, clean Graysmith. It plays just like every other movie ever made, with the cold older partner warming up to the new kid and eventually disappointing him. In fact, every character suffers from some terrible archetype, even Toschi.

BEST SCENE: The beginning of the film features one of the Zodiac killers crimes, and it is thrilling. The events play like a horror movie, and can be very deceiving to the boring events coming next.

VERDICT: 2 STARS OUT OF 5.

Tetragrammaton
12-01-2008, 08:38 PM
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EASTERN PROMISES
DIRECTED BY: DAVID CRONENBERG
WRITTEN BY: STEVEN KNIGHT

The first thing I felt after watching this film was apathy. I enjoyed the film and it never lost my attention, but nothing in the film made me feel anything, other than maybe the performance of our lead. It was as if I had not watched anything at all.

The film is about the Russian mob as it exists in London. The film begins with the death of a young woman in childbirth, and the attempts of the midwife Anna (Naomi Watts) to find the family in order to give them the baby. The girl had had a diary, and this leads her to a Russian restaurant, which starts the events of the film.

Watts is able to portray fear convincingly, but every second spent with her is time that could be spent on Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen), a driver for one of the lieutenants, Kirill (Vincent Cassel). The issue of the baby is put on hold when Kirill kills a rival gang member, and Kirill's father Semyon (Jerzy Skolimowski) begins to entrust Nikolai with more of the operation.

I appreciate Mortensen's Nikolai more each time I think about it. He just feels like a Russian mobster, which is ironic considering some of the events in the end. Nikolai says very little, but you can feel the gravity of every situation he gets himself into. Watts and Cassel are good supporters, but Skolimowski plays the mob boss too stereotypically, as do most of the assorted characters in the film.

Nothing in this film is new. We have the screw up son, the old man who is not trustworthy, and the do-good doctor all here. Other than the ending, this is a very conventional gangster film, which is not bad in and of itself. I just happen to want more than stylistic filmmaking.

BEST SCENE: Anna meets Nikolai when she goes to the restaurant for the first time, and sees him again that night. Her motorcycle will not start, and he approaches to help her and offer to give a ride. He comes off as a creepy gangster, but there is something else there, so Anna accepts. You can feel the possibility of violence, but Nikolai's character surprises us again and again.

VERDICT: 3 STARS OUT OF 5.

Blackocrates
12-01-2008, 09:39 PM
Wayward, you forgot to put the titles of the movie in your last two reviews.

I enjoyed both of the films.

Possible spoilers ahead? Sort of, maybe.

I feel in love with Nikolai in Eastern Promises. Without Mortensen as Nikolai this movie is very forgettable. I can't help but think that if I ever needed somebody to back me up Nikolai would be my go to man. :lol: I'm really starting to like Mortensen more and more. He was great in Appaloosa, the guy doesn't need many lines in a film to be heard.

Tetragrammaton
12-02-2008, 12:26 AM
Thanks swordfish, I end up proofreading everything but the title. Ha.

I agree with you on EASTERN PROMISES. Without Mortensen, it is a throwaway.

Tetragrammaton
12-02-2008, 03:01 PM
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THE PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK
DIRECTED BY: JERRY SCHATZBERG
WRITTEN BY: JAMES MILLS

While my mother has terrible taste in cinema (she anxiously awaited the release of SAW V), she recommended this little gem from the early seventies. I was reluctant to try it, especially since it had to jump ahead many worthy films in my Netflix queue, but when I saw that it won awards at Cannes, I tried it out.

This film is about two heroin addicts in New York City, Bobby (Al Pacino) and Helen (Kitty Wynn), and their attempts to simply get by. Helen initially meets Bobby through a friend, and at the time he is only an infrequent user and she is clean. Over time, the stress of being poor creeps up on them, and they both become addicts. As heroin addicts will do, they begin taking odd jobs and running into trouble with police, and their downfall is ours to watch.

This is Al Pacino's second film, and his first starring role, and it was this film that Coppola screened for executives in order to convince them to let him cast Pacino in THE GODFATHER. While Pacino's career has been spotty recently, he brings an intensity to every role he plays, and this is no different. Helen falls in love with him because of his charm, and we are charmed by him as well, never being able to judge him because we feel for him. Helen is very well done, although I don't see why Wynn was so well received. Pacino is the show.

Richard Bright is our main supporting character, playing Hank, Bobby's "brother" who robs trucks. He is very creepy, as he is supposed to be, and we treat him like the villain even though he pays Bobby well. I have always felt Bright was underappreciated, with most people only knowing him as Al Neri in THE GODFATHER.

We really get to feel the desperation that these people faced. Unlike many films about drug abuse, this film does not spend its time blaming the system, although there are inherent faults in it. The police in this film are not saints, but they are offering help in order to arrest kingpins, so how can that be bad? No, instead, the blame is entirely on the addict and the people that surround the addicts.

BEST SCENE: After a few days of fighting, Bobby and Helen go out into the country to buy a puppy. They look composed and normal, and it would be hard for anyone to notice the kind of lives they live. They get this brief respite from chaos before it all sinks yet again.

VERDICT: 5 STARS OUT OF 5.

Blackocrates
12-02-2008, 03:07 PM
The Panic in Needle Park, I've never heard of it. You give it 5 stars and it has Pacino, it's in my queue.

Tetragrammaton
12-02-2008, 03:21 PM
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ADAPTATION
DIRECTED BY: SPIKE JONZE
WRITTEN BY: CHARLIE KAUFMAN

I have a bad habit of drinking a lot of liquid at movies, and then sitting in excruciating pain because I do not want to miss a pivotal scene. In throwaway movies this is fine, like when I had a twenty minute conversation with a cute girl when I was dragged to see HAROLD AND KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY. But in art films, you have to watch. I missed the brilliance of the ending during a midnight screening, but through the beauty of DVD, I got it.

