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Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Great Dictator (1940)

"Commander Shutz: Strange, and I thought you were an Aryan.
A Jewish barber: No. I'm a vegetarian"

I would say that "The Great Dictator" is Charlie Chaplin's best movie ever. Mainly a spoof of Hitler, but also reminding us about tyranny in any form, the movie was Chaplin's first talkie. Probably the funniest aspect is his mockery of German: dictator Adenoid Hynkel stands up on the podium and rants something that sounds like: "Eh, de Holstein und de Aryan maiden und de strangulation itten. Kapeet! Kapatt! Deutsch Juden...grrr deutsch Juden!" Another great scene is when he's arguing with the Mussolini character about the Ostralich border, and their argument almost turns into a catfight.

Seeing how he pointed the finger at all tyranny, it's easy to see why HUAC used this movie to kick Chaplin out of the country. No matter, Chaplin ended up getting the last laugh; not only did the Oscars eventually give him an honorary Oscar, but the world remembers him as one of the greatest directors in history.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Fight Club (1999)

"Project Mayhem"

The script was tight, the theme fascinating, the acting incredible (especially Edward Norton, as one might expect), the direction inspired, and the cinematography stunning. It is one of the few films of the past five years that deserves to be seen multiple times. In fact, if you have seen it only once, you have missed something. I was seriously hoping the movie would receive Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Norton), Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Picture.

So, how is it that the film received no nominations? Unfortunately, it had a mismatched ad campaign. The ads made it seem like the movie was about street boxing, instead of a intellectual and emotional ride through a man's psyche as he takes a strange path toward rebellion against consumer society. As a result, most who went to see it were disappointed, and those who would recognize its brilliance stayed far away from the movie theaters. This is one of the most underrated movies I know.

I always love movies that keep you entertained and keep you guessing, and this movie scores a 10 in both. Those who enjoyed The Game, Memento, or The Matrix really should check it out.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

"Born to kill"

A gritty, intense, no-holds-barred war film that grabs attention from the very beginning and holds it all the way through. The only detriment to this film is the fact that the first half (Boot Camp) is so much more powerful than the second half (Vietnam).

The film is basically about how war sucks the life out of humans and turns them into 'killing machines'. The greatest performances in this film are of course R. Lee Ermey, the savage drill instructor, and Vincent D'Onofrio, his slow-witted whipping boy. The viewer alternately laughs and cringes at the relentless abuse and degradation inflicted by the former on the latter. And at the famous line, "What is your major malfunction?", the tension reaches an almost unbearable limit and the viewer ceases to move or breathe.

This movie, like many of Kubrick's, is too graphic for many people, but I highly recommend it to those who can withstand its assault on both senses and consciences.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Se7en (1995)

"Oh look, a box!"

Despite clich├ęs, and a very depressing finale, this is one of the best-made films of its era and genre.

The strengths of the film include an odd relationship between the two lead cops, who seem loosely based on the two lead cops of the "Lethal Weapon" series, but who (thankfully) never play for laughs, and never really become "buddies" - the young cop is too arrogant, and the older cop has too much experience, which the young cop refuses to acknowledge. The two characters are also brilliantly acted by Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt (probably his best performance).

There's one odd flaw in the film - about half-way through, I found that I had learned to "expect the unexpected" from the film, which meant that the rest of the film was predictable in a bizarre way - simply decide where the expected move would be, and then expect the unexpected move instead. The most obvious instance of this is in the finale itself, which could be guessed at least 5 minutes ahead of time.

Normally, this would be a formula for disaster - but fortunately, the high quality of the film-making twists the film into an edge-of-the-seat suspenseful waiting game as we watch with horror the one cop's encounter with the insanity of pure evil.

I didn't want to admire this film (to be honest, I dislike Brad Pitt something fierce), but I'm afraid I must - very professionally made, it delivers its promised suspense all the way.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Goodfellas (1990)

"Wiseguys"

Scorcese & Pileggi's masterpiece on the life of Henry Hill as a Brooklyn NY mob wise-guy.

As much as the true events of Henry's life have more than likely been dramatised and glamourised to a certain extent, the essence of this film IMO is that it is still a brilliantly damning portrayal of the characters and lifestyle of mobsters.

The sham of the mafiosi is exposed - preaching loyalty, respect & principles - but when it comes down to it they are just two-bit criminals that'll stab each other in the back for money or power over others. Each of them has an inflated sense of self-worth and stature that comes with being a "wiseguy", breeding with it paranoia that others are not giving them the respect they deserve.

