4.30.2011

The Demented Podcast #14 - The Simon And Jobe Show.

In this episode, I'm joined from across the pond by Simon Columb, former alum of the Simon and Jo Film Show podcast. Together, we do a The Challenge that brings together the generational gap before discussing everything you could ever want to know about our DVD collections and similar things, such as buying versus renting.

From there we begin our climb of The Tower. It's quite a climb, indeed. And I do apologize again for a terrible occurrence in the second round. You'll know what I mean when you get there. Until then, have a listen and see if you think Simon will make it to the top.

Current Tower Leaderboard
1) Jason - 126 Points
2) Jess - 123 Points
3) Nick - 104 Points
Nolahn - Incomplete

Current Battle Royale Champion
Rachel Thuro - 171 Points

You can listen to this episode on the player below or by subscribing through iTunes.



That being said, enjoy! Thanks goes out to Kevin MacLeod's Incompetech website for great, royalty-free music. And thanks to Google for helping me find a website that will give me free video game audio samples.

4.28.2011

RUBBER.

I watched this via iTunes rental and, honestly, have very little to say about it. Why? For 2 reasons. First, and most importantly, if the description " a movie about a tire that kills people with psychokinetic powers" sounds awesome, then nothing I say will make you see this more or less than you already would have. Second, I just don't have much to say.

I've already really told you the plot. Yeah. That's about it. There's a side-plot where a bunch of people watch the events like a movie, but in a desert and through binoculars. There are a couple guys, one a guy in a suit and the other a cop, who apparently know this is fake and are just going along with it for as long as the audience in the desert is alive and watching. Despite the fact they set them up there to begin with, they try a few different ways to kill them off as soon as possible.

There's no explanation for any events. In fact, things are just done at pure random and for no reason. And that is, in fact, the reason. The movie starts off with the cop showing up, getting out of the trunk, grabbing a glass of water, and talking to the screen (breaking the fourth wall) about how the greatest movies ever made have moments of "no reason" and how this movie is like a love letter to "no reason." Then he pours out the glass of water and climbs back into the trunk of the cop car. So yes, there are a lot of things done pointlessly and randomly for no reason just for the sake of being weird--strangely, the killer tire being the least of it.

My favorite moments were, of course, the more meta moments. When the couple characters acknowledged they were in a movie (particularly one scene where the cop tries to tell everyone they can go home, that everything is over, and talks another cop into shooting him as proof everything is fake), it's fun. Unfortunately, when you have a movie that sounds awesome like this, you'd expect it to be a ton of fun... and then it turns out to be just decent. It's not a laugh riot by any means. There were a lot of head-tilting moments and a lot of moments that were fun just because of what they were. But looking at the overall picture, it just didn't live up to expectations.

So should you check it out? Sure. If that premise sounded like fun to you, then you'll enjoy it to some degree. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. If you think it sounds like the stupidest movie you've ever heard of, then no... don't bother. The movie probably won't change your mind. So that's my verdict: If you want to see it, do--you'll probably enjoy it; if you don't think it sounds cool, don't bother.


I Am McLovin!

(P.S. I know my review seemed slightly more negative or 'blah', but the movie gets a bunch of credit not only for originality but for guts. And it was entertaining to a point. If it came on TV, I might give it a watch for a bit. And visually, the movie was shot very well. I just think the final product could have been more... frivolous.)

4.27.2011

60/60 Review #25: Casablanca.

I don't want to review this movie. I really, really don't want to review this movie. This film along with the very next one on this list are considered two of the greatest films ever made. And we all know what hype and expectations can do to a film's initial viewing. On top of that, it's been placed at the end of a month full of high-quality Nazi-related films, which followed a month of nothing but war-related films, so at this point it's safe to say I'm rather sick of this whole type of film. Needless to say, there was a lot going against my praising of this film.

The story of Casablanca gives us Rick (Humphrey Bogart), a tavern owner in the namesake city. It's the middle of World War II, and Casablanca is a transit town where people stop by to help get to safe harbor. Rick is someone who knows people and can help them do just that. Rick, however, is warned that a man named Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) is going to show up asking for help to leave, but he's to keep him in the city under all circumstances. Victor is traveling with a woman, as well--a woman named Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), who happens to be an old flame of Rick's. The rest is a tale to figure out what happened between them in the past and what's going to happen to them in the relatively near future.

The one thing I'll say is that this truly is a classic. I'd say the script is fantastic, but I can't tell if I'm saying that because I honestly liked it or because I've practically heard the whole thing quoted famously throughout the years. "Play it, Sam," "Here's lookin' at you, kid," "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine," "Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life," "We'll always have Paris," "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship," and more. I mean, seriously. Half the lines I just listed I didn't even realize were from this movie (I think the first 3 I knew were from this and that's it). This is an epically quoted film and for a reason. I think the bulk of my enjoyment of this movie just came from hearing these lines from the source for the first time.

The first roughly 20 minutes of the movie had me worried. Honestly, I thought it was rather dull and kind of cheesy. It wasn't until we first hear about Laszlo that things start getting interesting, and soon after that the film picks up. Continuing with that honesty, however... I didn't care all that much. Blame it on the things I mentioned in my opening paragraph. I don't know. I found about half the conversations going in one ear and out the other. Rick and Sam were the only interesting characters to me, and Sam pretty much disappears from the film about halfway through.

I'm not saying this is a bad film. Not at all. It's an incredibly well made film--obviously, considering all the accolades it gets. The cinematography is pretty dang good at times, too (I particularly liked a segment where Rick is opening a safe and all you see is his shadow). I'm just saying that it didn't grab me and pull me in. I'm glad I've seen it. I can now mark it off the list. Though I have to say, unless a particular lovely young woman wants to sit down and watch it with me, I don't see myself just putting it in because I have the urge to watch it again.

So I guess that leaves me back with how I opened this review--I really would prefer not to. Of course, I just finished doing so, which makes this statement moot. I did enjoy the movie as a whole. I enjoyed a couple characters. I enjoyed how certain backstories ended up merging together to give you the whole picture of what happened between them. I really enjoyed hearing all those classic lines in context. So yes, I enjoyed it; I just didn't love it. Bring on the pitchforks.