This film is about two brothers, Charlie and Donald Kaufman (both played by Nicolas Cage). Donald is a philistine who is a very successful writer, while Charlie is a loner and is pained by the process. Charlie is commissioned to write a screenplay of Susan Orlean's (Meryl Streep) book about the orchid thief John LaRoche (Chris Cooper), and the film splits time between that story and the story or Orlean and Cooper working together on the book.

I don't like Cage in a lot of films, mainly because of his career choices, but he excels as the brothers here. Donald Kaufman is more interesting, mainly because he is purely fictional (for those of you who read the headlines, the writer is Charlie Kaufman). I would comment on Streep and Cooper, but they are among the best actors working today, so what is the need?

The best way to describe this film is weird. It is hard to keep track, because the movie is about the writer of the movie writing a movie about a book that exists in real life. Orlean and LaRoche are real people, but mixed in with the fictional Kaufmans, the film clearly breaks with reality at the end.

Kaufman is the best writer in Hollywood. He was commissioned to write a screenplay about the book, and when he developed writers block, he wrote a screenplay about his writers block over a book he was supposed to write a screenplay for. It is so inventive and so fun, I cannot praise this film enough.

BEST SCENE: Donald constantly raves about his writing coach Donald McKee (Brian Cox), another real person, but Charlie blows off the suggestion that he needs help. When he finally does attend McKee's seminar, he finds the information to be cliché, and confronts McKee after. Nothing important happens, but it is just interesting to watch.

VERDICT: 5 STARS OUT OF 5.

Noodle Arm
12-03-2008, 01:42 AM
I really liked Adaptation. The last half hour will confuse a lot of people who don't get the joke, I thought it was pretty funny.

It reminded us why Nic Cage was such a well respected actor during the late 80's-early 90's before he decided to become, as Sean Penn said, a "performer" and not an actor.

Also showed everybody that a so called "MTV style video director" (and a brilliant one at that) could direct a movie without all that flashy, overly stylized nonsense that had already become a cliche with those types. Although I feel Jonze already proved himself with his previous film Being John Malkovich (have you seen that one yet Wayward? Might make a good entry to this thread).

Tetragrammaton
12-03-2008, 01:48 AM
I really liked Adaptation. The last half hour will confuse a lot of people who don't get the joke, I thought it was pretty funny.

It reminded us why Nic Cage was such a well respected actor during the late 80's-early 90's before he decided to become, as Sean Penn said, a "performer" and not an actor.

Also showed everybody that a so called "MTV style video director" (and a brilliant one at that) could direct a movie without all that flashy, overly stylized nonsense that had already become a cliche with those types. Although I feel Jonze already proved himself with his previous film Being John Malkovich (have you seen that one yet Wayward? Might make a good entry to this thread).

I actually haven't seen that in its entirety, but I am going to bump it up in the list. I actually just saw Kaufman's new film, Synecdoche, and will put up a blurb if finals do not kill me.

Blackocrates
12-03-2008, 08:37 PM
I'm going to watch Adaptation again because it's been a while since I've seen it and I need to give it another shot. I remember not knowing much about it when I originally watched it. So as I was watching the movie I kept thinking too much, looking for twist and turns that weren't there. I ruined it, I should have just watched it and let it soak in. I have it in my queue but I don't think it's near the top so give me some time and I'll let you know what I think.

Every movie that I get from you guys I'm going to post about in the recommendation thread. It's easier for me to keep everything together that way.

Tetragrammaton
12-04-2008, 04:08 PM
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LA HAINE
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: MATHEIU KASSOVITZ

A friend of mine kept trying to get me to watch this. I am lazy, so the combination of subtitles and black-and-white was a bit much for me, so I held off. I wish I hadn't.

The film is about three friends in the poor French ghetto coping with the aftermath of their friend being beaten into a coma during a riot the night before. Vinz (Vincent Cassel) is a Jew, and is the most violent of the group. Saïd (Saïd Taghmaoiu) is an Arab, and is the most impressionable. Hubert (Hubert Koundé) is an African, and despite being a boxer, is the most peaceful of the three. The film follows them as they wander aimlessly, as they have no jobs or education. The catch is that Vinz has found a handgun lost by a policeman in the riot and promises to kill a cop if their friend dies of his wounds.

You may remember Vincent Cassel from my review of EASTERN PROMISES, and this is one of his first roles. The other two are better known abroad, but the three all give convincing performances. At times, this feels much more like a documentary than an actual movie.

None of the other performances are impressive, mostly because almost the entire film focuses on these three. The best supporting actor, however, is the music. It is a combination of Bob Marley and French hip-hop, and it is fantastic in the scenes they are used. The film also makes use of background sounds better than most high end films. You really feel the coldness of the projects.

I am guilty of holding France on a pedestal, and France is guilty of making films that don't rock the boat. Instead, LA HAINE shows the grittiness of France. Their apartments are on the outskirts of Paris, but you can be sure tourists never see them. France prefers that these immigrants simply disappear, but they won't.

BEST SCENE: Early in the film, Vinz does an impression of Travis Bickle of TAXI DRIVER in his bathroom. It is a humorous moment, and it foreshadows the rest of the film. Interestingly, one of the most fascinating aspects of this film is their adoption of American culture. They use English words in French sentences, and we randomly see a man with a Notre Dame jacket. It humanizes these people for us.

VERDICT: 5 STARS OUT OF 5.

Nappy Roots
12-04-2008, 04:14 PM
thanks for that review on LA HAINE. I hadnt heard of that one, ill be picking that one up now.

Tetragrammaton
12-05-2008, 01:00 AM
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PERSEPOLIS
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: MARJANE SATRAPI

Every single film critic that I highly respect heaped tons of praise on this, but I was still worried I wouldn't like this film. Maybe it was because I heard the term "graphic novel", which gave us such trash as 300 and other various works. However, it took combination of a college professor and our mate swordfish to get me to finally give this a try.

