Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Top 10 Films of the Year: #7-Breaking Upwards

Top 10 Films of the Year:
Breaking Upwards

I'm a sucker for romance movies that do something differently, or that are somewhat realistic in presentation. I hate modern romance that seems to only to be adapted from Nicholas Sparks novels, it's all chivalrist and unrealistic, and therefore never connects with me, because I cannot connect with it. Then came Breaking Upwards an indie film with a budget of about $15,000 and it did everything right. The way the characters interact with each other, things that are said, little inside jokes that we get to be apart of. It creates an amazing world that seems to grow with the characters and the plot, and because of its realism, the film really draws you into the characters lives, and we get amplified emotions because we know what they are feeling, as we have felt it before. This makes Breaking Upwards more funny, more thrilling, more romantic, and even more sad than most other romances on the market, and thats why I loved it so much, more than most actually. Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones give excellent performances, playing themselves in a film that is based on their real relationship, Daryl has writing, starring, directing, producing, and editing credits, and Zoe has writing, starring, and producing credits as well. Andrea Martin shows up in an excellent and hilarious supporting role, and further proves my theory she is one of the most underrated actresses of all time. The film is excellently acted, has a great script, is directed marvelously, has some really good songs to its soundtrack (written by Zoe as well) and all around is just a solid romance movie, to put it all into perspective, and let everyone watching know: You aren't the only one.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Top 10 Films of the Year: #8-Antichrist

Top 10 Films of the Year:

Oh dear, not this again. It's hard for me to talk about Antichrist, especially when there is so much to be said, and so much that already has. Though I'm not sure how much I actually liked the film, I do know how much it effected me in the end. To still be thinking about it, to this day, nearly a month after I first watched, and still be mining through all the different possibilites, with absoloutly no clue at all which ones are right or wrong is just extraordinary to me. At first the only reason I wanted to watch the film is because I knew that it was going to have something shocking, then I learned of Lars von Trier's involvment, and then saw the trailer, and I was sold. The film is brutal and shocking, and disgusting, and violent, and depraved, and all the better for it. I am the kind of person that just eats that stuff up. Graphic violence? Sign me up. Controversy? I'm there. There is just something about that sort of outlaw film making that attracts me to them, and for that very reason I have sat through a lot of bad movies, Antichrist however is not one of them. The sheer beauty of the film is enough to watch it for alone. The opening sequence is just pure, pure genius, and has some of the most beautiful cinematography I've ever seen, the entire film just weaves this dreamlike quality that is impossible to shake. Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe give some of the strongest performances of all time, and Von Trier directs like a pro, because he is, he really is. The succes of the film comes with mixing together beauty, and violence, and making these two polar opposites mesh in such a way that emotion stirs within the viewer, and all this goes on around a complexly wonderful story, and psychological study that almost puts the film over the top. It walks a very fine line between pushing boundaries, and just being over the top, and I think it found a near perfect balance. Antichrist is a fear to beautiful to resist.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Top 10 Films of the Year: Screenplays

Top 5 Screenplays:
Adapted and Original

Honorable Mentions:
-Charlie Kaufman
-(Based on the novel The Orchid Theif by Susan Orlean)


-Terry Gilliam
-Tom Stoppard
-Charles McKeown

Inland Empire

-David Lynch

The Nines

-John August


-Nathan Parker
-Duncan Jones

Top 5 Screenplays:


Breaking Upwards
-Daryl Wein
-Zoe Lister Jones
-Peter Duchan

Hard Candy
-Brian Nelson

Where The Wild Things Are
-Spike Jonze
-Dave Eggers
-(Based on the book by Maurice Sendak)

Inglorious Basterds
-Quentin Tarantino

Synecdoche, New York
-Charlie Kaufman

Monday, December 13, 2010

Top 10 Films of the Year: #9-Brazil

Top 10 Films of the Year:

Though watching his most recent films you wouldn't know it, Terry Gilliam actually does have some talent behind the screen. Before The Adventures of Pluto Nash hollywood's biggest failure came in the realese of Brazil, which by the end of it all had three different cuts made. The definitive cut runs about two and a half hours long, and is a great dystopian tale of an opressive government and the one worker that tries to rebel. The idea is old, and often used, but it works in the realm of the story I believe. It invokes great memories of the works of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, and puts you in the mood for the type of story that is about to be told. It also allows for some great stylistic choices, which Gilliam is well known for. It was realesed in a time where American audiences were used to sci-fi epics like Alien, and Predator where as Gilliam's vision was much darker, and far more realistic, with the evil not coming in the form of some other life-form from outerspace, but rather our own governments, and were the terrorists doing the bombing, might be more heroic than our selected leaders. The film has some great performances from Johnathan Pryce, Michael Palin, Robert De Niro, and Katherine Helmond as a scene-stealer, playing Pryce's mother, who is addicted to plastic surgery, and is simply hilarious in nearly every scene she is in. The film shines in screenplay, which is quick-witted, funny, and most importantly a satire of the current industrial world. Gilliam claims the film is his version of 1984, "the nineteen eighty-four, for 1984" as he claims, which I find is perfect. The film is stark in story, bright in style, and hilarious in action. I think where Brazil succeeds is in creating this weird stir of emotions within the viewer. You realize that everything that is going on in the world is terrible, but the way the characters react, and interact within it is just hilarious. It's a great comedic satire that still holds up today, has good acting, great direction, and a lovely sense of style and pacing, a refreshing look at the sci-fi genre without delving into the realms of anything too extreme.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Top 10 Films of the Year: #10-Hard Candy

Top 10 Films of the Year:
Hard Candy

What is probably the best straight-out thriller I reviewed this year is also the hardest to stomach. Hard Candy sets its sights on challening your morality and getting straight to the heart of the matter. The tale of an older man seducing a young girl over the internet is a shocking enough tale as it is, but what happens when this girl may be more than she is letting on to be. The film never explicity tells us to root for, who is evil, or who is good. Is this man a rapist? We don't know. Is he a murderer? We don't know. Screenwriter Brian Nelson brings up the topics but never gives us the answer, trusting the audience to make the decision of who is really evil. The assumed pedophile, or the young girl who is increasingly mutilating him as the film goes on? A very young Ellen Page (before her Juno days) gives an excellent, twisty turny performance as the girl we root for, but never know if we can trust, and Patrick Wilson also tunes into his inner split personality, displaying both likability, and undying hatred. Sandra Oh turns up briefly in a perfect little supporting role, if for only about three minutes of screen-time, and makes us even more tense than we already were. David Slade directs with an incredible visual flare, invoking Red Riding Hood imagery, in order to remind us that all our beloved classic children's stories that always had a dark twist. One of the most morally conflicting stories put to the screen, which will leave most audiences members feeling like they chose a villian, no matter who they wanted to see survive. It will definatly create a divide in the audience, and will trigger great conversation on who is evil in the story, and what the definition of evil is, great to watch with people who like to decifer film, or those who enjoy studying psychology. I'm still morally unsure about Hard Candy, but, it certainly did get me thinking, had me hooked, had me entertained, and got me talking, all while being an excellently crafted film to boot. For all those reasons, it would have been a crime to leave it off the top ten.