A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. This brings us to a close on Nazi Month. This was easily my least favorite month thus far, and not solely due to the subject matter. With the exception of maybe 2-3 films, I was left feeling completely apathetic toward the majority of the films this month. And I had a couple big ones this month... so it was kind of shameful that I didn't feel the love that these movies get from practically everybody in existence. I saw their high quality, but I had such a hard time getting emotionally attached to them. Needless to say, I'm very much looking forward to a change of pace and getting away from war (as I've been dealing with for 2 months, basically) as I move into May--or, What A Twist! Month. Up next? Probably another controversially apathetic review of what's considered the greatest movie ever made. We'll see next week!)

(P.P.S. All I could think about when I saw Bogart, because this was my first Bogart film, was that he's really not a traditional looking charmer--particularly his mouth. In fact, I thought that if maybe Ray Romano stared in The Nutty Professor, Bogart would be his Buddy Love. Continue the hate mail now.)

4.26.2011

60/60 Extra: Life Is Beautiful.

In a long line of Nazi films this month, here comes another centering in a concentration camp. Fortunately, it's one that I was relatively looking forward to. I've been wanting to see this one for a while. In fact, someone once asked me to review this film in a comment quite a while back. Also, funnily enough, director Roberto Benigni's Oscar win is my earliest memory of the Academy Awards (I was at least 13 when it happened, so I wasn't that young. I guess it was just the biggest moment, so it stuck with me). I just remember loving it when he jumps up, climbs over a couple chairs, dashes for the stage, and makes one great speech. And boy did he deserve it.

Life Is Beautiful tells us the story of an Italian Jewish waiter named Guido Orefice (Robert Benigni), a man full of fancies and who has not a care in the world. He keeps running into a woman named Dora (Nicoletta Braschi) whom he calls Princess and falls in love with. Eventually they get married and have a son, Giosue (Giorgio Cantarini), and open a book store. Unfortunately, they're in the middle of World War II, and the family ends up in a concentration camp. To keep fear out of his son's life, Guido tells him that everything is a game and that once they reach 1000 points, they'll win a real tank. But with every passing day, it gets harder to keep that illusion alive, but Guido makes sure nothing stands in the way of keeping his son safe, mentally and physically.

This was one of the most simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking films I've seen. The whole movie is fantastic and beautiful from start to finish. Guido is an amazing character--funny and charming and romantic and carefree and loving. The first half of the movie with him trying to get with Dora is amazing. It's really funny and, again, heartwarming to watch. But then it jumps ahead a few years and pretty fast they end up in the camp. Even from the trip there, Guido is making sure his son thinks nothing dangerous is going on.

Needless to say that the acting is great. There were quite a few times when they spoke too fast and the subtitles were on and off the screen before I could finish reading, but that's no fault of the film's. Robert Benigni also won an Oscar for lead actor for this film, and he did definitely deserve it.

There's no real reason for me to go on with this as a review. Everything about this movie is fantastic. Even though it's another concentration camp movie, it's different. It has a more optimistic view than most others. Most are gritty and depressing. And while there still is the sense where you know Guido is worried and pained, it's not about that. The focus is on his relationship with his son and his wife and how he'll do anything to make sure he knows they're safe and that he loves them. So in a film set in a place of death and evil, the true focus is purely on love and goodness. So at that, I'm just going to stop reviewing, because I honestly don't think I have a fault in this movie.

Rating System.
Royale With Cheese

4.25.2011

Musical Monday: The Lion King - Be Prepared (#36).

[Every Monday, I'm going to be counting down my 52 favorite musical numbers from musical movies and TV shows. I might not like the full movie/show, but the number makes the list for various reasons: 1) I have to like the song, 2) the visual of how the number is performed is most likely unique or fun, 3) both song and visual mixes well to create an exciting or powerful number. So let's get to the next on the list.]

This is a movie I desperately need to re-watch. I haven't seen it in ages. So while it tops a lot of people's lists for favorite Disney movie, I can't in all honesty do it because it's been too long since I've watched it. But there is a lot that sticks with me from when I had seen it. Also, we all know I love my villain songs in these movies, and "Be Prepared" is no different. From the Nazi allusions (which were purely coincidental in placing this in the final week of Nazi Month) to the overall creepy factor, this number is quite villainous. Also, did you know that for the last 30 seconds or so, it's not even Jeremy Irons singing? Yeah, that's insane.

4.21.2011

Top 5 Best Will Ferrell Comedic Movie Moments.

I was recently involved in a discussion about Will Ferrell and his brand of comedy, particularly in comparison to how well his next film might be received--particularly since it's in Spanish. For all intents and purposes, Mr. Ferrell does the same character in almost every movie. There are plenty of people out there who love his silliness, but there are just as many who are annoyed by him. Frankly, he's not a draw for me unless he's doing something out of the ordinary for him. Case in point, I believe Stranger Than Fiction is arguably his best film. And yes, I probably will also see his Spanish flick. But out of all the comedies he's done so far, what are his best moments? That's what I'm here to count down. And no, I'm not including his dramedies like Stranger Than Fiction. Sorry.


Top 5 Best Will Ferrell Comedic Movie Moments

5) Wedding Crashers - Meatloaf

Info: This was a surprise cameo appearance as one of the greatest wedding crashers who ever lived. But now, he's living at home and crashing funerals instead.

Favorite Line: "I almost num-chucked you. You don't even realize!"

Clip: It's not available for embedding, so click here.


4) Step Brothers - Interviewing

Info: The step-brothers go out job hunting in tuxedos and have some wacky adventures due to their social idiocies.

Favorite Line: "Shut your mouth. Shut your... shut shut... shut your mouth."

Clip:



3) Talladega Nights - Baby Jesus

Info: Ricky Bobby and his family pray over a dinner of pizza and chicken, and Ricky has an affinity to praying to baby Jesus... and saying other inappropriate things during the prayer.

Favorite Line: "Dear, 8 pound, 6 oz, newborn infant Jesus, don't even know a word yet, just a little infant and so cuddly, but still omnipotent..."

Clip:



2) Austin Powers - Mustafa's Death

Info: Mustafa is blamed for Mr. Bigglesworth's balding, so he's sent to his death. Unfortunately, things don't go so well...

Favorite Line: "You shot me! You shot me right in the arm!"

Clip: Again, no embedding. Click here.

1) Anchorman - I Love Lamp/Afternoon Delight

Info: While discussing love, Brick shares what he loves around the room... which leads Ron to tell them what love is really like.

Favorite Line: "I Love Lamp!" (Really, what else?)