I must confess that I watched the English dub, and for several reasons. For starters, our main character Marjane (Chiara Mastoianni) and her mother (Catherine Deneuve) are played by the same actors, and the other two main characters, the Father and the Grandmother, are dubbed by great American actors (Sean Penn and Gena Rowlands). Also, reading subtitles will distract from looking at the rich animation throughout. In reality, it isn't so much a dub as it is an alternate, equal version.

The film is about Iran during the revolution in which the religious fundamentalists overthrow the Shah. Initially, the family is thrilled when the dictator is gone, only to realize the replacements are just as bad. The film follows Marjane as she goes to school in Vienna to escape the country, and her rebellion when she returns.

All of the performances are strange, to say the least. You cannot judge these performances normally, because they are meant to be ridiculous in portions. But they all take hold of their characters well, with Marjane being the standout. The grandmother is a little stale, but the parents make up for it with their steadiness. Before you can criticize the American dub, Iggy Pop comes out of nowhere in a bit part as Marjane's uncle that is released after the fall of the Shah.

This film is entertaining throughout, but I found the first third of the film to be much better. It isn't that the second half is bad, but it takes a dramatic turn, and the charm of the movie is how it turns oppression into comedy. The portions of Marjane's childhood are much more interesting than watching her time with snobbish Vienna students, but only because we have seen that before and we want what we haven't seen before.

BEST SCENE: Early in the film, Marjane and her friends find out one of the local boys parents is an executioner for the Shah. They chase him down the street with weapons, promising to kill him. Disturbing, but it is played so comically. It plays like any of the current Cartoon Network shows, but with the fun event being murder. Perfect scene.

VERDICT: 4 STARS OUT OF 5.

Tetragrammaton
12-06-2008, 02:24 AM
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AWAY FROM HER
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: SARAH POLLEY

This movie looked like it would be too much for me. Two old people, a rookie director, and Canada? No thanks, you will keep getting bumped down in the queue. But it managed to sneak past my senses as I worked on finals, and I set about watching it.

The film is about Fiona (Julie Christie) and Grant (Gordon Pinsent), a married couple that has just begun to begin retirement. However, Grant senses that something is wrong with Fiona. She keeps forgetting things, and doesn't seem to be comprehensive at all times. She accepts that Grant will be unable to take care of her, and enters a nursing home, which does not allow any visitors within the first thirty days. Once Grant can return, it is clear she does not remember him, and he struggles to reach her.

Julie Christie has been good in everything he has been in, and her Oscar nomination was well deserved, but Pinsent excels as Grant. He is a very quiet and reserved man, but you know what is going on through his face. This is a very quiet film, so we rely on Pinsent to show us in his face the anguish that he is going through, and he excels.

The rest of the cast is mediocre. Olympia Dukakis mails it in as Marian, the wife of a patient that Fiona develops a friendship with. She has many opportunities to display her talents, and her character as a wife coping with a husband that cannot communicate is interesting, but she is unwilling to give the role any punch. The nursing home staff are the only other characters, and they do not excel at all. The nurse who becomes friendly with Grant is given a few scenes to shine in, but I was not compelled to find out the actress, if that is any indication of her performance.

I must warn all men: if you are protective of your masculinity, do not watch this with a woman, because you will cry. With that said, this is not a great film. The film is told out of sequence, which hurts the film because we don't get to watch Fiona's deterioration in order. Also, the supporting cast really brings down the quality of the performance of our leads.

BEST SCENE: When Grant first goes to see Fiona, she sees him and puts up the "one minute" finger as she plays bridge with her new friends. Grant is alarmed, as it obvious she regards him as a mere aquaintance. It is Pinsent's best scene. He is not loud about it, and he does not make a grand gesture. Instead, you see his composed smile fade away, instead being shocked at being shooed.

VERDICT: 3 STARS OUT OF 5.

Tetragrammaton
12-06-2008, 02:36 AM
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BEING JOHN MALKOVICH
DIRECTED BY: SPIKE JONZE
WRITTEN BY: CHARLIE KAUFMAN

Thanks are in order to Nappy Roots for suggesting this, as I rescued it from the bottom of my Netflix queue. I was going to watch it inevitably, as I am known for my respect for Charlie Kaufman, but this was behind Deadwood. Three whole seasons at that. I had seen some of this on television long ago, but you need the full experience to appreciate it.

Craig (John Cusack) is an unemployed puppeteer who goes to work as a file clerk on a floor that is only half size. He is unhappy, as his wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz) is more interested in animals than him, and his new co-worker crush Maxine (Catherine Keener) rejects him. However, things change when he finds a portal into the mind of John Horatio Malkovich (John Gavin Malkovich). He begins a business with Maxine selling the experience, but Lotte and others become too obsessed for their own good.

I have not liked John Cusack in a lot of films, but he is effective here. Catherine Keener and Malkovich both give us their usual great performances. Keener is still sexy as an older woman, and you can feel Craig's frustration at not being able to get her. Malkovich is great, both for his performance and his ability to laugh at himself by making this film. There are several scenes where characters are unable to name a Malkovich movie, and others call him overrated. However, Cameron Diaz is awful. I guess she was the "it girl" back then, and with Jonze and Kaufman both being unknowns, they didn't have much of a say. She is not believable at all, and I wanted to pluck my eyes out when she was on the screen.

Kaufman's script is so fun, which is a word I rarely use when discussing movies I like. Even when the characters are doing terrible things to one another, it is still fun because the premise of the film is so ridiculous that one cannot get wrapped up with guns and betrayal. This was the first of his great screenplays, so it isn't quite as absurd as his future screenplays will be, but it is still fascinating, even wrapped up in a conventional three act script.