Note: Again, these are the Top 10 Films I reviewed this year, not the Top 10 realesed this year.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gettin' down to the end.

My first post on this site was on December 3rd of last year. A year if today was five days ago, that would be a year ago today. The first thing I ever posted was a review of Zombieland (don't even bother looking at it, my reviews #1-#20 I dread reading) and my most recent post, a review of Breaking Upwards. So, 43 reviews and 7 random other posts later, we arrive here at number 50. The anniversary/end-o-the-year post. Its actually rather convient that the end of my first year comes really close to the end of the year, because then I only have to really make one post on the subject.

So, I decided that I would do an end-of-the-year countdown type thing. I came up with my ten favorite films that I reviewed this year (not movies that came out this year, but that I reviewed this year) and but them in an order from least to best. I've also done the same with additional some additional categories, inluding, and limited too:

Supporting Actor,
Supporting Actress,
and Screenplay.

Each of these six categories will have my top five, the weakest of the five, to the strongest of the five, and any honorable mentions if  there are any in said category. The idea is to do one of the Top Ten Films close to everyday, and one of the additional categories on the days that I do not do one of the Top Ten. This will hopefully be starting very, very soon. Tomorrow, Friday at latest, with my #10 Best Film of my first year of reviewing!

Also, I've had an idea recently to go back and re-watch some of the films that I've already reviewed, and review them again. Some of the older ones (like #1-#20) and review them with what I feel like is more knowledge now compared to then, and see if I still feel the same way about them. Like I said this is just an idea I've had for awhile, I just haven't had a chance to ponder it that much. Really cool, or just overkill? Let me know in a comment.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

#43-Breaking Upwards (2009)

Breaking Upwards

Breaking Upwards, now my favorite film of the Mumblecore movement is also one of the most true to the definition. The film, about the hardships of relationships on twentysomethings these days, takes a really tired and cliched plot and makes rather interesting, and what makes it so, is knowing that what actually goes on did really happen. The story is taken from a true experience between stars Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones, about their breakup, and what they tried to do to come back together.

The story happened between star, co-writer, director, co-producer and editor Daryl Wein, and star, co-writer, co-producer Zoe Jones who found their relationship in a bit of a slump. To try and jump start things again they decide to take "off days" where they only see each other four days a week, and are not allowed to speak to or see each other the other three. They then change the rules to allow the relationship to be open on off-days, and often encourage each other to ask out other people. An interesting idea, but as you watch the the film you realize that it does have some pretty obvious negatives, but some really great positives.

Firstly, because it is based on a true story, and has the actors playing themselves, this all feels like it could really happen in your town, with people you know. There are great little touches and things that add to the authenticity, such as whenever they meet when biking they 'helmet bump' which you see in the trailer. When they first decide to have an open relationship Daryl asks: 'what should I change my facebook status too?' And its all things that really do happen, such as an early scene where they are both eating breakfast together, but are texting different people at the same time. It is an incredibly, and almost painfully, honest look at the way modern society has effected realationships, both for better and worse.

Both Daryl and Zoe give incredibly strong performances (granted as themselves) and because they really did have a realtionship, there is some incredible chemistry there. The film is boasted by some impressive minor characters played by the great Andrea Martin, Julie White, and Olivia Thrilby. Some of the lines that come out during Zoe and Daryl's fights are really kind of heartbreaking because they say things that make sense. Things that people do often feel in realtionships, and things that we face everyday.

The films only problem comes toward the end, when the climax happens. It walks a very fine line between being really, really honestly sad, and just cliched and theatrical. But I think the way its played out leans it toward the former, and allows what happens to make sense, even though the story may have been embellished a little for the screen. Shot on digital video, the most popular format for independent cinema, it looks really good with all its imperfections. For films like this and other independent cinema, I really dig the shakey, handheld, unpolished filming style, it gives everything that happens a sense that its grounded in reality, and that based on these characters actions the plot unfolds, instead of having the plot forced on the characters. Another great aspect is the soundtrack composed by Kyle Forester. Its got hipster tunes that are just hipster enough that feel cool listening to them, but not so much that you feel you're being ironic. I know it sounds weird but its very true, the film has a great soundtrack, with all the songs having been written by Zoe as production went along.

I may be impartial to this film because it depicts the era of realtionships that I grew up, and am still growing up in. I never got a chance to experience things that happen in the great romances of the 30's. That way of life is just foreign to me, and I don't understand how it worked without being able to IM people or send them texts all the time, and I think that breaking upwards makes a good point, that our connections to people have been lessened because of all these diffrerent forms of media we are allowed to communicate to them through 24/7. Making real-life interaction seem less imporant than it was back then, and really is still today

If you can't tell by now, I just loved this film to death. Its honest, and thats the best thing about it. While cinema is mostly escapism sometimes it is just good to see the truth on screen and realize that other people do go through the same thing you do, and people that are in movies. Great writing, excellent direction, solid performances, and a great score make this something that really is to be experienced. It's not easy to find on DVD or in theatres, but it is avalible to watch on Netflix's instant service, and if you subscribe to Netflix this is definatly one to check watch, and if you don't I highly, highly, recommend that you seek this out.

I Give Breaking Upwards A:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

#42-Machete (2010) (Quicky Review)


Machete is a film that runs into problems quick and often. It's main problem comes from the fact that it is indeed an adapted screenplay, and the concept was originally designed to only run about two and a half minutes, and as two and a half minutes, even maybe at a half hour long, Machete would have been genius. It would have been one of my favorites. But at an hour and forty-five, it just runs to long.

The plot is tired and boring and brought nothing new to the table. But was it suppose to? It is one of those throw-back things that seem to be so hip these days. Danny Trejo's family was murdered, he's been trained by the C.I.A., F.B.I., D.E.A. and all the rest. So, revenge.

The film boasts an impressive cast from the B and A-List Teams. Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Robert De Niro, Steven Sagal, Cheech Marin, and others all make their way into Robert Rodriguez's interesting little grindhouse throwback, and you can tell that everyone involved just had a fun time making the picture. Its over-the-top, it's gratuitious, and (at times) its very fun. Just to sit back and watch it absorb in itself and weird universe that it makes. But the fun times are few a far between. Whereas I really enjoyed Death Proof, and Planet Terror, Machete just doesn't have the same flare to it.

It's pacing and direction feels very, very clunky. It seemed like a series of random events thrown together. Which it originally was, a trailer that wasn't intended to be a film. But once the idea of the film came together, it just seemed like more random events thrown together, to make the random events that took place in the trailer seem a little more plausible, and to actually happen onscreen. Not to mention the final battle that takes place between three different groups is just awful. Its not fun. Its not action-packed. Its exciting. It just felt very off.