Clips: I couldn't find them together, but I did find them separately, despite the fact one follows the other. So here you go:






Honorable Mention: Step Brothers - Sweet Child O' Mine

Info: I didn't include it because Will Ferrell isn't in the scene. But it's a pretty funny moment from Step Brothers. Though I tend to like pointless, completely random song moments (hence my #1 choice).

Favorite Line: "Flat. So flat, I can't even... you don't even look good while you're doing it... the worst thing I've ever heard. 12 hundred dollars a week for voice lessons, and this is what I get? Alright, I'm gonna save it with a solo."

Clip:

4.20.2011

60/60 Review #24: The Pianist.

I stated yesterday in my review of The Counterfeiters that I was getting bored with the whole genre. Perhaps it's the fact that all these Nazi films feel the same. And it wasn't helping me any that, of all the films this month, The Pianist was the one that got the least amount of favorable talk and gave me the smallest expectations going in. All of this taken into account, it was to my incredible surprise and amazement how much I enjoyed this movie.

This film tells the true story of a Jewish, Polish pianist named Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody) throughout World War II. He and his family lived in Warsaw when the Nazis invade, and they end up in a self-made ghetto. From then on, things continue to go downhill, and Szpilman does what he can just to survive.

There's not much of a story behind the 2-and-a-half hours of film, and that's really my one major negative behind the movie. Around the middle it starts to drag ever so slightly, but that doesn't last too long. There's also a strange flow of time, sometimes having the movie make a huge jump in time where the visuals make it seem like it's the same day or maybe only a day later. But overall, the movie kept me engaged, mostly thanks to the strong characters--particularly Szpilman. And I think that's one of the strongest aspects of the movie. I think one issue I had with the previous few films in this month was that, while a lot of the time was spent in those films building up the characters and getting you to feel for them, none of them made me feel as strong about them as I did with Adrien Brody. By the end of the film, I was in pretty heavy suspense, hoping nothing would happen to the guy (no, I didn't know the true story behind the movie).

The acting, particularly Brody, was outstanding. He definitely deserved his Oscar. Also deserving of the Oscar was director Roman Polanski. His visual eye in this film was fantastic. There are plenty of scenes that, despite the destruction, are gorgeous to look at. And there are other moments that are heartbreaking. Characters just walking down the street and stepping over dead bodies of men and children as if they're everyday occurrences. And I felt this movie was even more disturbing and brutal than the others, even though there's probably just as much death shown (maybe even less). Something about it just felt more... real.

For most of the film, I was going to go with a slightly lower rating. But it was within that last 20-30 minutes that really shot it up for me. I've always felt an ending (or third act) can make or break a movie, and this one just had a great third act. With Brody on the run and in hiding in the destroyed town, every day is a new struggle. (SPOILERS) I think it's when he's found by the Nazi near the end of the film, and the Nazi forces him to play the piano for him before deciding to not only let him live but help him survive... that resonated with me. The piano playing scene was beautiful, thrilling, suspenseful, and touching all at the same time. I think I was holding my breath, expecting the Nazi to pull out his gun and shoot Brody at the end of the song, meanwhile captivated by the beautiful music. It was just a flurried mix of emotions that grabbed me. (END SPOILERS)

Overall, I think one good reason the film resonated with me so quickly was its placement in the 60/60 List. Let me explain... over the last few movies, I've been given concentration camps and, outside that, I'd seen little things here and there that were basically glossed over, or at least hardly explained. I saw the armbands to signify who were Jews; I saw (in Schindler's List, specifically) Jews being forced into walled-in ghettos within the city; I saw people hiding their money and jewels as Nazis invaded their homes; I saw threats of uprising that never really went anywhere. But none of that was ever really explored. But in this film, they explored the armbands and reactions to said armbands; they explored the building of the walls around the ghetto and the extreme nature of living within those walls; they had a deep discussions on hiding their valuables; and there were actually uprisings. And not a single concentration camp. In other words, along with everything else I've said in this review, this was a movie that gave me everything the other movies didn't--and I think that's why I loved it.

Rating System.
Royale With Cheese

4.19.2011

60/60 Extra: The Counterfeiters.

I don't know what it is about this month. Maybe after nearly 18 hours of "war" films, I'm just tired of the whole concept. But Nazi month is giving me decent-to-great films... that I just don't care about. Case in point: The Counterfeiters. This tells the true story of the biggest counterfeiting scheme ever. The Nazi party gets together a select group of Jews, including one of the best counterfeiters in the world at that time--a man named Sally (Karl Markovics)--and gets them to create a bunch of fake money. However, when they want him to create the American dollar, another man attempts to sabotage the project, even if it means all of them will be killed.

The movie is a story of survival shown quite well through the characters. Though it has interesting characters, it's definitely a more plot-driven story. They need to make these moneys and quickly or else they'll be killed. Sally has to also keep their secrets or else risk losing some of the men. Sally sticks to his motto of never turning in their own kind, no matter what they do. And when Sally finally breaks down, it's even more powerful considering how stoic he had been throughout the rest of the film.

The only major negative I found was the beginning of the film. Everything prior to him getting to the one concentration camp and beginning work with the counterfeiting felt rushed and, at times, unnecessary. I really can't remember how long it takes, but let's just say the first 20-30 minutes just feel a bit too rushed and choppy. And then once he gets there, the pacing slows down immensely.

Otherwise, I don't think I have all that much to say. Overall, the film is very well made. The acting is really good. Everything is done pretty dang well--which you would expect from an Oscar-winning film (you know, I just realized... every movie this month, including the Extras, is an Oscar-winning film with the exception of The Great Dictator, though that one was at least nominated for 5 Oscars. And strangely, it's the one I've enjoyed the most so far. What is it about Nazis and the Academy Awards?). Anyway, maybe I'm just not caring about the subject matter because of the previous month overload. Maybe it's just because I've seen Nazi stories done a hundred times. Who knows? It's a very well done film--it just didn't make me all that crazy for it. So the following score is mostly based on quality.


A Keanu 'Whoa'

4.18.2011

Musical Monday: Labyrinth - Magic Dance (#37).

[Every Monday, I'm going to be counting down my 52 favorite musical numbers from musical movies and TV shows. I might not like the full movie/show, but the number makes the list for various reasons: 1) I have to like the song, 2) the visual of how the number is performed is most likely unique or fun, 3) both song and visual mixes well to create an exciting or powerful number. So let's get to the next on the list.]