I enjoyed this, as I thought I would, and don't let my criticism of Diaz keep you from watching this. Luckily, she has a big brown afro in this film, so when she is not talking with her awful voice, it is like she isn't there, which works fine. There are a lot of in-jokes that you need to pay attention to for later in the film, including the reasoning for the twist ending that my wife missed upon initial viewing. My favorite is the secretary who is hard of hearing, but has convinced her boss that it is he who does not talk correctly. He constantly asks people if they can understand him, and accuses them of lying when they answer him, thus showing they understand him.

VERDICT: 4 STARS OUT OF 5.

Noodle Arm
12-06-2008, 10:18 AM
Glad you liked it Wayward. Any movie that features a random flashback from the point of view of a chimp(!!) can't be all that bad.

Tetragrammaton
12-09-2008, 06:19 PM
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NO DIRECTION HOME
DIRECTED BY: MARTIN SCORSESE

Bob Dylan is my hero. If he had died in his motorcycle crash, he would be instantly known as the best musician ever. However, John Lennon had to steal his thunder by dying after a comeback album. Unfortunately, Dylan has had a spotty career since his crash, and while he is ranked as one of the best, there should be no comparison. In comparison to Lennon, you find that at his best, Bob Dylan was the greatest, whether it was creativity, lyrical wit, instrumental prowess, or all around being cooler, except he was not a target for deportation, probably because of his Americanism.

This documentary is about Dylan's beginnings, from his childhood to the motorcycle crash. The first disc is almost entirely dedicated to his beginnings, while the second disc discusses his fame, his friends, and his music. The documentary mixes Dylan and friends interviews with footage of old interviews, some performances, and clips of some of his most important influences.

Dylan himself sat down for ten hours of interview footage, although the film is only four hours long and his interview is only a portion. The film interviews many of Dylan's contemporaries, including Alan Ginsburg before he died over ten years ago. As a Dylan fan would expect, Joan Baez turns up. I personally think she is a hack, but she gives the retelling a lot of authenticity, as she was with Dylan constantly for most of his time before the crash.

I was a bit disappointed by this, to tell you the truth. The first two hours is only marginally interested, while the second disc is full of performances, Dylan interviews in the sixties, and more interesting material. It is still a must-see for Dylan fanatics. If you aren't a fan, you will be bored by it. If you really want to start to get into Dylan, I would suggest the fictional I'M NOT THERE, which stars Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, and others as different forms of Bob Dylan.

BEST SCENE: Scorsese includes footage of Dylan performing "Mr. Tambourine Man" at the Newport Festival. It is my personal favorite of his performances, and the DVD has full performances as a special feature. Watch them.

VERDICT: 3 STARS OUT OF 5.

Tetragrammaton
12-10-2008, 01:57 AM
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THE DARK KNIGHT
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: CHRISTOPHER NOLAN

It was very hard for me to watch this. If you haven't caught on already, you are more likely to find me at an obscure indie theater than at a midnight release of a super hero movie. They are boring, repetitive, and offer nothing insightful to take away. However, people whose opinions I trust began to preach the greatness of this film, and I had to inevitably break down and see it.

The film is about Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), who at the beginning of the film is wrapping up business from BATMAN BEGINS. He is rich but lonely, as his former beau Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal) has become involved with new district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), and his butler Alfred (Michael Caine) was once in JAWS: THE REVENGE, and this reader cannot respect such a man. Regardless, things go haywire when the Joker (Heath Ledger) comes to town and starts doing magic tricks with pencils.

This review would be incomplete without detailing Ledger's performance. Everything you have heard is true. He is amazing, which makes his death so much worse, especially since the new male leads are mostly terrible actors. Every time he is on the screen, he has your focus, and it is hard to stare away.

But that is the problem with the film. Whenever Ledger is offscreen, the film stalls. Bale is unintentionally hilarious as Batman, and Gyllenhall and Eckhart are too famous to blend into their roles. The only other good performance is Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) who needs an Oscar right away. The film also disappoints in its resolution. Our Joker is a sort of anarchist, and part of the chaos of the film is his ability to manipulate people. It really does take a crazy person to understand people. However, the film does not give us the ending that is logical, because it would be too depressing for a popcorn film. I was hoping an indie director like Nolan would go there, but the studios would never had let him, even if he tried.

While the ending is a copout, as is expected for a superhero movie, I still suggest seeing this, just for the sheer entertainment value. The Joker is such an interesting character, and rivals 2007's Anton Chigurgh and Daniel Plainview for most interesting character of the decade.

BEST SCENE: When the Joker appears for the second time, he interrupts a meeting of gangsters. After being sort of racist, a henchman is asked to kindly remove him. The violence is so severe I cringed. And wanted to see it again.

VERDICT: 4 STARS OUT OF 5.

Tetragrammaton
12-11-2008, 10:42 PM
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LARS AND THE REAL GIRL
DIRECTED BY: CRAIG GILLESPIE
WRITTEN BY: NANCY OLIVER

I like weird films, but this looked like a bit too much for me. The bright pink in the promotional material struck me as odd, and I felt I was going to get a second-rate Wes Anderson film. Fortunately, the film is nothing like it looks.

This film is about Lars (Ryan Gosling), an introverted man who lives in the garage of his house he inherited from his father, along with his brother Gus (Paul Schneider). Gus' pregnant wife Karin (Emily Mortimer) tries to get him to eat with them, and a new girl at his office named Margo (Kelli Garner) tries to get him to look at her, but is unable to get to him. Overhearing about a site that allows you to make your own sex doll, he orders one and pretends it is his girlfriend, naming her Bianca. He takes her around town as if she is real, and Gus takes him to see Dr. Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson), who convinces Lars to bring in Bianca weekly for a checkup, with the time being used to analyze Lars.

This film depends on acting, and the cast is phenomenal. I have never seen Ryan Gosling before, but I know him by reputation of taking tough roles, such as the drug addicted middle school teacher in HALF NELSON. At only 28, he has built himself an impressive career, and he is very good here. He becomes Lars, and he deserved a nomination for Best Actor last year.

