Friday, October 12, 2007
"Love is always worth another shot."
This is going to be another one of those movies where 80% of people are not going to like this at all, 15% of people are not going to have any particular feelings either way, and 5% of people (like me) are going to enjoy it.
Ben Kingsley's deadpan delivery is killer, only to be surpassed when Tea Leoni's is in the scene with him. I haven't seen a solid dark humor comedy in a long time, and I think I was overdue.
This film is about an alcoholic hit man who moves to San Fransisco, trying to stay on the wagon, and not kill anyone in the process. But what he wasn't counting on was the support of a newfound community and the possible love of a wonderful woman that might just complement his personality perfectly. Shot throughout with sporadic action, an interesting musical score (maybe some sort of string instrument) which made it almost soprano-like in a lighter way, and some great lines really made this movie a joy to watch. I picked it off the shelf simply because someone had reviewed it as being "an uproarious instant classic" (or something to that degree). Maybe this kind of selection process will work for you too.
Released in 2007, co-starring Bill Pullmand, Luke Wilson and Dennis Farina. Directed by John Dahl.
"Action has a new hero"
This is going to be short and sweet.
If you're in the mood for a good action/martial arts movie, and you like watching old ones because, one, some of them are so bad that now their good, or two, because you're just in the mood for something simple, entertaining and not wholly a waste of time. (Those reasons, and MORTAL KOMBAT was out. Just kidding), then KICKBOXER would definitely hit the spot for you. Even the tagline is vintage, how can you beat that?
There's nice scenery, a bit of story, some great characters and a little eastern history thrown into the mix. That, and great fight scenes and a believable villain. And, the best part is that the brothers character is absent most of the time, so without him the acting is stable for the meat of the movie (minus Van-Damme's accent).
A good movie to think of when putting newer ones like ONG BAK into perspective. Plus, in one hilarious scene, you get to see Van-Damme dance in a bar. It's so outstandingly ridiculous it's good, the guy actually has rhythm. Who would have thought? Not to be missed.
Released in 1989. Starring Jean-Claude-Van-Damme, Dennis Chan and Michel Qissi.
"Damn the Man! Save the Empire!"
I'm putting this movie up because it made me believe that a good teen movie could actually be written, produced, and last for over a decade and still be awesome. Even thinking about this movie still makes me smile.
EMPIRE RECORDS in itself is not a masterpiece of film, but a reminder that teen movies used to mean something, and used to be about more than winning the heart of the popular girl at school, or being prom queen. The kids in this movie are fighting against a giant corporation, against society, and for the freedom to have an independent piece of the world where they can simply exist.
The music is pulse pounding, the characters are laugh-out-loud funny, and the romance angles are there but not overbearing. I mean seriously, it's fantastic.
If your looking for a great comedy, that has great music (like HIGH FIDELITY) and is just plain good fun, then EMPIRE RECORDS is your movie tonight.
Starring Liv Tyler, Ethan Embry, Rory Cochrane, Johnny Whitworth, Robin Tunney, Anthony LaPaglia and Renee Zellweger. Directed by Allan Moyle.
Released in 1995.
"They're on a Mission From God"
My friend turned me on to this movie one rainy saturday afternoon. She is of course Irish, and was equally appalled that I had not seen this movie and that I had never even heard of it. Since then I have seen the error of my ways. (lol).
This is up there on my list with THE MATRIX and EQUILIBRIUM for great action that goes hand in hand with a great story. Above all, this movie surprised me, and surprise is a quality in a film that I greatly value.
The story of two brothers, I should say Irish brothers (because it matters in this movie), who take it upon themselves to be God's avenging angels in a time in Boston where crime, violence and sin are perpetrated on the innocent and the guilty without distinction. Alone, they stand between all that is evil and all that is good, and not quite knowing if they themselves are one or the other. If I didn't know better, I would think this was a comic book.
And for all you who are familiar with this movie, the sequel IS coming, just be patient.
Willem Dafoe also delivers a magnificent performance as an FBI agent on the brothers case.
Released in 1999. Starring Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus and Billy Conolly. Directed by Troy Duffy.
"America is living in spin."
This is one of the best satirical comedies I've seen. Period.