Not too much to say about this one. It's not really a big musical movie, but there are a few numbers. This is, though, the best of the bunch. It will get stuck in your head for quite a while, and it was one song I always loved growing up. The movie isn't all that great watching it now--in fact, there is a lot that's pretty bad in it. But mix in a nostalgic factor and this song, and it can be entertaining with the right people. I give you... Magic Dance.

4.17.2011

SCREAM 4.

I was worried going into this that it having been forever since I'd seen the first three would have been an issue. It wasn't. As long as you have general knowledge on the first film and maybe a tad on the second, you're good. The movie picks up 10 years later as Sidney (Neve Campbell) comes back to Woodsboro on book tour just in time for the anniversary of the first string of killings. Gale (Courtney Cox) is now married to Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette)--and yes, they are slightly meta about it. She's slipped in popularity and wants to reinvent herself like Sidney has, but has writer's block. But then killings start again! We're introduced to a new generation of kids to target, including Sidney's cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), Jill's friend Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), and a couple horror movie fanatics named Charlie (Rory Culkin) and Robbie (Erik Knudsen). Marley Shelton, Anthony Anderson, and Adam Brody co-star as cops who help with the case. This time, there are new rules for a new generation--but what are they?

One of the first things that you'll realize going into this movie is that things look pretty familiar. The killings look like they'd been done before in the first movie. Well, that's not a fluke. While the first few movies played with certain tropes of horror films, this one plays with remakes and reboots. Now, if you don't like a little meta with your film, you're gonna hate this movie. But if you love meta, you'll love this. It's probably the winky-est of the series in regards to recent film culture.

I've heard that people have issue with the dialogue in the movie and how it's so unrealistic or how people don't talk like that. I'm gonna have to disagree... and with a sense of irony. Funnily enough, these two obnoxious guys behind me were actually having a near-verbatim conversation about reboots and remakes right before the movie started. That alone made putting up with them worth it... but not quite. (What really made it worth it is that they actually forced me to turn around and ask them to stop talking--something I never do--mere seconds before a scene where a character gets stabbed for never shutting up. Of course, that still didn't stop them.) Also, I've heard issues with how these teenagers reacted to the killings. From personal experience in current high school classrooms... I can tell you the movie wasn't all that far off. So no, I had no problems with realism. My realism issues stopped with the kid who walked around with a webcam on his head the entire movie. Once I got over that, nothing else bothered me in that regard.

The movie was very clever in its commentary of modern cinema. Then again, I really enjoy anything meta, so this whole thing was a hoot for me. I think one of the most interesting meta moments is near the beginning when they're talking about the Saw films--particularly Saw 4 and up--while the style of Scream 4 at that moment is being reminiscent of their conversations and things in said films. I don't want to give it away, but if you've not seen the latter Saw films, the full depth of the meta-ness will probably be lost on you. You'll still get what they're doing, though. But it's a fun opening that really plays with your perceptions.

And speaking of perceptions, the movie actually surprised me in regards to big reveal. Every time I thought I had a suspect, the suspect was killed off. There are plenty of red herrings to keep you guessing. And the rationale behind the killings this time around was what really sold it for me. I thought it was a brilliant move on Wes Craven's part--a great way to tie the whole idea and themes of the movie together.

If one thing bothered me about the movie, it was the acting. It's... not that great. About a third of the cast seems like they're phoning it in. Another third just struggles with the whole concept of acting. And the last third consists of David Arquette. I'll leave that up to interpretation. The best performances of the film were, surprisingly, Courtney Cox and Hayden Panettiere. Both play "tough girls" with mouths on 'em. Courtney brings a lot of refreshing spunk to Gale. And Hayden as Kirby is an incredibly knowledgeable movie nerd. And while I don't necessarily agree with the following review, Anomalous Material's review of the film said it best in regards to her character: she's "the nerd’s wet dream without dressing like one, the one who can out-trivia the boys. When the Ghostface asks her a trivia question, she throws in Piranha. She knows how to slip in the nuances of humor and fear at the same time and she deservedly steals the show."

Overall, it's not a perfect film, but it's one heck of a fun one. The meta humor is excellent, though I can see where it can grate on you if you don't like that kind of thing. It's essentially what Scream 3 should have been. It's not as good as the first film, but it's definitely up there. If you're a fan of the series, you can't miss this one. Fun writing, thrilling moments, funny scenes, and a Shaun of the Dead reference. You can never go wrong with that.


A Keanu 'Whoa'

4.16.2011

The Demented Podcast #13 - Muppets Vs. Toons.

For the show's first return guest for a regular episode, we're introducing a new format. But never fear, it's only for returning guests. First-timers will still get a chance to try out the original format, as well. So on tap for this new format... is the very first guest I had, who tested out the original format first, too! That's right, it's Jess from Insight into Entertainment.

The new format entails the guest choosing a movie and me choosing a movie and discussing both. Jess chose The Muppets Take Manhattan, while I chose Who Framed Roger Rabbit? After a short discussion on both, we get into a new segment entitled Versus, where we have an interesting discussion on who would win in an epic battle to the death. This week? Muppets Vs. Toons. We, of course, have our own thoughts. But after you listen, make sure to leave us your own on who you think would win (among all your other thoughts, too, of course).

Then we wrap up the show with The Tower. After losing in the first round of the Battle Royale, Jess is determined to redeem herself. But does she do it? Listen and find out!

Current Tower Leaderboard
1) Jason - 126 Points
2) Nick - 104 Points
Nolahn - Incomplete

Current Battle Royale Champion
Rachel Thuro - 171 Points

You can listen to this episode on the player below or by subscribing through iTunes.



That being said, enjoy! Thanks goes out to Kevin MacLeod's Incompetech website for great, royalty-free music. And thanks to Google for helping me find a website that will give me free video game audio samples.

4.13.2011

60/60 Review #23: Schindler's List.

This is my third Spielberg film I've reviewed for this 60/60 List. The first one, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, didn't sit super positively with me. Next was Saving Private Ryan, a film that I did enjoy it quite a lot. Now we're up to what is probably considered Spielberg's best film. But did I perceive it as such?

Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) is a member of the Nazi party who also acts as a war profiteer. He starts hiring Jews to work in his factory, getting a lot of help from a man named Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley). But when another Nazi named Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) shows up and begins committing cold-blooded murders on the Jewish population of the ghetto, Schindler starts to become more and more sympathetic toward the Jews. And when he gets word that they're going to be sent to their doom at Auschwitz, he puts together a list of names that he can save by bringing them to another factory in his hometown.