The supporting cast is great as well. Paul Schneider has been in few films, but his supporting part as "Richard" Liddil in THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD was well done. Emily Mortimer is a personal favorite of mine, and she carries the movie, as she is the first character to start treating Bianca as a real person, and she is very cute too.

I felt that the film was missing parts, though. The film talks vaguely about the effects of Lars and Gus' father being distant effecting Lars, but we don't really get enough information to appreciate it. Bianca comes into the picture very early as well, before we can fully understand Lars' life beforehand.

BEST SCENE: Late in the film, Lars goes with Margo to a bowling alley while Bianca is busy at a P.T.A. meeting. It is a very charming scene, and it is Gosling's best acting work in the film.

VERDICT: 4 STARS OUT OF 5.

phinfan3411
12-12-2008, 01:10 PM
Good review Wayward, I also enjoyed that movie. A nice break from the movies I usually watch.

Tetragrammaton
12-15-2008, 01:40 AM
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THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED
DIRECTED BY: KIRBY DICK

I was really looking forward to this. Finally, a look at the arbitrary system that is the Motion Picture Association of America, the secret group that can make or break a movie with the whim of their assigned writing. Surely it would be, as it promoted the fact that many Hollywood directors and writers would speak about their experiences. Man, was I wrong.

The basic premise of the film is an analysis of the MPAA and their maneuverings. The MPAA assigns rating "voluntarily", which are a suggestion to parents as to what is appropriate for their children to see. The film seeks to point out the biases of the MPAA, their lack of accountability to anyone, and their ability to completely derail a film. One of the particular focuses of the film is on the NC-17 rating. While the MPAA constantly reminds us that the rating system is voluntary, an NC-17 rating usually means that a film will either be heavily edited to obtain an R rating or will die in obscurity. Despite being voluntary, most mainstream movie theaters refuse to show an NC-17 rated movie, which kills almost all chances of a film gaining recognition.

The film also reveals the extreme favoritism that the MPAA shows to the mainstream movie studios, which finance their enterprise, versus independent films. Matt Stone, the co-creator of SOUTH PARK, has experience in making both independent and mainstream films, and chronicles the difference. When he made ORGAZMO, an independent film, the MPAA gave the film an NC-17 rating without telling him what needed to be changed in order to secure an R rating, but when his mainstream film SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER, AND UNCUT was also given an NC-17 rating, the MPAA sent the studio a detailed list of exactly what needed to be changed in order to obtain an R rating.

One of the baffling aspects of the MPAA is that they have almost no recognizable guidelines. While female breasts usually warrant an R rating, the film TITANIC escaped with an R rating. There are no set guidelines for profanity or sexuality. The only parameter that seems set is violence; where you can show as many deaths as you want without blood and still obtain a PG-13 rating. What are we teaching children? Consensual sex is bad, but killing people is good? Is this really what Americans want to reflect in their rating system?

However, the film is not able to exist entirely on the parameters, although it would have been much better. Dick hires a private investigator to learn the identities of the members of the MPAA, whose identities are kept secred to "prevent them from being influenced". Instead of being an interesting documentary, it becomes a hoky cat-and-mouse chase, as we watch the detective follow people using fancy gadgetry. No thanks. If I wanted to watch people follow people, I can find much more engrossing films.

BEST SCENE: Dick interviews Kimberly Peirce, the writer and director of BOYS DON'T CRY. She discusses the difficulty of initially receiving an NC-17 rating. She compares scenes of homosexuality in the film to films with heterosexual encounters that garnered R ratings, and compares her closeups of the female orgasm to films that have male orgasms, which received more lenient ratings. Sexism and homophobia in one dose.

VERDICT: 2 STARS OUT OF 5.

Tetragrammaton
12-17-2008, 03:05 PM
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THE VIRGIN SUICIDES
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: SOFIA COPPOLA

Sofia Coppola is the most frustrating person in the film industry. After helping her father destroy THE GODFATHER PART III, she quit acting and start making independent films, which culminated in LOST IN TRANSLATION, my personal favorite film of all time. With her win for Best Original Screenplay, she let success go to her head and made on of the worst movies all the time, MARIE ANTOINETTE. So I really wasn't sure what I would be getting with this film.

The is about two parents, Mr. (James Woods) and Mrs. (Kathleen Turner) Lisbon, and their protectiveness of their five daughters, with the leader being Lux (Kirsten Dunst). When the youngest, Cecilia (Hanna Hall) the parents become more strict, but Mr. Lisbon decides to let Lux and her sisters go to the school dance with the football players, with Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett) going with Lux. As high schoolers will do, they break the rules, and the Lisbons crack down with tragic results.

When I look through my previous reviews, I do not criticize acting often, but I will here. James Woods and Kathleen Turner are well known and usually reliable, but it feels like they are mailing it in here. It could be because at the time, Sofia was just that daughter of Francis that no one took seriously. Josh Hartnett is a bright spot as a cocky teenager, but could that really have been a hard role to play? They didn't even let him play his character as an adult, although it would not have taken a lot of makeup.

Kirsten Dunst cannot act, but unlike the Jessica Alba's of the world that know they cannot act, Dunst occassionally manages to get good roles. For some unknown reason, Coppola has used her often, including in the aforementioned worst movie in some time. Her character goes through moments of joy, shame, sadness, anger, and many other roles, but Dunst looks the same throughout.

I still recommend this film though, if only for its boldness in portraying femininity. For too long our coming-of-age films have been shown through the eyes of boys, and you really miss out on the other perspective. While the ending of this is not what a coming-of-age story is supposed to be, it is still worth seeing for some perspective.

BEST SCENE: When Trip Fontaine decides to ask Lux to the dance, he goes to talk to Mr. Lisbon, who is the math teacher at the high school. It is Hartnett's best scene, and Woods is able to conjure up his talent for a few minutes.

VERDICT: 3 STARS OUT OF 5.