Machete is a decent rental at best. The acting is fun, the story is stupid, and it has moments of real hilarity. But there are too few, and there certainly aren't enough for the movie to be an hour and forty minutes long. These grind-house throwback films can be good, they can be really good, but this isn't one of them. The cast had a good time, and its fun to see all these people together, and the few moments that work, really do work, but it's just a tiny idea, stretched far to thin.

I Give Machete A:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Antichrist: A Theory and Analysis

One of the hardest things about trying to give a theory on a film like Antichirst in particular, is how many interpertations of it can be made, and how after the reaction to the film, Lars von Trier doesn't appear to be giving out answers anytime soon. Another reason being is that it is a film of pyschological meltdown and confusion, giving any number of different possibilites for what is happening in reality. Combined with the films bizarre and surreal imagery and overall difficult tone, it is a hard film to pin to one certain message. I would also like to note that all this is written after a single viewing, and some serious note-taking. This post may change over time with additional viewings (if I dare.)

Being that the film is about a psycho-analysis of a woman by her husband, it must first be noted that some things may or may not be happening in reality. He and She are both deeply flawed people, and are emotionally unstable after the death of their son Nic. She expresses her sadness and anger through increasingly violent tendancies, and overall erratic behavior. But, nearly also as strange, is how easily He deals with it. He copes by trying to help She cope, almost never showing any emotional sign of the death of his son at all, except for a few tears at the beggining, which I'll get to later. The film also plays with the idea of Satan, Evil, and Human Nature, which all may have a metaphysical higher-power associated with them, and thus explaining some of the more outlandish, and impossible scenes the film depicts.

From the start, the film does have some overtly religious metaphorical connections. The cabin in the woods being called "Eden" and so forth. A scene towards the beggining, when He is helping She make a list of places She is afraid of, She mentions "the woods." He investigates further asking: "Any woods in particular?" Which is when we learn that She is scared of the woods around Eden, which He labels in parenthesis as (garden). Another play on the biblical tale of The Garden of Eden. Further religious themes come later in the film, such as when they are walking toward the cabin, and She claims that the ground is burning, and reveals burns on the bottom of her feet, as if Hell rested over that single patch of Earth. More details are added about this when She claims that "Nature is Satan's church", which allow us to make the assumption, of Eden being Hell. An interesting paradox and statement for the film to make. Even more religion inspired themes come in the form of She's earlier thesis paper, which is about the misogynistic treatment of women in the 1600's, for they were thought for witches, and the films title itself; Antichrist.

Though many paradoxes and connections can be made, and are obviously there, I am willing to write them all off. When She first speaks of Satan, He reacts with a mix of disgust and surprise. Allowing us to assume that She wasn't at all religious before the death of their son, and emotional break-downs. The two emotions, Disgust and Surprise allow us to say that 1) She wasn't religious and 2) He wasn't and still isn't. From here there are three possible ways for this to be taken.

1.He and She aren't religious, and therefore none of the impossible occurences can be attributed to a higher power.

2.He and She aren't religious, and are therefore being punished for their lack of faith by inserting the Antichrist into one of the characters.

3. He and She aren't religious, and are trying to be enlightened by a higher-power, but are unfourtanetly being swayed because they are standing over Hell.

However, I am going to say that the most likely answer is the first. None of the impossible occurences can be attributed to a higher-power. Cinemas depiction of religion usually comes in the form of religious characters, only religious characters exclaim to have any connection to God (unless the film is directly for religious purpose, at which point they will attempt to sway non-religious chatacters to their side). Since our characters are not religious, and all forms of religion on pushed on them by their own psychologic incapabilites, we can assume that they are not allowed to be effected by the Hand of God, or the Hand of Satan.

The film is notorious for its distictive look and unreal perceptions, many of which it has become famous for. The so called "Chaos Fox" and tree made with roots of human limbs and so forth. But what I think is interesting first and foremost are the animals. The first animal we encounter is a deer. The scene has He all by himself, after She has run-off, terrifed of the woods, when He finds a deer. First glance lets us know that this deer isn't like other deers. Usually when a deer meets with a human they dart into the nearest possible bush, or forested area (I live on the North-West coast of Oregon, the things are everywhere), but this deer just stands and stares at He. Not moving. Not Blinking. But aside from this the deer is pretty normal. Until it turns and we find that it has a stillborn fawn hanging out of its uterus. A possible, and in fact quite clear reference to the death of their child. In another scene where He is alone, a dead fox re-animates and begins to eat it's own entrails, and claims that "Chaos reigns". The third animal comes once more when He is alone, hiding from She in what appears to be a rabbit-hole, where a dead bird re-animates and begins cawing. This gives away where He is hiding and He kills it multiple times, only to have it re-animate and begin making noise again.

These all share a few things. Easily that they are all animals doing impossible things, which based on my theory above aren't really there. The deer isn't really there, the fox doesn't talk, the bird doesn't come back to life, they are all complete metaphoric symbols that have absoloutly nothing to do with the nature of the forest. However, another thing to notice is that all these animal occurences happen only with the character of He, and only when He is alone, without She in frame, for whatever the reason may be. The only animal scene that happens with She on screen is when a baby bird falls from it's nest dead, only to be swept up and eaten by a Raven, something that could very easily happen in real life. This is also something that I will touch on later.

Now the question. What do all these animals mean? The three beggars as they are so called. In the scene when He ventures into the attic to find She's scrawled thesis paper and crazy writing, She has carved into the desk a picture of the three beggars. The three-beggars have names carved into them as well, Grief, Pain, and Despair, which also share their names with the names of the chapters the film is broken up into. A pretty clear connection between what each one represent, and how, in the conclusion, where all three beggars must arrive before She will kill He, this means that all three emotions, Grief, Pain, and Despair, must arrive in the both of the characters, in their complete  form, in their full, natural forms, untouched by their original oddities, before He or She dies.

Another connection I would like to make is when She has run out of the house and begins masturbating on the tree. The tree starts out normal, like a tree looks, it is only when He enters the scene that the tree seems to ascend from it's basic form, and grow these strange human limbs, which appear to be the limbs of the dead, possibly buried underneath. So now we have He as the only one who had the delusions of animals, and He as the one who seemingly caused the appearance of the dead bodies, thus insinuating that there is something definatly wrong with He.

Which isn't to say there isn't something definatly wrong with She. The film reveals to us, very breifly, and without much else said about it, that She had been putting Nic's shoes on his wrong feet. And She has been doing this for a significant amount of time. It also reveals to us that she might have done this purposfully, when Nic starts crying, and She does nothing. Similairly, Nic fell out of a window, just as the dead baby bird fell out of the nest, only to be consumed by a Raven later. Early on in the film, She explicitly states that He is not paying enough attention to She, and after the death of Nic, She gets literally all the attention from He, who then thinks he can cure her. Is it possible that she wanted Nic dead? To get the attention of He? That putting the shoes on the wrong feet was just the start of a very severe pyschological damage? I think that when the Raven eats its own child, it is a clear connection with She having wanted Nic dead.