The acting is of course fantastic. This is probably one of Liam Neeson's finest performances. Ben Kingsley was the most likable in the movie. Ralph Fiennes as the crazy Nazi was the most fascinating. He's completely psychotic, sniping Jews from his balcony just because he feels like it or gets upset. But at the same time, he works along with Schindler, letting him keep his "workers" and even (somewhat) helping to have Schindler's workers safe from Auschwitz. He's still a total evil bastard, though. And the way everyone is acted is superb. That being said, however...

I honestly don't know how I feel about this film. Obviously I can tell you it was masterfully made. Mostly in black and white, there are only a few segments in color. The film is bookended in color, and there are a couple parts in the middle--some candles and the girl in the red dress, specifically. So the cinematography is great, the acting is top notch, etc. So why can't I figure out how to talk about this movie?

There really is no "plot," per se. There's a story, but up until the last hour of the film (in a 3+ hour film), the story is more like a random set of events that sometimes include overarching characters. You see a lot of things happening to characters whose names we might not even learn. The film is more interested in giving us a window into the lives of these particular Jews in this place rather than giving us any kind of heavy plot. It's just... these are Jews; these are Nazis; this is World War II; watch what happens between them. Then in the last half or so of the movie, we start to get things happening in the sense that the story starts to become more focused and there's a clear idea of what's going to happen and/or where the film is headed. It's no longer just Nazis killing Jews and Schindler making money.

I'm just going to wrap this up, because this is one of the toughest reviews I've had to figure out and write for this project thus far. I really enjoyed the ending that showed us the real survivors. Like I said, the movie is masterfully made and has great acting and fine characters (I know they were real people, but still). I just guess I was partially bored despite all that. It's one of those "It's not my cup of tea, but I still enjoyed it" kind of things that puts me in an awkward place. So here's where I'm at: It's a great film, but I didn't love it. However, I certainly didn't hate it, and I more than merely "liked it." For the sake of this review, I'm starting with a score at the top due to the film's quality, but I'm going to drop it down a notch because I didn't love it. I guess.


A Keanu 'Whoa'

4.12.2011

New 60/60 Extras Added.

If y'all haven't noticed yet, I decided to do quite a bit of research over the last couple days and put up all my planned 60/60 Extras for the rest of the year. The hardest was Hitchcock month, which is the next one I'm most excited about. There are just so many that sound excellent.

Now, including all the Extras, there are exactly 100 films on the 60/60 List (which is kinda funny considering one of the 60's stands for '60 Movies'). I don't know if I'm gonna stick to all of those Extras. We've already seen in the last couple months where I've had to drop a couple planned extras due to time constraints. But as of right now, this is what I have planned.

Anyway, I know they're off to the left sidebar, but I thought I'd just go ahead and share here, too, what these Extras are and why I chose some of them:

May 2011 - "What A Twist!" Month

Extras: Laura, Les Diaboliques, Primal Fear, and Haute Tension.
Info: It was really hard searching for movies with twists without being spoiled. Of all the movies of this month, I know the twists of at least half of them (Laura being spoiled while I was trying to find films for this month). I chose Haute Tension because I've been wanting to see it for years, and despite already knowing the twist, I've heard it's a crazy movie. And it'll lead perfectly into the following month.

June 2011 - "WTF" Month

Extras: Eraserhead, Salo, Irreversible, and I Spit On Your Grave
Info: Even Jason thinks I'm gonna need therapy after this month. I will admit, I might be going too far putting such films in such close proximity to each other. But the month calls for it! I had to have at least one Lynch film. Salo is considered one of the most disturbing films ever made. Irreversible joined the list after a couple discussions in previous podcasts, and the last one... well, I've heard things. And I'm going with the original in this case, not the recent remake.

July 2011 - "Hitchcock" Month

Extras: Psycho, The Birds, Strangers on a Train
Info: Like I said, this is gonna be probably my favorite month, or at least the month I'm most excited for. And it's the only month in this entire project dedicated to a single director. I knew I needed Psycho and The Birds on this list, as they're pure classics. It was the last spot that was hardest to fill in. I think it was a choice between that one, Rebecca, Notorious, Dial M For Murder, and The Trouble With Harry. I chose the one I did because I love perfect crime stories, and it sounded the most interesting to me.

August 2011 - "Crime" Month Part 1

Extras: The French Connection, The Hot Rock, Murder on the Orient Express, The Great Train Robbery, and Bonnie and Clyde
Info: I'm gonna be sick of crime movies after September, but at least I've split up the types. August is heist/detective/cops kinda crime movies. Orient Express was the first I wanted, even without doing research. The others just followed suit. The Hot Rock I hadn't heard of before, but it sounded like a lot of fun, so I added it to the list.

September 2011 - "Crime" Month Part 2

Extras: The Untouchables, Carlito's Way, Casino
Info: This crime month deals more with gangsters/mobsters/mafia. I already had the essentials down for this month, but a few more essentials I hadn't yet are now Extras on this list. They just felt like the most obvious choices.

October 2011 - "Horror" Month

Extras: Dead Alive, The Changeling, and The Lost Boys
Info: The one that barely missed the list was the original The Haunting. Jason helped me figure this month out, too, though I already knew I wanted The Changeling. It was a tricky month because I wanted more serious horror films in this month to counter some of the sillier fare I already chose. Unfortunately, I had already seen almost all of them! So I was left with what I have here.

November 2011 - "What's Left - Heavy" Month

Extras: Brokeback Mountain and Boogie Nights
Info: I've been wanting to see both for a while. I didn't get to Brokeback during western month. I forgot about Boogie Nights when I probably could have done it earlier. So both are going here.

December 2011 - "What's Left - Light" Month

Extras: Dazed and Confused and Swingers
Info: No, I've not seen either. But they're on here now. 'Nuff said.

So those are all my new Extras. Thoughts? Complaints? Suggestions?

4.11.2011

Musical Monday: The Nightmare Before Christmas - This Is Halloween (#38).

[Every Monday, I'm going to be counting down my 52 favorite musical numbers from musical movies and TV shows. I might not like the full movie/show, but the number makes the list for various reasons: 1) I have to like the song, 2) the visual of how the number is performed is most likely unique or fun, 3) both song and visual mixes well to create an exciting or powerful number. So let's get to the next on the list.]