It's funny, it's deadly serious, and it looks at multiple angles of a question that matters in our world today. Hell, it's a social and political commentary wrapped in the skin of humor and farce.
Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) is a spokesperson for the big tobacco industry, spinning their product into something that is not bad for average person, but in fact may be a needed factor of life. For this kind of job, I can see why he would be payed a ridiculous salary. However, throughout the movie Naylor struggles with being a father and a role model to his son, whom he sees wanting to be like him. Is this a good thing? he asks himself. Who knows, but the movie is hilarious and at some points truly on the ball with issues and arguments we face in daily life.
Co-starring Maria Bello, David Koechner, J.K. Simmons, Todd Louiso, William H. Macy and Katie Holmes. Written and Directed by Jason Reitman.
Released in 2005.
"Harold Crick isn't ready to go. Period. "
Ok, hands down one of the best movies I've seen out of any category in the past year. This movie almost changed my life. If movies like this can be made, and manage to impart such strong feelings to the viewer, then creativity and originality still live, and even thrive, in the world of cinema.
Harold Crick (Will Ferrel) is an IRS agent. He leads a normal life, he has a steady job with the government, and he brushes his teeth the prescribed number of times each day. But Harold Crick might not be in control of his life.
This is all I can write about this movie because it's so well done that it would be a shame to spoil it any further.
Suffice it to say that supporting cast Emma Thompson, Dusting Hoffman and Maggie Gyllenhall all give tremendous performances, and Will Ferrel's comedy couldn't be better. If I believed in rating movies with a number, I would give this movie 4 1/2 stars out of 5!
Released in 2006.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
THE CIDER HOUSE RULES:
"A story about how far we must travel to find the place where we belong."
I'm running out of words to describe the great movies that I have seen and want to share. Of all things. I think I might have to invest in a good thesaurus.
THE CIDER HOUSE RULES is a stunning film, shot in Maine it's cinematography is simply breathtaking. This movie has been in my collection from the first week it was out on VHS, almost as long as I've had my copy of HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE. (Also a great classic).
It recounts the story of a young orphan (Tobey Maguire) who is raised and tutored by the head doctor (Michael Caine) to become a doctor in his own right and eventually take over the business of running the orphanage he was raised in. However, like all young people, he feels the need to discover some of life's mysteries on his own, and so sets out with a couple (Charlize Theron and Paul Rudd) that were visiting the orphanage, accompanying them back home and to a vital time of trials and realizations that is necessary for all persons who are intent on finding their own path in life. THE CIDER HOUSE RULES is a fresh take on coming of age.
A story of love, grief, and the necessity of experience in the full human spectrum of emotions, this movie is a fantastic viewing experience.
Released in 1999, and a favorite in my collection.
AMERICAN HISTORY X:
"See reality in your eyes when hate makes you blind."
This movie really had a profound effect on me when I first saw it at a friends house. Granted, I don't think he should have owned it at that age, but I don't think his parents knew about it.
Anyway, AMERICAN HISTORY X recounts the story of a highly intelligent and introspective neo-nazi skinhead (Edward Norton) who gradually discovers that all in life is not black and white. Subsequently, before this grand realisation, he is incarcerated in a state prison, only to be paired with a black man in the laundry room. What follows is a journey of self-discover and a painful march towards higher logic, a true show of how much strength is needed to overcome a lifetime of prejudice and hate, to expand into a life of knowledge and acceptance, and most importantly, of change.
Edward Norton gives a powerful performance, only adding to the importance of a film like this to open our eyes (albeit a little late) to the fact that everything is not all right with the world, and at the same time giving hope for unstoppable change.
This movie is rated R for a reason. There is non-stop racism, brutal racist violence, prison violence, and strong language. Having said that, if you are at an age where you are capable of moving past these kinds of things to get to the philosophical heart behind, then this is a must see. If not, wait until you are.
Released in 1998, starring Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Fairuza Bailk, Avery Brooks, Beverly D'Angelo, Ethan Suplee, Elliott Gould and Guy Torry. Directed by Tony Kaye.
This was a truly fantastic film, as most reviewers and recommender's would agree, but it's beyond that. THE LIVE OF OTHERS branches into the realm of gifted storytelling and realistic drama, to say nothing of the superb character development, portrayal and acting. It was quite simply excellent in all respects.