An example is De Niro's portrayal of Jimmy Conway. His outward persona is that of a calm and reasonable nature. But really he is a paranoid killer who at the drop of a hat would kill even his closest associates for money. I use associates rather than friends, as their relationships are of tolerance rather than kinship. Distrust, hate and jealousy through the forced smiles.

Interesting that given this, certain people envy their life-style and would have loved to have been a wiseguy. I personally couldn't think of anything worse that being tied for life with having to keep the likes of Tommy company, but whatever rocks your boat. Some people have actually paid to see The Dukes of Hazzard film, so I shouldn't be surprised.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

12 Angry Men (1957)

"The angry men"

This film deserves to be on anyone's list of top films. My problem is that it is so perfect, so seamlessly polished, it is hard to appreciate the individual excellences.

The acting is top notch. I believe that monologue acting is quite a bit simpler than real reactive ensemble acting. Most of what we see today is monologues pretending to be conversations. But in this film, we have utter mastery of throwing emotions. Once the air becomes filled with human essence, it is hard to not get soaked ourselves as the camera moves through the thick atmosphere. Yes, there are slight differences in how each actor projects (Fonda internally, Balsam completely on his skin...) but the ensemble presents one vision to the audience.

The writing is snappy too. You can tell it was worked and worked and worried, going through several generations. It is easy to be mesmerized by this writing and acting, and miss the rare accomplishment of the camera-work. This camera is so fluid, you forget you are in one room. It moves from being a human observer, to being omniscient, to being a target. It is smart enough to seldom center on the element of most importance, so expands the field to all men.

This is very hard. Very hard, to make the camera human. So much easier to do what we see today -- acknowledge the machinery and jigger with it. Do we have a filmmaker today who could do this?

Monday, 20 September 2010

Taxi Driver (1976)

""Scorsese's best."

Not too many hyper-critical reviews of this film have anything near as intelligent to say about what the director and the screenwriter had in mind when they created this American gem.

To those people that have seen it and thought it was "slow" or the pacing was sub par, they don't know what they're talking about; "Taxi Driver" is about the gradual and eventual take-over of insanity, and not about violence, action-shoot-'em-up 'slash' car chase... or whatever they expected from it. The modern audience today is expecting everything--comedy, drama, unbearable suspense, spfx--all rolled-up into one-stop entertainment... and no, I'm not anybody's grandfather, or here to tell you that movies were great in my day, but, viewers, lighten up already.

De Niro, and the rest of the cast, do a serviceable job in this micro-cosmic window into the life of Travis Bickle--a Vietnam vet--who, true, writes mind-numbing entries in his diary, leads a, for the most part, dull existance as a cabbie, and strikes out with a female political campaigner who, after Travis becomes a hero, discovers she is indeed attracted to unstable, sometimes violent chauffeurs.

The rest of this movie's story is for the less initiated viewer; decide whether you've truly become desensitized to sexual and violent content in today's films... Ah, forget it! You have to have lived at least some of which goes on in "Taxi Driver," or you've just been plain lucky in this life so far.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)

"Mad People"

A couple of years ago, I finally managed to get IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD on video. I saw it as a kid and remember enjoying it but watching it again for 40 years later, I still found myself LMAO. This is still the granddaddy of all comedy/adventures directed by Stanley Kramer, who up to this point had only directed serious dramas like THE DEFIANT ONES and JUDGMENT AT NUREMBURG. A dying man (Jimmy Durante) who was thrown from a car that careened over a cliff, tells a group of witnesses to the accident (Sid Ceasar, Mickey Rooney, Buddy Hackett, Milton Berle, Jonathan Winters) that there is $350,000.00 hidden under a big "W" in a nearby town, which sets off one of the wildest, craziest chase comedies made in the history of cinema. A rather tired and haggard looking Spencer Tracy heads the cast as the cop on the trail of these greedy money-mongers and just about every comedian or comic actor alive in 1963 appears in this film, either in a starring role or cameo and despite this impressive gathering of the best comedic talent in the business, towering over all of them in one of her few film performances, is Broadway legend Ethel Merman, who gives the performance of a lifetime as Berle's shrew of a mother-in-law. Her performance alone makes IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD worth seeing. Check out this classic if you've never seen it.

Friday, 17 September 2010

The Blind Side (2009)

"Nice message...mediocre movie"

 

There's no denying that at it's core "The Blind Side" is a very warm, uplifting film. How can it not be since it's based on a genuinely touching true story. For the most part the movie does satisfy in that area. But it has more than it's share of flaws.

First is the acting. Bullock gives a good performance as does Quinton Aaron as Big Mike. But then you have Tim McGraw. He gives a wooden, robotic performance that is at times laughable. Jae Head as the Tuohy's young son S.J. is either a victim of bad writing or just an abnoxiously horrible young actor. At times he seems to be patterned off of Culkin's "Home Alone" and "Uncle Buck characters.

Another issue I had was that the movie seemed to be more about Leigh Anne Tuohy than about Big Mike. Mike became a small character as the movie progressed and it's unfortunate since his story had alot more to offer in terms of interest.

So "The Blind Side" has it's share of positives and negatives. It's negatives are too numerous to overlook. But it's positive story, and emotional impact doesn't leave the film empty of entertainment value.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Irreversible (2002)

"Disturbing"

A lot has been said about this movie. Yes, there are a couple of brutal and violent scenes. It's even hard to watch at times, but Irreversible is much more than that. I personally think that the acting is great. There's a natural chemistry between the 3 main characters. Monica Bellucci does a wonderful job as Alex. I give her a lot credit for being involved in such difficult role. I really like the way the story was told. Some people say that it's a rip off of Memento, and that it doesn't work well in this movie, but I have to disagree. The movie "starts" in a dark way, with a lot of graphic images and violence. But at the end there's this kind of peace, a little dose of happiness..."the calm before the storm". It works really well, and that's what make this a really sad story. I really recommend this film. But like I said before, it can be hard to watch. Just watch it with an open mind and give it a try.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The Last Airbender (2010)

"Worst Movie This Year So Far"

 

I'm going to start out by saying that I personally saw Avatar: The Last Airbender from start to finish. Amazing animated series, but now with a very not-amazing movie. You know something is going wrong when the first few sentences being spoken pronounce the title of the show incorrectly. Then you know its even WORSE when you find they pronounce the HERO's name incorrectly. It's Ang! A+ng! The story itself technically was accurate, but it all was done extremely choppy. And the ethnicity's for 2 of the groups were mixed up; water benders should have been Indian, fire benders should have been Asian. Apart from these details, the acting in my opinion was also lacking, but it didn't help that the script seemed very lacking as well. The ONLY good part about this movie were the visuals. The CG was great.

To those who saw the original series: DON'T see this movie. All you will do throughout the entire movie is just cringe at "AHng" whenever he's called out, and in general point out all of the flaws.

To those who haven't: You still may enjoy it, but be prepared to be a little confused. Things aren't described well enough for those who don't know whats going on.

Drag Me to Hell (2009)

"Drag Me to Hell"


Thank You Mr. Sam Raimi! Well done, you just gave faith to American Horror; there might still be hope! For the last ( long ) couple of years only Asian Horror movies deserve my attention, and with time passing by even the medium/poor ones are masterpieces when compared to a long list of US horror movies ( i just had a flashback of house of wax for a while here argh!). I couldn't help myself thinking about the evil dead trilogy with some of the magnificent scenes on this movie (especially the tissue fight!). Mr Sam Reimi you just brought Horror back! Hope this is a new beginning... (and all other directors out there... please make room and stay way...)

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Expendables (2010)

"Stallone has a leather face"

 

 

What happens when you take almost every action star who has been in at least one bad movie and put them together; you get a bad movie. Stallone directed and help write this film and it was not up to par at all. Now I am not a total hater of this film. I am sure it was interesting seeing Stallone's old skin in slow motion when he was running. But the film could of been better. The cast was fun to see. I loved seeing the newer action stars and the old ones work together. Even the cameos were great. The dialog for the most part was just as pathetic as the story. Pretty much just like the old action films you remember seeing. There were a few funny lines in the film though, so it did get a little of a laugh out of me. Now lets talk about the thing that the movie advertised; the action. Yes it had the action that was promised. All the cool fight scenes, bones breaking and gore. But some old action stars cannot move that fast so what do they do, they shake the camera. This really makes the viewer lose interest. Plus personally, I think there could of been more action. They did have a lot of serious scenes and with that dialog, it was pretty bad. Now, I don't know who was in charge of the CG, but it looked like something with a low budget. An example is a scene with Steve Austin. I would think with a hype like this, they could of made it look more real. All in all I enjoyed the film in bits and pieces. Also even thought I didn't enjoy the film all the way, just like the old action films, the movie did give off the man movie of the year. I don't know if it was Jet Li breaking someones neck or Terry Crews and his gun that kept me smiling at parts; you can see I liked it some. One thing really was on my mind when the movie ended though. I couldn't figure out who was uglier at their old age; Stallone or Rourke.

Home (2009)


 
If you are a human being living on Earth this documentary is for you... This is just the most beautiful, moving and sensational documentary I have ever seen. Beautiful for its aerial pictures from all over the world. Moving because Yann Arthus-Bertrand is an earthling talking to other earthlings about our home: Earth. We are all brothers living in the same precious place, our beloved planet. And you just can not help being touched by this common point we all share, the link with our land. Sensational because you learn a lot of things about how we, selfish and over consuming people, are tragically destroying such a wonderful place, result of about 4 billions years of evolution, and also how we can change things to build a better future.

Helpful perspective: 
 
"The concentration of carbon dioxide hasn't been so high for several hundred thousand years. Humanity has never lived in an atmosphere like this."

"Greenland's ice contains 20% of the fresh water of the whole planet. If it melts, sea levels will rise by nearly seven meters."

Monday, 13 September 2010

Superbad (2007)


"McLovin"

 

Another go see!  Judd Apatow, who brought us "Knocked Up" is responsible for this comedy soon to be deemed a classic. I hate most teen-based comedies because they are not accurate or relatable. I found I could relate with "Superbad". Detractors of this film have complained about how the characters are so vulgar, but this is how teenage boys talk. This isn't "Leave it to Beaver"! Just like "Shoot "Em Up", turn off your moral compass and just watch it for what it is. Easily, one of the top ten of 2007.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The Dark Knight (2008)


"Dark and fast paced"


Batman, Gordan and Harvey Dent team up to bring down criminals in Gotham. A twisted new criminal named the Joker (Heath Ledger) might be more than they can handle though.


The Dark Knight is..dark and violent and not really action packed. It's more like a well made crime drama. It's always entertaining though due to the excellent performances. It's sad that we'll never see Ledger in the role again because he was amazing and no villain in a 3rd film could possibly out do his Joker. Johny Depp could possibly try to do what Ledger did if he played the Joker. But it would be disrespectful if they recast the role so soon.

The Last Exorcism (2010)

"waste of money."

 

 

When I seen the trailer, and the previews.. I was really really excited. My favorite movie is The Exorcism of Emily Rose, so I was very excited to see this. Don't get me wrong, it had it's scary moments. But those were the ones that you seen either on the trailer, or on the previews. This movie was a complete disappointment to me, and the ending completely ruined everything. It was a bit too dramatic, defiantly not something that I would see again, or recommend.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Inception (2010)

"Interesting"

 

Very well thought out and well imagined, it had the deepest plot since The Matrix. It went overboard with special effects, but it didn't matter with the amount of plot. I really had to think while I was watching it, but the fascinating idea of it kept me perplexed for days after the movie. Bottom line is, if you're going to watch this movie, expect to devote your whole day to it. As it gives you a headache from thinking too much while watching it, and it will keep you thinking for a while even after it ends.

The American (2010)

"Whaaaa???"

 

I know - let's take a pointless, boring short story and make it into a full length movie. Having seen "The American" it is safe to say this has been accomplished.



Apart from that the only criticism I have is over the audio which is very difficult to hear over all the snoring.

Machete (2010)

"Blood, gore, nudity, swearing, and more!"

One of the most action-packed movies I've seen in a while, Machete is sure to keep you hanging. I walked into that movie, expecting a bloody action movie. What I found was more than that.

This movie is definately not for kids, as it includes plenty of f-bombs from every character, Danny Trejo using someone's large intestine as a rope for climbing down a building, brutal stabbing, plenty of blood, and Lindsay Lohan topless for a full scene.

But somehow, despite it's harsh nature, Machete is able to be a good protagonist in many ways. He is kind, caring, and a great father figure. He will do anything to avenge his wife and daughter, and he is a wild, can't-be-tamed kind of a guy.

Bottomline, if you like fast-paced hardcore movies with pure action, then Machete is a must see for you.