I know this movie is quite overrated and is basically the epitome of the Hot Topic generation, but there is a reason people enjoy it: it's well made and the songs are catchy. This particular song is the opening number (I have a lot of those, don't I?), and it accomplishes quite a bit in its 4 minutes. It sets up the world, it sets up the mood, it shows us exactly what kind of thing we're to expect with this film, and it introduces us to almost every character in the film. That's quite a feat, and it does it well. So... This Is Halloween.



Also, Marilyn Manson did a really cool cover of the song, even doing some different voices for different characters. This video is his version set to the opening bit of the film (and it all fits):

4.10.2011

HANNA.

Yet another one of my most anticipated of the year I can check off from my list. But this time I got to go in with high expectations considering it has been getting pretty good reviews all around. But will mine add to it? Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) was raised in the woods by her father Erik (Eric Bana) to become a skilled assassin. Her mission? To take out a woman named Marissa Weigler (Cate Blanchett) before meeting back up with her father. Unfortunately, things aren't that simple.

I really wanted to love this movie. I really wanted to. I just... well, let's start with the positives. The cinematography and overall visual style is pretty excellent, but I wouldn't expect any different from the director of Atonement--another flawed film, but it looked quite nice. Also, the story was a fascinating concept, and I don't just mean the girl assassin trained in the woods bit. The reasoning behind everything is rather excellent, and--without spoiling anything--I'll just say it tries to ground something more fantastic into reality, and it does it pretty well.

Then there's the acting. Saoirse Ronan totally rocks it as Hanna. She's one of those actresses where, even if the rest of the film turns out to be rubbish, she's always a great watch. And while I don't think this movie was rubbish, she was certainly the best part of it. Eric Bana isn't in the movie too much after the beginning--he shows up here and there and comes back in with more purpose near the end--but he's good with what he does. And of course Cate Blanchett pulls off an amazing Tilda Swinton in this movie, though I'm not sure if that was the purpose. And the hitman guy bugged me for some reason--I think it was the actor, who probably could have been played better by Peter Stormare.

The first problem, however, is that the characters outside of Hanna are unexplored and dull. The most interesting characters after Hanna are actually the most normal--the family that Hanna joins up with after a while. There are hints that there could be trouble in paradise, but those are never really explored. And there's some fun comic relief involved. But Bana and Blanchett are just kinda... there.

So what we're given is nearly 2 hours focusing on the world through the eyes of this girl. That could be done really well... if the movie could make up its mind what it wants to do. Half the time it's trying to be an action thriller. The other half of the time, it wants to be this kinda-drama about a girl raised away from society who has to become more acquainted with the modern world and its peoples. Unfortunately, the two don't mesh well together. At times, the movie tries to force the thriller aspect by playing suspenseful music where there doesn't need to be. For the drama scenes, it'll start having her reactions to things... but then just drop it and won't explore further. So yeah, a big problem I found was that it was trying to be two different films and couldn't find a way to merge them better. Also, the fairy tale symbolism stuff could have been tightened up a bit.

Because of all of this, there were quite a few parts where the film seemed to drag. I was actually bored at times. Luckily, when it actually did these things right, it did them very well. The action sequences are a lot of fun and are well choreographed. The more dramedy-type things, when actually followed through with, were very good. So it just seemed to me that the script maybe needed another draft or two to fix a few things.

On the whole, I was entertained, but I thought it could have been better. It tried to do too many things, but there wasn't enough story or enough interesting situations to allow its run-time, leaving most of the film up to being carried by its characters--which, outside Hanna, weren't really strong enough to do so. Thankfully the production value was excellent. The movie was great to look at. The script had some really good moments. This movie had a lot of potential, and sometimes that potential comes through. But overall... it was just kinda dull.


Stop Saying OK! OK.

(P.S. I was actually gonna give it one higher originally. But by the time I got to the end of writing this review, I just felt so 'blah' about it. Maybe on a repeat viewing on DVD my opinion might go up a little. Hopefully. I still, at this point, really want to like this movie more. I could probably bump it up for its cinematic eye alone, but... I won't.)

4.09.2011

INSIDIOUS.

The movie may have had one of the strangest and nonsensical ad campaigns ever (Insidious is Insidious?), but it was thankfully the word of mouth that pulled me in. Written and directed by the guys who brought us the first Saw film and produced by the guy who brought us Paranormal Activity, Insidious tells us the story of the Lambert family. Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne) have just moved into a new home with their children. But after Dalton (Ty Simpkins) falls into something reminiscent of a coma, very bizarre things start happening. Slowly but sure, along with the help of Josh's mother, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey), and a paranormal team including Elise (Lin Shaye), Specs (Leigh Whannell), and Tucker (Angus Sampson), they find out what's going on and exactly what they need to do to fix it.

Despite an awfully slow beginning, the movie delivers its fair share of scares. I mean, this is one freaky little movie. Sure, there's some jump scares, but there's also that fear embedded in you like "what if there's something watching me in that dark corner of the room while I'm in bed?" And these aren't just night scares. Oh no. It's in the daytime, too. Don't take that PG-13 rating for granted. This is no teeny-bopper horror. This is a well-made scary movie. It even manages to use "Tiptoe Through The Tulips" in not one, but two creepy scenes.

I think the story is the coolest part, though. It's pretty original, or at least not done incredibly often. It follows a haunted house formula, but--as the trailers spoil--it's not a haunted house, but a haunted person (I hate that the trailer gave that away. That would have been a great mid-movie twist). Fortunately, the trailer didn't give away the why. I won't spoil it either, but the reasoning behind what's going on is quite original, at least to me, and I really liked the ideas this movie brought to the table. Also showing some originality, there's a fun part that turns cliches on their head. You know how there's that scene in every haunted house movie where someone begs to move and get away and never come back, but they just end up staying and riding it out? This movie plays with that cliche and almost laughs in its face.

The acting is decent. The movie gets really fun acting-wise about halfway through once Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, and Angus Sampson join the show. Whannell and Sampson give us our comic relief of the film, and they do a pretty good job at it. Shaye basically plays the Zelda Rubinstein character, but she does it very well. And yes, there are some Poltergeist parallels by the time we reach the third act. Sadly, in comparison to these later characters/actors, Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne mainly come off as dull. Byrne is the scared, crying wife/mother and Wilson is the aloof, sometimes macho husband/father. There are two other kids, but besides the baby that never stops crying, there's nothing really of note to mention of them. In fact, they're pretty much nonexistent in the second half of the film.