Both characters are incredibly psychologically damaged, have little-to-no connection or sense of reality, and quite simply are insane. The final straw for She comes in the finale where She has conivinced herself that all women are evil (a very clear sign in biblical texts, which throughout the film she becomes increasingly attached to) and begins to genitally mutilate herself and He. An incredibly clear sign that she has lost it. Now is when they are both completed filled with the three 'beggar' emotions, and the three animals show up. Except something happens. Whereas She has had the power for the entire film, she has been the most violent, and from the beggining has been the sexual instigator, He takes control. He kills She by strangling her to death, and then burning her body of a fire. But the scene is quite odd. She, who is usually in control, puts up no struggle at all to stop He from killing. Possibly fufilling what she wanted all along 1) getting all the attention from He and 2) much later, thinking all women are evil, and therefore letting He kill her. The final insanity straw for He breaks after he has escaped the cabin, and is walking away. The ground next to him is completely filled, and piled up with dead bodies, something that couldn't really happen, and must be happening in his head. A clear sign of even more problems, and once he reaches the roll of the hill, an incredible amount of women start walking up. Just women, walking up the hill on their own accord, faces blurred, with no features.

Which brings me to my next point, the blurred faces of the thousands of women are seen elsewhere in the film. During the funeral scene for the young boy, all the followers of the  hearse besides He and She have faces that are completely blurred out as well, with no features. This scene also has He crying what appear to be some really fake tears, and overly sensitive touching of the hearse. It all seemed very staged. Perhaps He also never wanted a child in the first place. She was always the sexual instigating. Is it possible that He never wanted a child in the first place, and as time grew neither did She?

I think the clear message of the film is that Satan is evil, as Nature is evil, as People are evil. That we are all following the same basic pattern of life and death, and though humanity might seem like a terrible thing, we are simple a mirror image of nature. The Deer suffers Grief. The Fox suffers Pain. The Crow suffers Despair. Just as He and She did. The dead bird fell from the tree, only to be consumed by its parents, just as Nic fell from the window. Falling acorns sound eerily simlair to bullets. Tree roots look eerily similair to arms. And thousands upon thousands of things die in nature everyday, just as thousands and thousands of people die everyday. But also nature overcomes everyday, just as humanity overcomes everyday. We are Nature, Nature is us. And if the film is trying to pin one thing inparticular as the 'Antichrist' it is nature. Not He. Not She. Characters who are equally flawed, but nature, who drove their insanity even further into the depths than it already was. If the film is anything more than a simple shocker its this. Make of it what you will. Am I right? Am I wrong? That's up for you to decide. You are free.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

#41-Antichrist (2009)


What is there to be said about Lars von Trier's Antichrist that hasn't already been said. A film so much about misogyny it might become misogynistic? A nasty little shocker designed to make us talk? A look at the emotional core of Pain, Despair, and Grief? Or simply a coping mechanism the director made for himself? Whatever the answer is up for each individual to decide for themselves, but all I can say about Antichrist is that it will certainly leave you thinking, and is more of an emotional test and experience than it is an actual film. Antichrist can go down in history as one of the few films that left me physically shaken.

The plot of Antichrist is actually somewhat simple when giving a synopsis. One day a husband and wife (credited only as He and She) are making love and not paying much attention. Their young toddler wakes up climbs out of his crib, and accidently falls out a window and kills himself. She blames herself and is in the hosptial for a month befor He -a therapist- decides to make her his own patient. They retreat to a cabin named Eden in the middle of the forest in a hope to escape. When He learns that She's biggest fear is nature and 'the woods' around Eden in general, he thinks best to stay in the situation that frightens her the most in hopes of overcoming her fear, which of course proves to be a fatal mistake.

Before we get into the complications of Antichrist what cannot be denied is the sheer quality of the filmmaking. Whether or not you agree with what von Trier put on the screen, it simply impossible to not be astounded by how beautiful these shocking images are. The opening shots, extreme slow-mo, high contrast, black-and-white are simply breathtaking, as are many shots in the film that have interesting effects applied to them. The direction, as per usual, is pitch perfect in general. Von Trier has always been great with actors and actresses, getting them to do things on screen they usually wouldn't, and this is no exception. Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg (as He and She respectively) give the performances of a lifetime, bearing it all, and easily putting their careers on the line, to give top-notch performances. This especially applies to Gainsbourg who has to do some of the most terrible things you could ever ask an actress to do, does them with great conviction and flare.

Another aspect to be complimented is how absoloutly creepy, and unsettling the whole experience is. The lighting and sound design reminded me of some of David Lynch's latest work, most notably Inland Empire. The sound design is eerie, and creepy, and just makes you squirm in your seat, while the lighting is some of the most horrifying, and yet beautiful, at casting and playing with shadows. Add in the nature aspect, lots of fog and mist, and you get a shot of tree with shadows rolling on the branches, with the simplest music, and it makes a single scene that is scarier than most modern horror films can claim to be in their entirety.

"The three beggars aren't here."

However, there is the part of Antichrist is that is the only thing that most people the care about. The shocking, brutal, realistic, graphic sex and violence. While I won't go into any detail about the violence just know, as someone who is totally comfortable with violence in cinema, and someone who can easily sit through the Saw films, and the Hostel films, Antichrist just plain made me uncomfortable. It is notorious for two scenes in particular, and even knowing what was coming I still was incredibly shaken after watching them. Now for me this is both good and bad. While I can't applaud von Trier for putting these things on screen, I can applaud him for not letting the MPAA have a say in his work. He made the film he wanted to make, and the film stays unrated for good reason. It would easily have gotten, and maybe even surpassed (if they do that) an NC-17 rating.

But, this is also where the film falls apart. The scenes are brutal and disgusting and graphic, so much so that it actually draws you out of the film a little. The same can be said for the sex, which for awhile seemed like von Trier just giving the finger to the film industry standards, but in the end just becomes gratuitous and boring. It felt very reminiscent of -again- David Lynch's film about psycho-sexual awakening Blue Velvet, which had not nearly as graphic sex, but still enough to make it almost annoying. My theory as to the actual purpose of the film Antichrist is this: It seems like von Trier wanted to put us in an emotional place where we hadn't been before. A place that made us incredibly emotionally uncomfortable, and then wanted us to stay there and think about it. So it seems to me, had came up with a few scenes that would put us in that place, and then he built a film around them. And as such, so many scenes have so much more emotional impact than the others that the film feels very uneven, and sometimes rather clunky. To try and give the film meaning, and therefore justify what he did, (and maybe even cover himself a little) he then threw in the surreal images, the hard to find messages, and confusing imagery, which would make it appear to be more than it really was. A nasty little shocker, that was designed to put us in a place where we would feel uncomfortable, and makes us talk.