A warning; the movie runs about 2 and a quarter hours, so it's a bit long, but the writing and the directing are so accomplished that it's a pleasure to watch and worth the time. Also, this film is German, so it has to be watched in subtitles, but don't let that stop you. This movie could only be what it is BECAUSE of the spoken German language. It wouldn't have any of it's realism if it was in English, or dubbed.
THE LIVES OF OTHERS goes back to chronicle the lives of persons in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) before the wall fell. It's story concerns itself around the Stasi (State Security/The SS) and the possibility for change in the human soul (of an SS captain), when conscience is upheld no matter the cost, and personal ethics and beliefs of a common person are not cast aside in the face of overwhelming power and control.
A great cinematic achievement, THE LIVES OF OTHERS is such a well fashioned piece of art that it should not be passed up. (By anyone)
A new release, it was put out in 2006 and is now available to rent on DVD.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
"This land doesn't know a real hero. Yet."
This post will be my third mention of a Jet Li movie (sorry), but I can't help remembering all the good movies he's made, not to mention the questionable ones too.
However, this movie deserves mention because it took films like CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON to the next level, both in action choreography and in the intellectual depth of the story.
HERO tells the story of one man (Jet Li), who defeats the legendary Kung Fu masters of a region in China in order to gain an audience with the Emperor. But don't let this simple script description fool you, there is so much beneath the surface that it would be rude of me to unveil any of it here.
Needless to say, this movie is outstanding, not only for its magnificent action but also for its drama, character depth and realism, and revolutionary scenery; a rare quality in Kung Fu movies, or any movie for that matter today.
Released in 2002, HERO stars Jet Li, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi and Donnie Yen.
"Never was a hero needed more..."
For all the martial arts fans out there, if you haven't seen this movie, then you've missed out on an important landmark in this genre.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA(1) is the story of real life hero Wong Fei Hung, who stood up against the westernization of China in the early 19th century. Played by Jet Li, Wong Fei Hung sets out to defend his aunt and the rest of China in the only way he knows how; with Kung Fu.
Despite it's somewhat generic script, ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA(1) expands beyond the common Kung Fu flick and into the realm of emotions, politics and personal beliefs, shaping itself into a complete, groundbreaking movie.
Packed with incredible action by Jet Li in his prime, this film is a staple of the martial arts genre, as are its two successors to a lesser extent. Don't bother with the 4th and 5th installments of this series, their not worth it and seriously degenerated the uniqueness of this true story.
Released in 1991, ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA(1) stars Jet Li and Rosamund Kwan. Directed by Hark Tsui.
I haven't seen a movie this interesting in a long time. Surprising and fairly recent, THE HITMAN (1998) reels you in so that you are constantly wondering what will happen next, and are even more dumbfounded when the next scene starts to play out.
I can't even begin to understand how someone wrote a script with this much irony and dry humor built in, but they did. The whole premise of the movie is based on just that, a juxtaposition of irony and humor culminating in start to finish consistency in theme. It was unbelievable to watch.
Jet Li stars as a rookie hitman who can't seem to find any work, has a mother to support, and worst of all is possessed of a kindly character. (see, the irony already begins by positioning killing as an acceptable, commonplace profession). The humor begins when Jet Li is paired with his would be 'agent', and enters a race to find another killer (ironically enough), with $100,000 hanging in the balance, while being ruthlessly pursued by other professional hitmen and a police inspector (Simon Yam, of KILLZONE) who won't let up.
Excellent action, great humor (although subtitled) and a mesh of rich culture and charm so rare in Kung Fu movies, THE HITMAN delivers a solid front for anyone who loves real Hong Kong action style movies.
Writing about this movie might be a little after the fact, since most viewers already have their own opinions about Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, but the second installment of GRINDHOUSE is coming to DVD this month, so I think it's pertinent.
This movie was over the top, gory, violent and highly sexual, and you know what? It was a wonderful revival piece. I personally enjoy watching movies like Evil Dead when the mood is right, and Planet Terror is of that same genre. Well, of Army of Darkness anyway.
Planet Terror chronicles the aftermath of the release of a bio-weapon which turns affected victims into zombies and the group of survivors intent on survival. Corny, to be sure, but all the better because it was written for that purpose only. Planet Terror took the B-movie genre into Hollywood, not the first to do so I'm sure, but nevertheless an entertaining movie in light of recent cinema choices.
The better half of the dual feature in my mind, Planet Terror is without a doubt a mood movie, but when you get the mood it really hits the spot.
Starring Frederick Rodriguez, Rose McGowan and Bruce Willis. Written and Directed by Robert Rodriguez.
Monday, October 8, 2007
FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER
This may possibly be the shortest and most ambiguous post I have written yet, and for good reason; everybody is going to have to make their own decisions about this movie.
For comic book fans, this movie was better than the first, with better action, better story and overall better style. However, on its own it is only mediocre.
I enjoyed it because it had been recommended to me solely because it WAS better than the first installment, and to be perfectly honest, the first one was incredibly unsatisfying. I didn't want my impression of the first movie to represent what I thought of Marvel Comics movies.
I like the fantastic four, I grew up with marvel comics, and i enjoyed this movie.
This is not to say that renting this movie for anything but mindless entertainment is going to bring you the same result. So.
Garner what you will from this muddled review. I'm not quite clear on this movie myself. I only recommend it because when the end titles rolled I felt like it had done a decent job with the material it was given.
I'M REED FISH:
I was a little skeptical about this movie the first couple of minutes into it, but I held true and trusted that I picked a good one at the video store. So when you rent this, give it some room to breath and stretch out to its full potential before passing any cinematic judgment.
I'M REED FISH is actually written by a man named Reed Fish, in what I can only assume is a part of his life's story, which is very interesting to consider when watching certain parts of the film.
Reed Fish (played by Jay Baruchel, of Million Dollar Baby and winner of the best actor award for this movie) is a small town disc jockey and a local landmark in the town of Mud Meadows. He has a beautiful fiance (Alexis Bledel, of Sin City), loving in-laws, a supporting community and a fulfilled life in its own small way. The trouble is, he isn't really happy. So, when his old crush Jill (Schuyler Fisk) comes back to Mud Meadows for the summer, his seemingly perfect life is given the chance to become what Fish has always wanted it to be. His own.
Co-starring DJ Qualls (The New Guy) as his best friend, this movie is filled with laughter, sorrow and some good music, and despite being slightly unorthodox, is a fantastic screenplay.
Well worth watching if your in the mood for something genuine from the heart that will make you laugh as easily as it will make you identify with the film scenarios.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM:
"Remember everything. Forgive nothing."
I'm not sure if this movie is still in theatres, but man was it good! Throughout this entire set of movies I was continually impressed by the level of book to screen adaptation. I read all three of Robert Ludlum's 'Bourne' books when I was about 14 ,after finding my grandfathers collection of Ludlum novels, and they have stuck with me for years afterward as really solid writing. I was overjoyed that despite some rewriting to fit Jason Bourne and his story onto the screen, this movie carried with it some of that same intensity that made the novels so gripping.
Absolutely no spoilers for this movie. If you have seen the other two, then you know what to expect. And if you haven't, then I suggest that you rent all three of these movies that I'm sure will become a classic trilogy in the near and far future.
And read the books!
First off, I would like to say that despite my titling of this review, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Having said that , I must also admit that I am a huge Neil Gaiman fan, and of his books I think Stardust is one of his best.
However, I had mixed feelings going to see this movie. did i want to see another great book be turned into a mediocre movie, or did i want to risk it in the hopes that it really could be great (I still haven't seen Eragon).
I'm not going to say much about the story, as it is more interesting with Neil Gaiman's work to experience it without warning. In the end, I wasn't disappointed. I enjoyed the action, the romance, and the humor, although some of Robert DeNiro's scenes were over the top in a bad way and the musical score was straight from Lord of the Rings for every scene change (mildly annoying). Great special effects and interesting adaptations of parts of the book, and of course Michelle Pfeiffer, this film was satisfying.
Good date movie, although a bit long, or for a casual action/fantasy/comedy rental when you are in the mood to be entertained.
Starring Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, and narrated by (Sir) Ian McKellan. Showing in theatres now.