If you like ghost/haunting stories, definitely check this one out. It's scary/freaky and well made. Director James Wan makes some interesting and fun camera choices, and there are a lot of lighting tricks he uses to keep us on our toes, waiting and holding our breath that something doesn't pop out of nowhere. Also, because he's James Wan, you know he's gonna attempt some kind of twist, but you can see it coming a mile away. Honestly, don't go into this movie for any kind of twist. Go to it because the story is pretty original and it's pretty dang scary (mixed in with a few laughs).


A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. Try not to sit near any annoying women who have to commentate on every little thing throughout the entire movie like "This is the part where they dim the lights and the previews start... see?," "Oh, that's a really nice house," "Oh, that's a nice couch... I want that couch (which is being sat on by dead people during a scary scene)," "Oh! They just said that the boy gets up and walks around at night, but remember... he's in a coma!" Etc.)

4.07.2011

60/60 Extra: The Producers.

When I at first could not get The Great Dictator, prior to Hatter's kindness, I asked for suggestions on films that could replace it. I also asked, in general, films I could use as Extras for this particular month. With all the films thrown at me, this one was the highest on the list to possibly replace Dictator due to it being a comical take on Nazis and Hitler. But after Dictator came through, I pushed this one down to a lowly Extra. And... I'm kinda glad it happened that way.

The Producers is Mel Brooks' first directorial effort. It's about a once big-time Broadway producer named Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) who has fallen from grace and spends his time entertaining and sleeping with elderly women in order to finagle money from them. But when an accountant named Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) comes up with the idea that a big flop can generate more money than a hit if they do it right, they come up with a scheme to find the worst play they can and over-produce it. So they end up choosing Springtime for Hitler, a play that shows a more positive side of the fuhrer written by a former Nazi named Franz (Kenneth Mars).

Now, I like both Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder quite a bit. I thought the premise was terribly amusing. But the whole thing just... fell flat for me. I laughed once. Near the beginning. Gene Wilder's whole "I'M HYSTERICAL!" bit was, well... hysterical. But that was about it. Even the famous "Springtime for Hitler" song was only mildly amusing to me. I just found that I was bored through the majority of it. Sure, things were amusing from time to time that made me smirk, but I mostly watched the film with a blank face. In fact, about an hour into the movie (with only 20 minutes left), I found myself on my laptop, doing some multi-tasking because I just couldn't get into the movie.

I don't think it was the fault of the film. It wasn't bad. Some humor appeals to some people, and some of it doesn't. I guess this humor just didn't appeal to me on the whole. I have been told, however, to check out the remake, which I might enjoy more. So I'll look into that. But for this one, I'm afraid that I only really liked it for Gene Wilder. Sorry.


Stop Saying OK! OK.

4.06.2011

60/60 Review #22: The Great Dictator.

I almost didn't get to review this movie. When I started looking at Netflix for this month, I quickly came to the realization that it wasn't available on Netflix at all. From there, I checked out iTunes only to find the same thing. I also came to a similar fate with Amazon and practically everywhere else. Thankfully, Hatter came to my rescue by sending me a copy. And I'm happy, because this was actually one of my personal picks for the list--one I didn't take as a recommendation when I asked way back. I had once seen something on the greatest scenes or speeches in movies, and the last 5 or so minutes of this film was on there. I knew I had to check it out.

For those that don't know, the film is a political satire on Adolf Hitler that was made when Hitler was at the height of his power. The film follows two stories. First we have the great dictator himself, Adenoid Hynkel (Charlie Chaplin), as he tries to become the world's emperor. At the same time, we follow the story of a Jewish barber (also Charlie Chaplin), who looks--obviously--exactly like Hynkel. We're given about an hour and 45 minutes of slapstick and overall physical comedy and hi-jinks followed by 10 minutes of seriousness.

I've seen bits of pieces of Charlie Chaplin's comedy here and there, but never anything full. So I guess you could say this is my first entire Chaplin film I've seen. Let's start with the comedy first. I thought the movie was pretty funny, and I actually laughed out loud a handful of times. I knew from early on what I was getting into when one of the first gags is a giant bullet on the ground spins around to chase/face Chaplin running in circles at a high speed. There are numerous instances of this type of classic Chaplin comedy--physical humor, no dialogue, sped up footage, and matching music.

However, one quasi-issue I found with the film would be the same issue I'd find with a short story writer attempting a full novel: it was full of short skits and/or secluded segments linked together by minimal story just for the sake of having a fuller, longer plot. In other words, it felt like Chaplin had a lot of big ideas for the film as a whole and a lot of great ideas for small and fun skits like he'd normally do and tried to mix them together into one, big movie. Was this a big problem? No. All the smaller skits and comedy bits were a lot of fun, and the story that linked them together was great satire, so on the whole, I believe it worked.

Probably my favorite scene in the entire movie is one I don't think any film today could get away with. It's completely silent, completely whimsical, completely majestic, and completely saturated with symbolism, charm, and grace. In this scene, Chaplin--as Hynkel--has just been talked into aiming to become the emperor of the world. When left alone, he begins a dance with an inflatable globe... and then, at the end... I don't have the words to describe it, so you should just check it out here:



Then we come to the conclusion of the film. The barber gets confused for Hynkel (and vice versa), and he's brought to a giant rally after a major invasion. He's then forced to give a speech to the giant crowd, though he's not sure what to say. Throughout the rest of the film, the barber hasn't said all that much, and he's shown to be a bit bumbling. So when he steps up and makes one of the most eloquent, passionate, heartfelt, and powerful speeches ever, audiences are split--either they think it's completely out of character and it ruins the film or they get the purpose and love what it's doing. The barber isn't speaking to the people in the film; he's not speaking as Hynkel, pretending to make this big speech to all of his followers. Instead, Chaplin is breaking the fourth wall and speaking to the world and the people of his time. Sure, everything before it had been this great comedy, but there was a message with that satire, and it all led up to this epic speech with Chaplin begging and pleading to essentially mankind to not only see their current flaws but to also see the greatness they are capable of and should aspire to.

For a film that came out when it did, The Great Dictator is incredibly brave. To mock one of the biggest rising evil powers of the world and follow all of that up with a speech that begs mankind to come to its senses is applaud-worthy. I was actually partially distracted while watching, so I really want to revisit it at some point. That being said, however, I think my feelings on the film actually increased as I thought about it and wrote this review. Based on entertainment value alone, the score might have been one lower. But after adding in everything else I've discussed in this review outside of the pure entertainment factor, I think it deserves a slight raise in score. All of that being said, here you go... and I must say, this was a pretty good way to start off the month. Thanks again, Hatter.