In the end, I think thats all that Antichrist really is. Does the film have a message that is hidden somewhere deep within the confusing imagery and surrounded by chaotic violence? Maybe it does, maybe it does speak some truth about Grief, Despair, and Pain, but I don't think that was Lars von Trier's goal in the long run. He wanted see how far he could push the human psyche, and he wants people to talk about it. That being said, I cannot say what he did is truly justifiable in anyway, because it doesn't need to be justified. Do the Saw films need to justifiy themselves for what they do? No, because they are designed to do what they do, and I think Antichrist is too. The surreal imagery, and the attachment of Lars von Trier's name make us think that it is something more than it is, and I think von Trier did this on purpose, but it doesn't mean anything. It's there to make you think that it has some meaning. However, of all the nastly little shockers I've seen (and there have been plenty) Antichrist is easily the best. The superb performances from two great actors, and perfect direction of some of the most disgusting scenes ever put to the screen make it incredibly hard to watch, as it should be. The cinematography, lighting, and sound design make it one of the scariest movies in recent memory, and of all time and therefore I do think Antichrist suceeds. If at nothing more, than being a good scary movie.

I Give Antichrist A:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

#40-The Nines (2007)

The Nines

Previously known for his writing collaborations with Tim Burton on films like Big Fish, the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake, and Corpse Bride, John August takes his first step into the director’s chair with The Nines. A psychological thriller comprised of three short films, all of which star the same actors as different characters, with often overlapping stories. It brings up challenging questions about author and character, actor and role, creator and creation and is like a riddle in that the question is the answer: “How does it all add up?”

The film has three principal actors, all playing three different characters as the film progresses: Ryan Reynolds plays Gary, Gavin, and Gabriel, Melissa McCarthy plays Margret, a fictionalized version of herself named Melissa, and Mary, while Hope Davis stars as Sarah, Susan and Sierra.

Gary is a troubled actor living under house-arrest in someone else’s home, who is described as “a TV writer away on work.” While there he only befriends two people, his P.R. assistant Margret, and his neighbor Sarah. As he spends his time in the house he sees different versions of himself in the building, as well as finding the number nine in everything he does. People leave the writer telephone messages about “looking for the nines” while playing backgammon, he continually rolls only nines, and even the baby monitor left by Sarah speaks of the nines during the late of night.

Gavin, the second character portrayed by Reynolds is the writer spoken about above, who is currently trying to get a new television show off the ground and into the hands of a studio. Meanwhile he recruits Melissa to play the lead actress, and is assisted by studio executive Susan. The third and final set of characters is the creation of Gavin, as we watch his TV show. Father Gabriel takes his wife Mary and their child to the canyon for a weekend getaway, but after the car battery dies Gabriel is sent to look for help, which may or may not come in the form of Sierra. Sierra is both a blessing and a curse as she continually drugs Gabriel, but also cryptically tires to convince him to “come back to reality.”

The performances by all three here are stellar. Reynolds, McCarthy and Davis all have the keen ability to play different characters all at once, and give each one of them their own personality and persona, and quickly and smoothly transition between multiple creations in the same scene. However the showstopper comes in the form of Melissa McCarthy who easily steals the spotlight when she enters frame. All of her characters are fun and sweet, and bring an emotional sense of gravity and humor to an otherwise dark film.

Though it was released by an independent studio, and had a rather small budget, the film has great production values. From a technical standpoint the film looks great. It was shot on video rather than on film and uses the limited color pallet to perfection, and computer color correction capabilities to its advantage. The first film looks really sharp and crisp, while the second looks grainy and washed out, and the third with a light tint of grey that covers each shot. The score by Alex Wurman enhances the films dreamlike quality, and it has a rollicking soundtrack guaranteed to perk the ears of viewer. Editor Douglas Crise uses the films non-linear story structure to his advantage, with editing that keeps things lively and cool, the same can be said for cinematographer Nancy Schreiber who uses the camera as a quirky way of communicating ideas and emotions to the viewer, without beating us over the head with unnecessary amounts information.

What’s most important about The Nines is its story. John August has crafted is smart, witty, and fresh creation. His dialogue is snappy, fun, and quick, full of references and little anecdotes that make it sound very real. His use of non-traditional narrative structure keeps the pacing of the film lively and never does it slow down. However, the film ends on a rather odd note, and though it gives us hints and clues along the way that allow us to piece together what is going to happen, what is happening, or what has happened (depending on your perception of the film), you’re never quite sure how it will all connect together. By the end of it you learn that the film has it’s own strange theology about the world, and questions the morality of humans, and if we can indeed transcend to become higher beings or if we are forever forced to be in a traditional human form. The ending is guaranteed to divide audiences, some are going to just say “What?” and feel cheated, and others will embrace it as a sign of the modern age, and the pain that sometimes come with it, I fall into the latter category and feel that the film is perfectly tuned into it’s audience and time period. While John August certainly is an excellent screen-writer, he defiantly shows even more potential behind the camera, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

I Give The Nines A:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

#39-Martyrs (2008)

Recently within French cinema, there has been a new-wave of releses. These being incredibly violent, disgusting, and brutal, but also being loved by the public. This French new-wave horror cinema is trying to be remade in America, and appears to be having a similair effect to what happened with Asian horror films in 2002 when The Ring was realesed. Martyrs is one of the these films. It is sick, depraived, disgusting, brutal, violent, and unrelenting, but it is also when of the best horror films of the past decade.

Even before they begin production on a remake they must know that it is a terrible idea. The first and foremost is that the only reason for ever remaking things is to make more money on a new audience, but people who want to watch a film like Martyrs will seek it out and watch it, regardless of it being a foreign film. The second being the level of violence that is depicted in the film, which is incredible. It wouldn't appeal to a mainstream American audeince. Whereas films like Saw have violence shot in a stylized manner, Martyrs drops you in the middle of the violence and tells you to deal with it's brutality. Thirdly is the idea to cast Kristen Stewart. She's not a good actress! Who cares if she's popular and will draw people. No. Just no.

Martyrs tells the story of Anna and Lucie, two girls who have been friends since they met in an orphanage as young children. Lucie had escaped from an abusive group of scientists who ran violent experiments on many other small kids. Lucie is repeatedly attacked by a monster that has followed her since her escape. Flashforward fifteen years, and Lucie has broken into the house of a fancy family with a shotgun, and taken care of all four of them. She calls Anna for help removing the bodies. Turns one of them is still alive and is holding a secret in her basement. Lucie goes crazy and kills her, but not before discovering the family is running similair tests on a hostage in the basement to the ones Lucie went through as a child.

Writer/director Pascal Laugier has created something deeply effecting in this piece of cinema. Whether or not that is a positive or a negative I've yet to decide, as I hope to watch it again soon. In his recorded introduction to the film, he states that some days he thinks that this film is a true masterpiece, and others he wishes he had never made it in the first place. Both of these may be true. But, what cannot be denied is Laugier's excellent direction. The man can direct, and he can direct well. He has a keen ability to make his shots hyper-stylized, but not make them annoying. Similair to what I said about Peter Jackson in my Dead Alive review, he knows how to direct violence in a special way.