Tetragrammaton
12-21-2008, 02:44 AM
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IN BRUGES
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: MARTIN MCDONAGH

This film has eluded me for some time. I went to go see it back in January, and ended up getting involved in drinking, and missed it in its limited release. I have been meaning to view it since it has come out on DVD, but it kept falling in my Netflix queue as I heard really good things about other movies. It took a hectic few days of Christmas shopping and bike riding for this to slip into my home.

The film is about Ray (Colin Farrell), a hitman who has made a mistake in a mission. His boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) sends Ray to the Belgian city of Bruges, along with a senior hitman named Ken (Brendan Gleeson). The beginning of the film is about Ray's boredom in Bruges and his guilt over his mistake, and Ken's attempts to act as a surrogate father to him. The film makes a twist, however, when Harry calls them with orders.

Fiennes is a dependable actor, and he fills that role here. The movie needs Farrell to move the plot around, and he is very good as a guilt-ridden hitman. I forgot how good he was with comedic timing, as most people only know him now through tabloids and terrible Oliver Stone films. He never plays his part overdramatically, which is always likely given the source of his guilt.

It is Gleeson, however, that has the best scenes. While Farrell is the one with inner conflict at first, the second half of the film is about Gleeson's conflict with his loyalties to different sects. We also get to see him in a very good scene where he discusses his past briefly, while talking to a drunken racist midget. I have liked Gleeson ever since 28 DAYS LATER, and if mainstream film was not so obsessed with looks, he would be a bigger star.

While I do recommend this film, I would warn you not to expect too much. This film has no deeper meaning and does not seek to teach a life lesson. It is just a well acted genre piece, and if that is what you feel like watching, by all means go for it. I had to look up a lot of the details to remember, because nothing really sticks with you, although that is not an offense in a movie like this.

BEST SCENE: Ray is held up by the ex-boyfriend of a woman he is sleeping with. Instead of cowering in fear, he is able to maneuver the situation coolly, and it is one of the better actions scenes I have seen in some time.

VERDICT: 4 STARS OUT OF 5.

Blackocrates
12-26-2008, 06:21 PM
I'm with you on This Movie Is Not Yet Rated. I was disappointed in the campy P.I. stake out scenes. Although the movie wasn't completely horrible, I learned a few things. I can't believe how arbitrary the Motion Picture Association is about dealing out ratings.

Blackocrates
12-26-2008, 06:25 PM
In Bruges didn't hit with me. I enjoyed it but something was wrong and I suspect it was my mood when watching it. I did enjoy the dark comedy especially the end. I'll have to watch this again.

Oddly enough, whenever I watch a dark comedy or any comedy for that matter with somebody else I enjoy it more. I guess it's the psychological boost that somebody gives when they laugh at a scene, much like the effect of a laugh track.

Tetragrammaton
12-27-2008, 01:03 AM
Yea, THIS PICTURE IS NOT YET RATED was a little too silly with the investigator. I don't think it added anything, to be honest. As for IN BRUGES, I could see not liking it, because even though I gave it 4 out of 5, I will probably never watch it again. It was a fun movie, especially after the depressing movies I tend to watch, which you are aware of.

I haven't put up a review of so long! I continue to watch DVD's, but I have been at the theater a lot, and I am trying to keep this to DVD's so people can find the more obscure ones. I will say that the 2008 batch of films has disappointed me in comparison to 2007.

Tetragrammaton
12-27-2008, 01:12 AM
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MAN ON WIRE
DIRECTED BY: JAMES MARSH

I usually watch very serious documentaries, because fluff pieces do not usually interest me. But this documentary has an 89 on Metacritic, and I have a standing order to try and see anything above 80 (I also will not watch anything below 50, but no film with less than 50 has ever interested me). So I gave this a go, and I was a bit stunned.

The documentary is about Philippe Petit, a French tightrope walker who famously set up a wire and walked between the Twin Towers in 1974, before the Towers were even finished. The film details Petit's early childhood interest in tightrope walking, as well as his initial fascination with the Twin Towers when he found out about their being built. We then listen to his plan to walk the Towers, with the climax of the documentary being his success.

What makes this documentary so interesting is how it was made. As we hear about Petit's planning with his friends, it sounds more like a bank robbery than a stunt. Since the Towers were not finished, access to the top was limited, and Petit and his crew had to find creative ways to get around it. It is amazing how they were able to sneak through security, and realizing that the days of that kind of innocence is likely gone forever.

This documentary would be flat without Petit himself. The man is a maniac, jumping around as he talks to a stoic interviewer about his act, recalling every detail from memory. It is clear very early that this was the mans dream, and he revels in it to this day. While he is a bit too old to still tightrope walk, he still has ropes tied up in his backyard and has built a miniature model of the Towers with his tightrope across.

I cannot recommend this strongly enough. If you are not a typical documentary fan, you will still enjoy this. If you are a snob who usually only watches topical documentaries, you will also enjoy this. If the only movies you watch are SAW V and MEET THE SPARTANS, you may still even find enough brain cells to get a kick out of this.

BEST SCENE: How can it be anything other than footage of his walk? The cynic in me thinks walking on a tightrope over certain doom is foolish, but it captivated me. The best part of the walk is how he mocks the police officers as they try to get him to get off of the tight rope. It is a certain kind of playful rebellion you really do not see anymore, except in movies.

VERDICT: 5 STARS OUT OF 5.

Tetragrammaton
12-27-2008, 02:22 AM
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THE VISITOR
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: THOMAS MCCARTHY

For some absurd reason, this film came out in April of this year. It seems like every year one or two Oscar films will do this, and it is never to their advantage. However, the only reason I have heard of this film is because it is starting to generate some Oscar buzz.

This film is about Walter (Richard Jenkins), an economics professor in Connecticut who has been depressed since his wife died. He goes to New York City to present a paper, and when he goes to his New York apartment, he discovers a Muslim couple living there, Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and Zainab (Danai Jekesai Gurira). When he finds out their situation, he allows them to stay and begins to find life again. But when Tarek is arrested and faces deportation, Walter dedicates his time to helping him.

I found Sleiman and Gurira passable, and they clearly defer to Jenkins. I have only seen him as a supporting character, but I enjoyed his as a lead. His character is not a very interesting guy, but I sympathized with him. It is clear that he is a nice guy, and is just bogged down from college bureaucracy and his own loneliness. His great performance is not in his lines, but in his facial expressions. In many ways, Walter was an homage to Bob Harris in LOST IN TRANSLATION, a man quietly annoyed with the world.

Another good performance is from Hiam Abbass, who plays Tarek's concerned mother. She has the most emotional scenes, and her quiet subtley is great to watch. I have never seen her in a film before, but she seems to be an emerging character actor, with roles in acclaimed films like MUNICH. Other than the four, there are virtually no other actors to speak of, other than bit parts with a handful of lines.

This is not a political movie, absent one scene of outrage by Jenkins. Regardless of how you feel about the issue of illegal immigration, we can all agree that families and friends do suffer, and the film suggests that we rethink our vigilance post-9/11. These people are innocent, but unfortunately the good are often cast out with the bad.

BEST SCENE: The opening scene. Walter is trying to learn the piano, which he has been trying to do since his wife died, who was a pianist. The instructor teaches him like a child, and he is too mild mannered to say anything. She uses analogies about "choo choo trains" and all Walter can do is stare at her in awe. Very charming scene.

VERDICT: 4 STARS OUT OF 5.

Tetragrammaton
01-01-2009, 10:50 PM
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RACHEL GETTING MARRIED
DIRECTED BY: JONATHAN DEMME
WRITTEN BY: JENNY LUMET

I know this is only for DVD's, but I uploaded this picture onto Photobucket long ago, and it is a pain to go back a few pages to retrieve it. And I might forget about it. Alas, I will be reviewing movies I see in theaters as well now, so I don't forget what they are about.

The movie is about Kym, a former model who is leaving rehab a few days before the marriage of her sister, Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt). The family is tense, with the father Paul (Bill Irwin) trying to be the glue that holds it together, especially after he and his wife, the mother Abby (Debra Winger) divorced after a pivotal event in Kym's life. The family tries to resolve some haunting memories before the actual wedding ceremony.

Hathaway and DeWitt are seen as potential Oscar contenders, with Hathaway already being nominated for a Golden Globe, and they both deserve the praise they are getting. Hathaway is a rising star, and for good reason. Obviously, a former teen star would probably find it easy to portray a woman that used to have some fame, but that does not detract from her performance. She has a lot of great scenes full of emotion, and she never disappoints. However, when she gets naked, don't waste your time trying to catch a nipple or anything of the sort, because arms and legs are well placed.

DeWitt is also stellar as the tortured sister. While her mother abandoned Kym and her father was distant, Rachel had always been there for Kym, but even she couldn't take it when a pivotal event happened. She tries to forgive her, but it is a bit too difficult. Our parents are fairly well acted, but they do not really have a lot of screen time, minus a scene between Kym and her mother.

Outside of the performances, however, parts of this movie are flat. The big plot twist was interesting at first, until I thought how many other movies had the same twist. The film shows large portions of the wedding, the rehearsal dinner, and other things, in a lame attempt to be artsy. The film frustrated me with its attempts to be clever.

BEST SCENE: The beginning of the film is the best. While driving home, she has to stop to use the bathroom at a convenience store. While walking in, the clerk asks if she was the woman that she saw on Cops. It isn't really a groundbreaking scene, but it is funny, both because of how eager the cashier is to recognize her and how prepared Kym is for that kind of question.

VERDICT: 3 STARS OUT OF 5.

Blackocrates
01-10-2009, 01:37 AM
I've been waiting on Man on a Wire for a while but there's a long wait in my queue. Glad to know you liked it, it has huge ratings everywhere you look.

Tetragrammaton
01-10-2009, 02:10 AM
I've been waiting on Man on a Wire for a while but there's a long wait in my queue. Glad to know you liked it, it has huge ratings everywhere you look.

It is just so fun. I love documentaries, and some of my recent favorites have been about war, death, and the environment, so the lightheartedness is welcome. If Petit was not involved, it would be average, but the man is insane and fun to watch.

Tetragrammaton
01-10-2009, 02:30 AM
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SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: CHARLIE KAUFMAN

How long should this review be? It was the best movie of 2008, and there are only a few serious contenders left for me to see. The sign of a great film, at least for me, is the desire to take a shower. I need to be clean and lie down and really think about what it meant to me and what the message is. I still haven't figured it all out.

Caten Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a theater director in a rut, stuck doing remakes of classic plays. When is wife Adele (Catherine Keener) abandons him, he starts relationships with both Hazel (Samantha Morton) and Claire (Michelle Williams). He receives a McArthur genius grant, and buys a giant warehouse, building a replica New York City inside of it as the setting of his play. The play becomes life itself, with thousands of actors living their lives on the set. It becomes so bizarre that someone is playing Caten, named Sammy (Tom Noonan). Tammy (Emily Watson) plays Claire, who had become his wife, and takes her place as his lover.

The movie depends on Hoffman, and I feel like I am wasting time talking about his performance. Hoffman is always fantastic, and he is no different here. He becomes all of Caden's idiosyncracies and quirks, and he flawlessly plays Caden as an old man, unlike an actor in another film this year. Hoffman has never been much funnier than he is in this movie. The beginning of the movie features him dealing with all the ridiculousness in his life, and his quiet annoyance is able to shine through. His helplessness at the end is brilliant. I think playing an elderly person is one of the least respected roles, because although we can mimic how they walk and talk, we don't really know what they are thinking, and neither our writer or actor do, but Hoffman gives it his best.

The film has the four female leads, as well as a smaller character, Caden's therapist Madeline (Hope Davis), and they are all good. The only real standout is Emily Watson, and that is only because I have wanted to see her naked for so long, and I have finally been given that gift. Michelle Williams and Samantha Morton have the more important scenes, and they are able to match up with Hoffman well.

If you sit through this movie trying to remember who is trying to play who and whether a particular part is taking place inside the warehouse or outside the city, you will not enjoy the film. You have to try and absorb what you can, and keep going. I still haven't figured out any of the symbolism in the end, and I have spent many daydreams and nightmares thinking about what I was supposed to learn. You will not get it after one viewing. I suspect film students will analyze this for years.

BEST SCENE: At the beginning of the movie, Caden is asking his wife and his parents about what they thought of his production. His parents give the usual parental answers, but Adele is brutally honest. Caden has a hard time taking it all in, and they come close to fighting. I really wish the Adele character had been in the movie more, as Keener is the best of the actresses.

VERDICT: 5 STARS OUT OF 5.

Tetragrammaton
01-13-2009, 12:39 AM
http://www.finheaven.com/clear.gif
VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: WOODY ALLEN

At the risk of our forum goes thinking less of me, I must admit that I watch awards shows. So, on Thursday and on Sunday, I watched the Critics Choice Awards and the Golden Globes, respectively. Since most awards movies have not come to my little town yet, I needed to root for a dog in the fight. While it did not win any acting awards, it won the Golden Globe for Best Picture - Musical or Comedy, although the only serious competition it had was IN BRUGES. Awards are not the best barometer to decide to watch a film, but this one is.

Rich socialite friends Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) go to Spain to spend the summer, and say with Vicky's aunt Judy (Patricia Clarkson). While hanging out in the bohemian community, they meet Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), a painter who takes a liking to both of them. He takes them to an island off of Spain, called Oviedo. There, he has a romantic relationship with both, and when they go back to Barcelona, they are confronted by Juan Antonio's ex, Marie Elena (Penélope Cruz), and the love triangles ensue.

Of the four leads, only Johansson is not getting critical recognition for her role, although she is serviceable. Will she ever become the great actress she was supposed to be? Cruz is excellent as the psychotic ex-wife, and Bardem is very convincing as the cool artist, even though it wasn't a year ago I was watching him shoot cattle prods into his victims heads in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. He has been working for a while, but I have not seen him except for that and this film. I hope he does more work in American cinema.

But it is Rebecca Hall that is the best. Her Vicky happens to be engaged to Doug (Chris Messina), who is the opposite of the bohemian Juan Antonio, and she perfectly captures Vicky's struggle between stability and her attraction to Juan Antonio. She carries every scene, and I wish she acted on screen more often. Luckily, though, her star is rising.

This is a very minor film. Nothing in the film is monumental, but Woody Allen, the best director alive, is able to sew a message into the film: love does not last and it makes people crazy. Many will disagree, but the film makes its case.

BEST SCENE: At the beginning of the film, the girls are having a meal with Vicky's aunt and her husband Mark (Kevin Dunn). Mark casually ridicules the ridiculous college majors the girls undertook, and Judy dismisses it because, after all, they will have babies soon. A good little twist on the conventional man versus woman expectation of a woman's role.

VERDICT: 4 STARS OUT OF 5.

Tetragrammaton
01-15-2009, 02:42 PM
I am going to stop posting these here, but I am going to be writing them for a little website I have started, centralfloridafilmcritic.blogspot.com . I hope anyone who read this reads this one and tells their friends.

Blackocrates
01-15-2009, 04:39 PM
Don't stop posting, just do a little cut and paste after you write it up on your blog. We'll check the blog out as well.

The best thing would be to have a small write up here with a link to the larger review, that way people will continue to check it out on your blog.

BobDole
01-18-2009, 08:31 PM
wayward, do you have the hd net (brighthouse) channels by any chance? there is a guy who does movie critiques and you guys have the exact same taste and choice in flicks. i watch it all the time and most of the time he is right on.

never thought i'd see 2 people recommend man on wire. it was amazing what he did but didn't that guy drive you fugging crazy? way too impressed with himself.

Tetragrammaton
01-18-2009, 11:16 PM
wayward, do you have the hd net (brighthouse) channels by any chance? there is a guy who does movie critiques and you guys have the exact same taste and choice in flicks. i watch it all the time and most of the time he is right on.

never thought i'd see 2 people recommend man on wire. it was amazing what he did but didn't that guy drive you fugging crazy? way too impressed with himself.

No, I don't have Brighthouse. That is strange, because I have yet to find a critic that agrees with me most of the time. Do you know his name?

I can see what you mean by Petit. I don't think I could be friends with the guy, but when I think about what he did, I can kind of forgive that. To get up on that wire you have to be crazy, and when someone is crazy, I can't really look at them the same.

I have posted a bunch of new reviews on my page, http://centralfloridafilmcritic.blogspot.com I would copy and paste them, but the coding for the images is HTML, while it is IMG here. Check it out and leave comments, though!

BobDole
01-20-2009, 06:45 PM
No, I don't have Brighthouse. That is strange, because I have yet to find a critic that agrees with me most of the time. Do you know his name?

I can see what you mean by Petit. I don't think I could be friends with the guy, but when I think about what he did, I can kind of forgive that. To get up on that wire you have to be crazy, and when someone is crazy, I can't really look at them the same.

I have posted a bunch of new reviews on my page, http://centralfloridafilmcritic.blogspot.com I would copy and paste them, but the coding for the images is HTML, while it is IMG here. Check it out and leave comments, though!

took me a while to find that one. his name is robert wilonsky - he is on the ultimate trailer show on hdnet. he had man on wire and synecdoche in new york in his top 10 of 2008. you will definitely like his taste in flicks.

yeah - petit was french too - which didn't help his cause. the fact that he documented and filmed everything in excruciating detail made for an excellent documentary - but the narcissism was almost too much.

i'll check out your blog. i've always been a movie junky - i've seen freakin everything.