A Keanu 'Whoa'

4.05.2011

Movie Alphabet Meme #2.

Tom over at Movie Reviews by Tom Clift did this recently and I thought it'd be fun. I've done it in the past, about 3 years ago, which you can see here. I think it's pretty fascinating to see some of the similarities and differences between the two over just 3 years. This time, there weren't really any specifications on how to choose the movies, but I'm assuming it's a favorite movie that begins with that particular letter of the alphabet. So I'm gonna go ahead and do that now. And if any of you would like to play along, go for it!

A - AMELIE











Runners-Up: Adventureland, Angel-A, Annie Hall

B - THE BIG LEBOWSKI











Runners-Up: Big Fish, Black Snake Moan, Breakfast Club, Bang Bang You're Dead

C - CUBE











Runners-Up: Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black, Clerks II, Collateral

D - DOGMA













Runners-Up: The Dark Knight, Dawn of the Dead, Dodgeball, Driving Lessons

E - EUROTRIP













Runners-Up: Easy A, Ed Wood, Evil Dead

F - THE FIFTH ELEMENT













Runners-Up: Feast, Final Destination

G - GAMERS: DORKNESS RISING











Runner-Up: Gone with the Wind

H - HARRY POTTER (In General)










Runner-Up: How To Train Your Dragon

I - INSIDE MAN













Runner-Up: I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK

J - JUI KUEN (DRUNKEN MASTER)









Runner-Up: Jaws

K - KISS KISS BANG BANG













Runner-Up: King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

L - LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS













Runner-Up: Leon

M - MIRRORMASK










Runners-Up: Man of La Mancha, Minority Report, Misery, Mothman Prophecies

N - NAPOLEON DYNAMITE














Runner-Up: The New Guy

O - OLDBOY













Runners-Up: O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Office Space

P - THE PRINCESS BRIDE














Runners-Up: Pan's Labyrinth, Pontypool, The Prestige

Q - QUARANTINE










R - REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA














Runners-Up: Role Models, The Room

S - SHAUN OF THE DEAD














Runners-Up: Saw, Se7en, Spirited Away, Surf Ninjas, Spaceballs, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Seven Samurai

T - TREMORS 2











Runners-Up: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Timecrimes, Tremors

U - UNLEASHED












Runner-Up: Up

V - V FOR VENDETTA














W - WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?


















Runners-Up:
Wanted, WALL*E

X - X2: X-MEN UNITED














Y - YOJIMBO














Z - ZOMBIELAND












Runner-Up: Zoolander

4.04.2011

Musical Monday: Mary Poppins - Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (#39).

[Every Monday, I'm going to be counting down my 52 favorite musical numbers from musical movies and TV shows. I might not like the full movie/show, but the number makes the list for various reasons: 1) I have to like the song, 2) the visual of how the number is performed is most likely unique or fun, 3) both song and visual mixes well to create an exciting or powerful number. So let's get to the next on the list.]

Amazingly, I'm getting this done earlier than usual. This particular song makes very little sense, but it's a purely fun number. The mixture of live action and animation is good, and the dancing is funny. Though this list is about songs that are set apart from others. I included it on this list because it's a song that has stuck with me (and most people in general) for the majority of our lives. Why? Because who didn't spend chunks of their childhood trying to spell Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?

4.02.2011

SOURCE CODE.

I'm still relatively shocked that this movie has nothing to do with a Philip K. Dick story. But with it being one of my most anticipated of the year, I had to check it out sooner rather than later. Of course, the outstanding reviews coming in as of late didn't hurt, either. Source Code tells us the story of Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), a soldier who somehow finds himself in the middle of a new government program run by Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) and Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga). He's involved with the titular source code, which puts him in the position of a man named Sean Fentress. Sean was on a train with a young woman named Christina (Michelle Monaghan)... at least until it blew up. Now Colter, through the persona of Sean, must figure out who the bomber is so that he can help stop another, bigger attack that the bomber plans on committing later that day. The problem is... he only has 8-minute intervals in which to find clues and figure things out.

This is a great little sci-fi thriller from director Duncan Jones, following up on his critically acclaimed Moon. And, in fact, I actually enjoyed this more than Moon. Despite the fact you know Colter cannot die within the source code, you're still kept in suspense. Along with Colter, you're trying to figure out the mystery. The film actually keeps you guessing, wondering which of the passengers it could be. And yes, they even tackle racial profiling in the film. Whereas in Moon where there really isn't much of a twist, as the film all but gives it away in the trailer, there are a couple little twists and turns in this film that I found were done really well and difficult to figure out prior to any reveal--mostly because the film pulls you in different directions and doesn't give you much time to think too much.

The acting is also done very well. I was never really like "Oh, this is Jake Gyllenhaal." He absorbed me in with his character, and I believed he was Colter Stevens. You were just as confused as him in the beginning, as disheartened as him in the middle, and as desperate as him at the end. Vera Farmiga does well as the orders-bound officer who wants to help more, but is restricted by Dr. Rutledge's commands. Jeffrey Wright himself isn't too imposing, but he keeps an air of superiority due to his knowledge on the source code. And then there's Michelle Monaghan, who has to walk a fine balance between sweet and confused, depending on the scenario. And I think she walks it well.

We're also taken into some deeper territory in the latter half of the film, particularly closer to the end. We're given questions that touch on morality, patriotism, and life--usually pertaining to "what would you do..." or "what if..." scenarios. The latter is where the themes are the strongest and work the best. The other two aren't explored all that deeply, though that doesn't hurt the film. I think scaling back a bit and not exploring them too much helped make things from going into "preachy" territory.

There were only a couple things that bothered me about the film, but I'm wary of talking about them without spoiling things. I'll just say most things about the capsule were eventually brought into question, as a lot of things weren't really explained (I mean, there was an explanation, but not one that totally satisfied me). For instance, what was the relevance of the handle on the floor that he tries to get open a couple times? And the "freezing" segment near the beginning is still making me question things.

But overall, the film was a lot of fun. If you're up for a really good sci-fi thriller, check this out. I didn't find the mysteries of the film all too obvious, nor did I think the repetition of going back to the same 8 minutes boring--everything was kept fresh. The themes are deep but not too deep to muddle the film, and the action is frequent but not too overwhelming to make it mindless. There was a good balance. So good job, Duncan Jones. I anticipate your next sci-fi film and hope it's just as good.


A Keanu 'Whoa'