 Contrary to popular toture-porn horror films, which make you simply say "eww that's gross" Martyrs makes you feel it. Laugier's lens is unwavering. He knows what he is showing you, and he knows it is terrible and he just rests the camera on it until you just need to look away. When I was a bit younger (and still quite a bit today) I was an avid horror-film fan. I have seen some pretty messed-up things in my time, but rarely does violence in cinema make me uncomfortable. This proves to be an exception. There is one scene in particular -which I'll try my best not to completely ruin- that had me bringing my hands up over my eyes and peeking through the cracks of my fingers, only to see something even more vicious that I turned my head completely and just listened until the screaming stopped.  And while this may sound very dramatized it is what really happened, and when I think about the film I cannot get that sequence out of my head.

And whereas in my previous review of Deadgirl I complained about the senseless burtal violence as an ever imposing negative here it makes sense. There is a purpose to the violence that takes place within Marytrs. The payoff and explanation given for these brutal experiments that take place within the film created a conflict in me as a viewer. On one hand I  thought it was a kind of cool and interesting idea, something that had been done before, but was done different and in an interesting way to bring up so cool plot stings. However when the payoff finally did come and I realized what the movie was trying to say, I just kind of thought to myself "Oh, so that's where taking this". That was the only real flaw that I found with the movie, and it's only a sort of half-flaw. The only other one comes toward the end when they are showing the passing of time within the film. It's done in a series of really slow fade-in, fade-out shots. Normally I wouldn't mind this but the film had such a pace that when these really slow shots starting happening (and happening, and happening, and happening) it kind of drags the film down to this weird place of boredome where you just want something to happen.

The cast for he film is rather slim, only having about four or five main characters, and only having two of them on the screen for a good hour. Mylene Jampanoi who plays Lucie is incredible to watch onscreen.  She is this brutal and violent human being, but has this sort of sensitive outward appearance. You know that the reason she is crazy is because of the tests that were run on her as a child, but to sit and watch her commit acts of violence on others is something else. During the scene where she breaks into the house with a shotgun, as I described above, there is this really kind of soft and touching moment, where after killing the last person she just sits on the ground and rocks back and forth crying. It goes on for about twenty seconds, and the whole time there is just this aching within you that wants to reach out and give her a hug, even though she just massacred an entire family.

In the end, there is no denying that Martyrs is something powerful. Whether or not your morality will allow you to justify that is up to yourself. Sure it's shocking and violent and gruesome, but that isn't the films purpose. Unlike your Saws and Hostels where their violence becomes the main plot point, Martyrs doesn't. It has people that you care for, a story that you want to see through to the end and is just a well made movie. If you can stomach the brutality you will find that it is actually very poignant, sad and sweet. Lucie is one of my favorite troubled characters of recent memory. The movie in the middle is a character study, it is her story, about dealing with the trauma that she went through as a child, and about what she will have to deal with growing up. The violence is just layered around that as additions to the visceral experience. And when all is said and done it really drives you to connect with these people and watch them through to the end. So there. What is possibly one of the sickets films ever made and hype aside, I'd say it's amazing. I won't force you to see Martyrs. It's not a fun film to sit through, and it won't be to some people's taste. But for me and for what it is, Martyrs is near perfection.

I Give Martyrs A:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

#38-Deadgirl (2008)


It seems like the only way to be a critical success in the horror-community these days, you must either be apart of an established franchise, or and indie darling with no studio ties. Deadgirl falls into the latter category, and was screened with mixed-to-positive results at many respected festivals. The film is a first for directors Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel, and is written by Trent Haaga a man famous for his low-budget horror writing, directing and acting. Awesome. Two new directors, and a man known for low budget work. Aren't we in for a treat.

The film also stirred up a little controversy for it's plot. It revolves around two young boys who skip school one day, and go to a deserted warehouse (of course). Inside they find a few rabid dogs, along with the "ultimate prize". That being a zombified woman they find taped to an operating table naked. Instead of doing the morally correct thing and taking her to a hospital or calling the police, the two boys who can't get a girlfriend decide to leave her there and continually rape her for their own pleasure. After mercilessly trying to kill the girl three times, they discover she is immortal.

"You're the man Johnny"

Now, I can deal with controversial, disgusting, raw, and all together just wrong material. I'm fine with it. I can deal, and I find it interesting how the directors deal with such sensitive ideas. However, the creators of Deadgirl did not take that into account. The screenplay is incredibly explotative, and annoyingly so. Most horror screenplays are sexually and violently explotative, but this one takes it one-step further, and on purpose. They know the material is sick and disgusting, and so they try to make it more sick and disgusting, not for artistic or idealogical reasons, but just to watch you squirm.

Not only is the film weak on and terrible on a mental level, but the film isn't well made techincally. Nearly the entire film takes place in a dark grey warehouse, with many forward facing shots. The music, while interesting , does not fit the film. It sounds exactly like the soundtrack from Donnie Darko, and in fact I wouldn't be surprised if it was. The two actors who play the teenage boys are obviously not in their teens, and could range anywhere from 25 to 30. They weren't very good actors as well, bad casting, and bad acting are a terrible mix. And I tell you, it is terrible.

I respect the fact that the filmmakers tried to make something daring and dangerous. But in the end they failed. It is shallow, rude, and terribly made. The whole thing feels like an amatuer hodge-podge of some ten year old who had just watched Friday The 13th and said: "Hey, I could do that!" And they could, but that doesn't mean that they are going to do it good.

I Give Deadgirl A:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sit Or Skip: October 1st 2010

I've decided to try out a new idea that I've had for awhile this month. It's a new...'segment' if you can dig that. What I try to do, is list most, or all of the major realeses and a few smaller ones that are slated for any given week (trailers, posters, and stills added to taste) and then a paragraph or two on why I'll be sitting through that movie in theatres or skipping it until it comes out on DVD, because I think that every movie should be given a chance. And with so many horror movies coming out in October, and so many horror movies being the same, I decided to try and whittle my way through them, for your entertainment. So what are we waiting for?

October 1st, 2010
-The Social Network
I am a facebook user, and I am nearly addicted to the site. It's well made, has a sleek design, and rarely crashes. That being said, the court-case behind the site is probably more interesting than most things people post, and so a movie coming out about Mr. Zuckerberg is somewhat of a little gem. With Jessie Eisenberg, -who is turning out to be Michael Cera's rival- in place of Zukerberg, and with rumors flying about the film potraying him in a negative light, this may be a turn for Eisenberg, and not have him playing his usual geek role. The concept is interesting a Facebook movie, whether not it will be completely succesful is unclear, but it will most likely be this weeks top box-office performer.

-Let Me In
Let Me In is an American remake of a Swedish film, that was based on a Swedish novel. Now I totally and completely adored the orignal film, though I have yet to read the novel. It all had this kind of pure innocence about it. Based on the trailer, the remake has me a bit worried. It looks like they are taking out the decent romance for brawly action sequences, which is not where it suppose to go. Add in that we're now trying to make money from an American audience, and it takes place in Utah instead of Sweden, and this could be one big train-wreck. But I still will be seeing this (even before The Social Network) because I sill hold out hope that this could be something excellent.

-Case 39
This is one that I will definatly be skipping. The film was suppose to come out a long time ago -I've had it saved in my Netflix queue for over a year now- and the film is just now coming out. When something like this happens, it usually means the the film isn't going to be that good, and it doesn't surprise me. The trailer makes the movie look very effects heavy, and that typically doesn't work the effects don't look that good. I'll most likely end up renting it because it has a decent supporting cast, including Jodelle Ferland and Ian McShane.

So what will you be watching? I for one am definatly excited for, and will most likely see, both The Social Network and Let Me In, but will be skipping over Case 39. If I could only pick one, Let Me In would be the one, but I might have to go double feature this week, as they are both are getting rave reviews. I am right? I am wrong? Tell what you think, what you'll be watching, and we'll find out this weekend.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Recent Readings 2

The Hobbit/By: J.R.R. Tolkein
I was forced to read this book as a Summer project for the English class I am taking this year. I never enjoy books I am forced to read and this was no exception. I am not much of a fantasy person either so this book just wasn't for me. I can see some people liking it, but I just thought it was dull and boring.

Gomorrah/By: Roberto Saviano
A non-fiction novel about the violent under-ground crime families that rule Italy, Roberto Saviano was sent into hiding after the book was published. It was later adapted into a film, which I have yet to watch, and it's an interesting little read. I'm not a fan of non-fiction either, but this was pretty good.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower/By: Stephen Chbosky
A book in the vein of The Catcher and the Rye, simply about growing up, and being a teenager, and being an outcast. Now I didn't enjoy Catcher and the Rye (even though it is a classic) because it's telling me how hard it is to be a teenager. And my thought process is 'I am a teenager, why do I need to read a book about some stuff I can already tell you about'. But the characters in Wallflower were different and interesting enough that I didn't feel it talking down to me, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Nirvana's Children/By: Ranulfo
Another novel about growing up. But with slighly more fantastical characters than real life could possibly create, and a central character who is different enough from me that I could get into what he was experiencing over myself. Not as good as Wallflower, but still decent.

Dr. Hasley's Journal/By: Unknown
Yeah, I'm a fan of the Halo series of video games, so when the new one came out, I bought the limited edition which came with this little journal thing, and though it wouldn't be interesting to people who don't play the games, I flew through it like nobody's bussiness. A cool little add on to the games story cannon, and if you're a fan you probably already read it, and if you're not, you probably don't care.

Friday, September 17, 2010

#37-Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father (2008)

Dear Zachary:
A Letter To A Son About His Father

Dear Zachary is an interesting and unsettling documentary that premiered at Sundance in 2007, and has been shown on MSNBC several times since then. Created and conceived by Kurt Kuenne, he takes a camera across the country to get interviews from people who’s lives were changed by his close friend Andrew Bagby, who had been murdered by an ex-girlfriend. After many trials, re-trials, and sentences, the woman accused of murdering Bagby, Shirley Jane Turner, announces that she is pregnant with Bagby’s son. Kuenne set out to make a collective effort of love for the young boy about his father, whom he will never know, and who was killed by the woman he will be forced to live with.

This is an incredible film to watch. Defiantly not for those who are weak of heart. It is sad, heartbreaking, and very unnerving. Now, documentaries (the good ones) often prove their point enough to make you think about what the filmmakers are saying. However because there are not always main characters in documentaries, nor is there ever much narrative, it is very rare that we actually feel emotionally connected to what is going on on-screen (for me anyway). Dear Zachary is the rule-breaker. It had me in tears, it had me screaming in anger, and most importantly, it had my heartstrings, that it was able to pull and manipulate anyway that it wanted, which is exactly what it should do.

With that being said, the film is emotionally rich, but isn’t particularly well made. It feels awkwardly paced and a little choppy at times, and so many names are thrown around in such a quick amount of time, I often couldn’t remember who was who. This film was made nearly entirely on Kuenne’s own back. He did nearly everything. He is listed in the credits for: Writing, Directing, Starring, Editing, Cinematography, Producing, and doing the music for the picture. It is obvious that he had a clear vision, and made the film he wanted to make, but so many jobs for one man begins to wear down on a person, and it shows in an almost amateurish way throughout the film.

This isn’t to belittle the fact that what happened was a tragedy, and my thoughts go out to all people and parties effected, but being fair, there are better made documentaries out there. But there are few that can control its viewer as emotionally well as Dear Zachary. It’s a matter of opinion what makes a better film, feeling, our artistry, and for me it is both. But the sheer power of the story in itself, created by some well placed moments and montages, make Dear Zachary a powerhouse.
I Give Dear Zachary A:

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Temporary Hiatus

I am here to tell you all that follow and read that I won't be posting for awhile. As the Summer months draw to a final close, I have a lot to do. Not only must I try and cram as much fun stuff into the last week as I possible can, but I have school assignments that I must finish for Honors. I have a feeling that the first few weeks of Freshman year highschool (especially in a town such as mine) will be rather annoying until it falls into the duldrums of every other year of school anyone has ever gone through.

I am also trying to set up another site, but one of those neat-o horror blogs. Because I am one of those crazy horror film junkies who looks into the aspects of the behind-the-scenes, and marketing, and if they follow 'the rules' and such. I haven't posted much on it besides setting up the actual main thing and what not, but I'll probably be posting a little more on that since I'm trying to get it on it's feet.

So if you are interested in supporting that:

I thank you in advance and I will probably be posting, maybe once a month on here, with a review or update or something from September until November, so I just thought that I'd let those of you that read know.

And I hope to find that you're still here in November!

Thanks, and see you then!

Monday, August 16, 2010

#36-Where The Wild Things Are (2009)

Where The Wild Things Are

It is truly saying something, when I believe that what is quite possible one of the most important films of 2009 is based on a children’s book that has merely ten sentences in it’s entire construct. Based on the 1963 book of the same name by Maurice Sendak, Where The Wild Things are is recreated for film by also famous novelist Dave Eggers, and acclaimed director Spike Jonze.

Jonze is most notable for directing the Charlie Kaufman films, Adaptation and Being John Malkovich, (which I really need to re-watch) both of which are excellent films. Here he takes a slightly different approach adapting a children’s novel rather than some very original adult material. However, simply because it is based on a book for kids does not make Where The Wild Things are any less dramatic, adult, or important than his previous works.

Where The Wild Things Are is about a young boy named Max who is the young child of a single Mom. Max faces some of the normal calamities that strike childhood in these times, such as the single parent, a new step-parent, an older sibling and simple loneliness. All these conflicting emotions come together one night, and after a fight with his Mother, Max finally does what most children only dream of and run away. He escapes onto a boat and sails across the ocean to an island full of ‘Wild Things’ where they make Max their king, and he begins his rule.

Jonze is one of the bright young talents in Hollywood. He has made great film after great film again and again, without hitting a wrong note thus far. Jason Reitman is a director of similar talent, along with Edgar Wright, and possibly Marc Webb, depending on what his next move is. Jonze’s talent is still on display here, with Wild Things having an exceptionally cool look and feel to it. The film moves a long at a decent pace, even if there are moments when it drags, and not much is going on. The hardships of being young are captured here perfectly, and you can still feel the sting of the one painful snowball that seemed to end every fight. The emotion is incredibly rich and flowing here, with each Wild Thing representing an emotion that Max would have experienced in the real world. It is a great way of communicating ideas and themes throughout the film, without beating the audience over the head with them.

"I'm an explorer mostly"

Max Records, the young boy who plays Max does an amazing job as the films leading man. He is the only real person on screen for ninety percent of the film and carries emotion very well. He is surrounded by imaginary creatures and manages to keep himself in the correct place mentally. His performance has few of the memorable scenes in which people scream and yell, but has a more subdued feeling about that makes it even more unbelievable. The voices of the Wild Things are cool as well, coming from some extraordinary talent, including the likes of: James Gandolfini, Lauren Ambrose, Chris Cooper, Forest Whitaker, Catharine O’Hara, and Paul Dano. It also includes some small performances from Catharine Keener, as Max’s Mother, and Mark Ruffalo as her boyfriend.

The creatures look great. They are a combination of computer animation, puppetry and real life actors inside real suits. The three forms mesh together really well and create a really nice looking effect. The CGI gives them facially movement that allows them to express great emotion as each has their own personality, while the suits and puppetry make them look real, and give them a natural element.

Where The Wild Things are is simply astonishing. Jonze and Eggers manage to make their own creature from this classic story, while holding true to Sendak’s work. Jonze is a fantastic director, and knocks this one out of the park, and continues to play his career perfectly. The young boy Max Records is the most astonishing child actor I have ever seen in a film, and I think his performance deserves some recognition. He carries the entire movie on his back for over an hour and a half, and never once does his performance flinch. He is at times, angry, happy, sad, engaged, lonely and often all of them at the same time. The film captures the image of childhood in all of it’s inglorious beauty, and is often real to the point of heart break. The film is slow sometimes, but never is it boring. This is less of a children’s movie as it is a film for adults to remember what it’s like to be a child. Karen O creates some fun, if at times annoying hipster tunes that do fit the film, and the cinematography captures the wild rumpus that we have in all of us.

I Give Where The Wild Things Are A:

Monday, August 9, 2010

#35-Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Acclaimed writer/director Wes Anderson brings two new things to his resume with his heading of Fantastic Mr. Fox. The first being that this is his first animated feature, and the second, his first ever time adapting a work to the big screen. He is mostly successful in this new endeavor but it can also easily be said that Fantastic Mr. Fox is Anderson’s weakest career link.

The story of Fox plays out rather simply. Through a series of circumstances Fox decides to buy a new home for his wife and child under a large tree near three very large industrial plants. Fox reverts back to his old ways and decides to start stealing from the farms of the three large corporate heads. When they find out where the Fox lives, they attempt to kill him, but fail and instead decide to dig out the many animals that live there, keying the idea that they must come out for food and water eventually. Fox and the other animals devise a plan to survive, and continue surviving as they dig for their lives.

This was a very brave move on the part of Anderson. Someone who has never directed an animated feature, to simply jump headfirst into the project, which has a dedicated fan-base due to it being based on a famous children’s novel by Roald Dahl. And I was one that was rather skeptical about this idea, until I saw how fantastic the animation came out. This is some of the best stop-motion I’ve ever seen, with some cool little tricks and Anderson styling’s to keep the viewer

"Thats my thing, my catch-phrase"

The film has an incredible voice cast that includes the likes of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, and Owen Wilson. While I do miss the times when trained voice-actors were hired for animated films, all of the cast does perform rather magnificently, and I was caught off guard by how much I didn’t recognize some of their voices.

With all this being said and done the plot for Fantastic Mr. Fox is incredibly weak. It is clever and fun while it lasts, but it simply cannot sustain the length of the film, which isn’t even an hour and a half. Anderson teamed up with frequent co-writing partner Noah Baumbach once again for this film, and whether it was the source material, or they were severely off their game, I will never know. There are some jokes in here that are used over and over again that get old very quickly. The plot is easily solved and has a decent amount of inconsistencies that sometimes make it hard to sit through. Why there is a manhole directly in the middle of a supermarket is beyond me. The family dynamic is repetitive and completely unoriginal which seems especially odd for Mr. Anderson who’s greatest films revolve around dysfunctional families. A saving grace does come in the form of a few decently clever lines of dialogue, but they certainly can’t completely save the screenplay that had already gone to hell in a neatly lined hand-basket.

The film has the great visual style of the any Wes Anderson flick, and he does greatly directing in a medium that was totally foreign to him. Voice acting is inconceivably unrecognizable from a stellar cast of great performers. The sets were designed incredibly well, with bright colors and interesting tricks that are sure to keep you interested but the films near lack of any emotional hold-up cannot stand near the likes of today’s animated giant Pixar, who continually puts out movies that tug on our heart-stings. The film is a fine rental for a quick watch, or if you have children, but for the most part it is unfortunately something to be skipped.

I Give Fantastic Mr. Fox A:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

#34-Altered (2006)


Altered.The film is about a group of crazy alien-hunting nut-jobs who, when on a hunting trip capture one of the evasive creatures and bring it back to their home. One of them claims to have been abducted before, and his an implant to prove it. Claiming that the alien mother-ship can track and follow him especially with them having a creature they lock themselves up in his garage for safety, and slowly begin to rot away at each other and the alien in the middle of the room.

The film is just bad. Just bad in general. It was avalible for instant play on Netflix one day, it was short, sounded cool and I was bored. From the director of The Blair Witch Project, a film that doesn't require much direction, and it shows. The film looks terrible, has a clunky feel, and a lot of the time nothing going on. The acting is bad as well from four unknowns who for the most part should remain unknown. It takes place in a garage which gives it a drab feel and a very boring atmosphere, with absoloutly no creepiness at all.

The only saving grace to the film is some decent special effects, which we hardly see. The film is stupid, slow, boring, and had terrible acting. Some cool alien special effects that we never see definatly cannot make up for all those mistakes. I should've known with this straight-to-dvd horror film, but alas against my better judgement I gave it a try, and it came back to bite me. Won't being doing it again anytime soon.
I Give Altered A: