8.31.2011

60/60 Extra: Bonnie And Clyde.

This movie is very conflicting to me, but I'm not 100% sure why. Let's try and figure that out. Here we get the story of a small-town girl named Bonnie (Faye Dunaway) who becomes enamored with a man named Clyde (Warren Beatty). He takes her away into an adventure of bank robberies and running from the law. They eventually pick up others, including C.W. Moss (Michael Pollard); Clyde's brother, Buck (Gene Hackman); and Buck's wife, Blanche (Estelle Parsons). They travel the country as things continue to spiral out of their control.

As I'm watching, the first hour of the film has me totally engaged. The writing and acting is solid. The chemistry between the two leads is strong. The most surprising thing about the film was the amount of comedy. The first "robbery" is priceless. And then, around the halfway point, Gene Wilder shows up out of nowhere for about 5-10 minutes. I loved that short segment, and I wished he was in more of the overall film.

But then the second half came and I start to feel the drag. I start feeling a bit of repetitiveness. The excitement kind of went away. It's not until maybe the last 20 minutes that things start picking up again and get more exciting once more. The writing and acting is (for the most part) still relatively solid, but it felt a wee bit too long.

There were some specifically annoying aspects of the film. First wasn't the most frequent, but there were some editing techniques that were bogglingly bad. They would just shift within the same frame instead of going to a new angle, which made it just look choppy. The second was the character of Blanche, who annoyed me to no end. I know she's supposed to be more unlikable, but she drove me crazy.

All that being said, the movie as a whole was really good. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I don't think it was perfect, but the characters were good and the acting and chemistry between said characters was great. There were multiple scenes that were fantastic--or at least had the potential to be even greater had it not been for wonky editing. I do very much recommend it, though, if you have ever been interested in seeing it.


A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. That wraps up Crime Month Part 1! You might have noticed I doubled up on this particular day. I did this because, unfortunately, this month just so happened to end on a Wednesday, leaving no room for this final Extra to fit unless within this day. That being said, we are moving into Crime Month Part 2. While Part 1 was focused more on cops, robbers, and heists, Part 2 is more on gangsters and mafia types... which makes Bonnie and Clyde the perfect segue film. This month has been pretty unexciting for the most part, with maybe a couple exceptions. Here's to hoping a different kind of crime will change these feelings.)

60/60 Review #43: Cool Hand Luke.

You could say this month has left me feeling lukewarm on the whole. So it's about time I found a film that cooled me off. This is the main film I'd been looking forward to this month, which is why I saved it for last. Thankfully, it didn't disappoint. There's really no story, per se. It's more of a character study. Luke (Paul Newman) is a man who will not conform to anything--society or the norms of the chain gang prison he's been put in. It's the story of his rise and fall.

As it's a character study, I'd like to discuss the acting first. If the acting in this type of film is bad, the film will mostly fail. Paul Newman is outstanding as Luke, and there are plenty of moments throughout the film that show this. One moment in particular that I believe exemplifies it is when he's playing the banjo after learning some news, and you can see the glistening of tears coming down his face without him outright sobbing. Also on tap is George Kennedy, who plays a man that is at first an adversary but soon a friend. He plays a southern (possibly Cajun?) man without the ability to read, but with a childlike fascination toward most things. And, yes, he won an Oscar for this role.

This movie had me fascinated from beginning to end--and let me tell you, that is a difficult task for a movie with almost no story. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that (no story) as a bad thing. Some movies do, some don't, and I typically don't enjoy those that don't. This one, however, really managed to keep me invested in these characters, which shows a large strength in its writing, acting, and directing.

There are some great visual cues in the film, as well. The main ones come from The Man With No Eyes, as the camera focuses on his sunglasses through the entire film. They symbolize him as a character, and there are some great shots through the reflection of those sunglasses. There are other interesting shots, as well, some of which might only be a second long.

On the whole, I really did love this movie. I know super positive reviews are not as interesting as the negative ones, and they're also more difficult to write. That being said, I really don't have much more to say. It has very strong writing, strong acting, strong directing, and a mostly solid pacing. I did start wearing down in the last 20 minutes, feeling its 2+ hours, but it wasn't bad enough to strike it against the overall film. So if you haven't checked it out yet, I'd recommend it.

Rating System.
Royale With Cheese

8.30.2011

60/60 Extra: The Killing.

Some of you might have noticed that The Great Train Robbery was supposed to be at this point. However, I could not get my hands on a copy. Therefore, I switched it out for this film, which just so happens to be the fifth addition of a Kubrick film on this list (though the fourth watched for it). And considering how I've felt about most Kubrick on the whole thus far, this was definitely more for completionist purposes. That being said...

The Killing is one of the man's lesser talked about films, made in 1956. It's a noir film about a group of men who plan on pulling off a heist at a horse racetrack. But one of their wives gets word of it and, due to her intense greed and selfishness, really bungles things up. I didn't put the characters or actors here, because I honestly couldn't tell you who was who.

There were one or two things I liked about the movie. The interactions between the dorky man and his wife had some great dialogue, and that woman was just flat-out repulsive as a human being. That made her interesting to watch. The heist itself is OK. I do like how it shows one perspective, then rewinds and shows the other half of it. And the film has a pretty good ending.

However, this movie really annoyed me for multiple reasons. The acting is truly, to the core, some of that "old time" acting that I really don't care for. And those are the ones who attempted to act. Some were flat-out stale. Others were so bizarre I wasn't sure what to make of them. The dorky guy in particular was boggling. I'm surprised he didn't cry out "Garbage Day!" at the end. And then you have the voice-over narration. Oh my God, that was painful. I don't think any of it was necessary, and it makes you feel dumber for apparently needing every little thing explained to you. Not to mention the voice-over itself makes the tone of the film more cheesy than anything.

But on the whole, I wasn't impressed. The annoyances overshadowed the rest of it for me. I wouldn't say it's a terrible film--it's just really not my cup of tea (besides the heist aspect, which is totally my cup of tea). I just didn't like how this film was put together. It just seems that I have a strange relationship with Kubrick. I only care for the first half of Full Metal Jacket (which is fantastic). I did actually really like A Clockwork Orange. I didn't care for Dr. Strangelove, and we all know my feelings on 2001 by now. I pray The Shining is one I love. But as for this one... put it in the latter half of that list. It's not my least favorite; I just wish it could have been better.


Feed Me, Seymour!

8.29.2011

Musical Monday: Beauty and the Beast - Gaston (#18).

[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 really do love this song. It's fun and catchy and it's more of an upbeat "villain" song (it's not really a villain song, but it's with and about him, so that's why I call it such). There's a more evil and stereotypical villain song later in the film, but it's not as catchy as this one. It's just a number that tries to get Gaston over his depression by telling him how great he is. So here you go...



Also, I made this ages ago, and only a few people have seen it. It's super embarrassing, but I might as well. It was more of an experiment in editing than anything (each is a single take, and they all react to each other...). And I'll be using a method similar to this in the near future for another project some of you are privy to. Anywho, here you go:


8.28.2011

The Vlog - S3.11: Story Time #5 - Cokie And Wrinkles.

Here's episode S3.11.

This is the shortest episode this season, but I have no doubt it will be one of the most memorable. There are a few special things about this episode. First, there's a special surprise 'cameo appearance', who thankfully kept the secret this whole time. Second, well... I love all my actors here, but one of them truly went all out with no feelings of shame. You'll see what I mean. And finally, some plot things will start coming together a bit. Also, don't think nothing's going on just because there's a black screen (especially at the end). There will be some audio. So without further ado, here you go! Enjoy! And stay tuned next week for the Season 3 Finale!


8.27.2011

FINAL DESTINATION 5.

I've been a fan of this series since the first installment, which I actually own on VHS (despite the lack of functional VCR to play it). The second one is OK, if not a bit overrated (some think it better than the first, to which I say nay). The third and fourth sucked. So when I hear about a fifth one, I'm like "OK, whatever," at first. Then I hear that they're changing up the rules and it's not just going to be another rehash. I'm more interested. Then I hear Tony Todd is back. My interest shoots up even more. Then I see reviews stating it's one of the best since the original, and it becomes a must-see.

Anecdote: This is where I usually give the plot synopsis, but I know what you're thinking: "This is the fifth in a horror franchise where each film is almost exactly the same. You obviously know what's going to happen." Well, dear reader, let me share this tidbit with you: After the big accident premonition and it goes back to the guy who realizes everyone is about to die, there was actually a woman in my theater who went "Gah! It was just a dream!" and another nearby that was like "That wasn't real?!" Seriously. So without further ado...

This time we get Sam (Nicholas D'Agosto), an office worker who wants to be a chef as he's going off on a business retreat with others in the office. But when he gets a premonition that the bridge they're crossing collapses and kills almost everyone, he ends up rescuing a handful of others just before it actually happens. Of course, Death doesn't like this and starts coming after them one by one in the order they would have died in the accident. But then a coroner (Tony Todd) explains some rules and lets them know if they kill somebody, they can take all the life they have left. The only other real recognizable name here is David Koechner, who plays the office manager.

The problems with the last 2-3 films in this series is that they moved away from the more serious nature of the first film and turned it more into a failed horror/comedy. This film, however, returns to its roots... and in more ways than one. If I were to rank them in quality, I'd place this somewhere in between the first and second. It's not as good as the original, but it definitely has some original twists and turns and isn't afraid to take the formula in a new direction. And there is an awesome twist at the end of the movie--unfortunately, I saw it coming very early on in the film. Still, it elevated the film even more (kind of like Saw VII; you knew it was coming, but it was cool anyway).

But the part anybody cares about in these films is the deaths. Starting off with the accident, it's unfortunately not one of the most exciting in the series. Still, it works for what it is. The fun thing about the deaths in these movies is that you almost never actually see it coming. You get these Rube Goldberg setups, but the majority of the time, what kills them has nothing to do with that setup--but just when you think it was a fake-out, it comes back and has something to do with the death in a way that you didn't even consider. It keeps you on your toes and guessing. And to that degree, this movie excels pretty dang well. They were pretty creative, if not for a slight reliance on CGI (including CGI blood).

The worst part of the film is the acting. Though that's really not much of a surprise. The last two films especially haven't been known for their quality thespians. I mean, next to Tony Todd, the biggest name in this movie is David Koechner. Mr. D'Agosto is in a constant state of surprise with his big round eyes and jumpy eyebrows. And Scott has said all that needs to be said about Miles Fisher, who plays the best friend.

Overall, if you're a fan of the series, you should check it out. If you were a fan of the first or second, but not so much the the third or fourth, check it out anyway. It blows those other two out of the water. And while there are a ton of connections to all the films, the only one of the series you really need to have seen is the first (which, one would assume if you're seeing the fifth, you'd have seen the first... but apparently not). It's an original take on a tiring premise and does it pretty well, even giving a pretty damn good ending. If this were to be the actual FINAL one, it would work well as the last installment.


I Am McLovin!

(P.S. Almost forgot to mention the 3D. This is one of those movies 3D was made for. It's not that type of atmospheric 3D, but rather the in-your-face, blood spurting, pointy-thingies jolting 3D. And it uses it to abundance, never missing an opportunity. If you love that classic style of 3D done well, definitely check this one out.)

The Demented Podcast #21 - 1001 Random Doorknobs.

This is a very special episode of The Demented Podcast, because (almost) everything changes! I get a new format and, more important, a new co-host! From now on, I'll be joined by Steve Honeywell of 1001plus... along with an added guest. But for this episode, it's an introductory to Steve, so it's just the two of us. We get to know him a bit before we introduce the 2 new "segments" of the show. The guest chooses a (sub-)genre, and we use that to base the rest of the show around. The first segment is Steve's "You're Going To Need A Bigger Boat," in which he recommends me a movie I have not seen. This week? Strange Days. Then we move into my segment, "Klaatu Barada... Necktie," wherein I also recommend Steve a movie he has not seen. This week? Franklyn.

From there, we move on into The Tower, which has also changed a bit. Listen to find out how (and also how Steve does)!

The rankings are starting over yet again, so let's see who will make it into the next Battle Royale.

Current/Previous Battle Royale Champions
(BR2) Dylan Fields - 114 Points
(BR1) Rachel Thuro - 171 Points


8.24.2011

60/60 Review #42: The Maltese Falcon.

I have somewhat of a history with this film. Even as a youngin (like, prior to the double digits), I somehow knew of this movie. I don't know where I'd heard of it, but I knew it was one of the classic greats. In essence, this is the one film that has sat in the back of my mind as one of the most quintessential films of all time. And it's only taken me this long to finally get around to seeing it. Of course, it came at an incredibly inopportune time. Usually I have my Netflix films in advance. But my flicks were delivered a day late. And then, on top of that, I was one movie short when they were finally delivered. And that missing film? The original film needing to be reviewed today. Because of this, I had to skip ahead and check out the next film on my list, which I did happen to have in my possession. However, this is also coming during my first week back to work/school, and I'm both completely physically and mentally exhausted. All of that out of the way, what did I think of the film? Well, let's just start with the plot.

Private Eye Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) and his partner, Miles (Jerome Cowan), are hired by Brigid (Mary Astor) to follow a man. But after his partner is killed, Spade gets caught up in a deeper conspiracy that ties him with criminals Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) and Kaspar Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet) in search for the long-lost Maltese Falcon.

The first thing I noticed is that this movie moves very fast. And I don't just mean the dialogue. In the first 15-20 minutes alone, almost more happens than in most full-length features these days. And I know I've complained about slow starts in other films recently, but this was too fast. It threw me off with everything going on, and it took me too long to get caught up with my tired brain and deal with it. And it wasn't hard to follow whatsoever. It was just a mix of seemingly way too much happening with way too little soul behind it way too quickly.

Besides that, I was initially put off from Bogart's character. I couldn't wrap my head around why he seemed to uncaring about his partner's death. I mean, you don't see them buddy-buddy or anything before his fate, but you would imagine they had some kind of history in order to start a business that put both their names on a window. And then the guy dies and he shows no signs of any emotion. All I could think about for 20 minutes was how much of an ass Spade was and why he would react like he was, and it was distracting me from really focusing on the rest of the film.

Two things saved this movie for me, however. The second Peter Lorre showed up, the film caught my interest again. His acting and his character are fun. Every scene he was in was a hoot. Strangely, the other thing was actually Spade. After a while, I got into his character and appreciated him. I think what finally got me were moments where he snaps and yells at people; then, when he leaves the room, he's smiling at himself showing that he's just messing with everybody in a childlike fashion. He's not your typical do-gooder. He's selfish and just out to help himself and do what makes things better for himself. If it means for him to go a little crooked, he'll do it. Once I got him pegged, I got into it a bit more.

Still, I didn't get into the movie as much as I wish I would have. Again, it was just bad timing. There were parts that were definitely well written, particularly in the third act. But I was a bit too out of it to focus too whole-heartedly on the overall product. I wouldn't mind seeing it again someday to get a better grasp on it and fully take in why I latched onto it as a youngster. But as for now, it'll have to remain in the back of my mind, and continue to be one of those childhood fancies, the stuff dreams are made of.


I Am McLovin!

8.22.2011

Musical Monday: A Very Potter Musical - Back To Hogwarts (#19).

[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.]

Note: Ironically, this is going up on the first day back for students here, as well...

This week I have a song that probably only the nerdiest of you have heard. It's from the first Harry Potter Musical, and it's the opening number. Before Darren Criss made it big on Glee and signed up to take over for Daniel Radcliffe on Broadway... he took over for Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter in this stage musical he helped write, produce, and star in. Unfortunately, the audio for the actual footage is kinda hard to hear, so I'll give you three options of viewing. First I'll give you just the released version of the song with the lyrics. And then, if you'd like to see all the sight gags and visual humor that goes with it, you can check out the actual play version. And this song really sets up the tone of the play, as it shows you how it both makes fun of the story and its character while simultaneously loving them. So here you go:







And if all of that wasn't enough for you, here's a video of Darren Criss and a few other cast and crew just chilling with some fans singing it along together and having a blast.

8.21.2011

The Vlog - S3.10: A Change Of Focus.

Here's episode S3.10.

This is the last "regular" episode of the season. After this is the final Story Time and then the season finale. Nothing else to really say here that you probably don't already know by this point. So, I hope you enjoy it!


8.19.2011

60/60 Extra: Murder On The Orient Express.

The more I see of Sidney Lumet, the more I love this guy. It started with 12 Angry Men (which is still my favorite). Then Dog Day Afternoon. Then... Before The Devil Knows You're Dead, which... unfortunately... I didn't really like (it was too dark and serious for my tastes). Find Me Guilty was in there somewhere, which sports a Vin Diesel with hair and acting. Next was Network, which I saw earlier this year for this project. And now, finally, this one.

Based on the Agatha Christie novel, Murder on the Orient Express gives us an all-star cast all stuck on a train where a murder has taken place. On the train is detective Poirot (Albert Finney), who sets out to discover who could have killed this person and why. Among those joining Mr. Finney in this film include Lauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Ingrid Bergman, Jean-Pierre Cassel (who is actually father of Vincent Cassel), Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael York, and Sean Connery.

I only have one complaint, which is that the movie takes 40 minutes for anything to happen. Granted, it's not a wasted 40 minutes. It's used to introduce all the characters (and there are over a dozen), as well as a few scenarios that take place around the time of the murder, which are recalled again at the end of the film. Despite it being necessary, I wonder if it could have been tinkered with a bit to shrink it down any.

The acting is all fine and relatively quirky (particularly Albert Finney). But the one I wanted to point out was Anthony Perkins, obviously famous for Psycho. I thought while watching this that, boy, was he doing his best Jimmy Stewart impression. Nothing else to add... just wanted to make that note.

I did know the twist for this film going into it, unfortunately. But it only took away partial suspense. Even though I knew the "who," I was left curious as to the "how" and "why." Of course, I would have preferred knowing nothing, but knowing what I did, I still wasn't bored with the film. If you haven't seen the film and don't know the twist, I suggest going into it like that. It'll be a much more fun surprise.

The last thing I wanted to cover was the tone of the film. It deals with a very serious subject matter, but on the whole it's handled like Clue. It's a relatively light movie (with the exception of the flashback at the end that shows how it was done and whatnot). And there's some really quirky comedy--again, particularly from Finney, who is just strange in his brilliance. But the part that really sets it up more lightly is the music, particularly at the beginning and end. I went with it at the beginning, but the ending music threw me off, especially coming right after a bunch of serious stuff. So I suppose in that regard, there were some tonal issues, but nothing major enough for it to ruin the film.

So check it out if you haven't already. I don't think it's perfect, but it's a damn fine mystery. It was personally fun to see a collection of all these actors and actresses I've come to see over this project get together, as if everything were almost leading to this film. I know I didn't say a whole lot about the film itself, but what is there to say, really? If you like mysteries, it's one you can't pass up. Good stuff.


A Keanu 'Whoa'

8.17.2011

60/60 Review #41: Easy Rider.

For the first time in this project, I've stumbled across a movie... that doesn't really fit in the category in which I put it (which is so not my fault based on the movies it kept being lumped with). There are some crimes in the movie (drug selling and use among other things), but it's not a crime movie. That being said, it's on my list, so I must review it. However, it's not really a film that can be easily reviewed. First off, there's not really a story. Taking place in the 60s, the film begins as Wyatt (Peter Fonda, who also co-wrote) and Billy (Dennis Hopper, who also co-wrote and directed) sell some cocaine and make some cash. They decide to take the money, get on their motorcycles, and travel halfway across the country from L.A. to New Orleans to experience Mardi Gras. Along the way, they meet a bunch of people, including George (Jack Nicholson), and smoke a lot of weed and discuss life, the universe, and everything.

Being born in 1986, I obviously have no personal connection to the 60s. And by and large, this film is a testament to the times and the lifestyles (and/or counter-lifestyles) of people in that day and age. It's a counterculture film that studies and explores the nature of freedom. And while some of these notions still ring true today (Nicholson's speech on fear and individual freedom is fantastic), there were still a handful of things that made me tilt my head. I mean, I grew up in south Texas, so for a bunch of rednecks to get nasty and violent to people because their hair is long and they ride a motorcycle (particularly the lengths it goes to) blows my mind.

The visual style of the film is both a highlight and a downside. The actual visuals were gorgeous, really highlighting some amazing locations in the American countryside. And as the majority of the film is them riding along to classic music with these places in the background, you get to see a lot of it. The part of the visuals that bothered me was more technical. There were some uses of the camera as well as the way the film was edited that bothered me. Throughout the film, there would be these kind of... strobe-light transitions where clips of another scene would flash in and out of the current scene before finally making a transition--I didn't like that at all.

As there's very little story and a minute amount of dialogue (this was apparently only a partial screenplay, and the majority of the film was adlibbed), the bulk of the film's success banked on its actors. Fortunately, everybody is pretty top notch. There are maybe two very brief moments where it's not that great, but for the most part... it's pretty dang good. I don't know if they sucked me in enough for the ending to get the payoff it wanted, but it was somewhat close.

Here's the big "unfortunately," though. On the whole, I recognize it as a well-made film, and I see its importance and status to the overall history of film and culture. It just wasn't my cup of tea, as it were. This is purely a position of preference. There was very little I disliked on the whole, and I wasn't really bored through it. It's just that this is not the type of movie I enjoy on an entertainment level. I respect it, and I "get" it as much as a guy not from that time can "get" it, I just... didn't fall in love with it. Because of that, I'm rating this film more on an entertainment scale than a quality scale--just know that this rating does not encapsulate my feelings on whether it is good or bad, but rather how it worked for me.


I Am McLovin!

8.16.2011

60/60 Extra: The Hot Rock.

So, I bumped this review back to give myself more time to finish the novel. Well, that didn't happen. Life got busy. And I didn't get incredibly far, either. But from what I got from it, I enjoyed it. The novel is a totally quick and quirky comedy heist story with larger-than-life characters and scenarios. I was particularly excited for the film version, as well. First off, it stars Robert Redford, who I've loved in both films I've watched of his for this project. Second, the screenplay was done by William Goldman, who also wrote/adapted Butch Cassidy, Heat, and The Princess Bride. So I figure if anyone can capture this novel with its characters and dialogue, he can. To top it all off, the premise is outstanding.

So color me disappointed.

The Hot Rock gives us the story of John Dortmunder (Robert Redford), a recently released criminal who immediately gets a heist job from his brother-in-law, Kelp (George Segal). A man named Dr. Amusa (Moses Gunn) wants a special diamond being held in a museum because it is symbolic for his people in an African nation. So they put a team together that also includes Murch (Rob Leibman) and Greenberg (Paul Sand). Unfortunately, despite their brilliant plans, things don't go so well, and everything starts going downhill. This leads them on a wild mission that forces them to have to pull heist after heist to try and steal this diamond again and again.

Perhaps it's better I didn't finish the novel, as I might have enjoyed the film even less. This novel would probably be excellently adapted in the hands of, say, The Coen Brothers (though it doesn't typically meet their standards of violence or absurd endings). This particular adaptation, however, really failed to grab the quirk and humor of the novel. I did notice it was somewhat there in the script, so maybe it wasn't totally the fault of William Goldman.

This brings me to my next point--the actors/directing. The story is played so straight and the actors so flat, it's no wonder the movie felt lifeless. That was my biggest problem. There was no fun or excitement that would typically go with, really, any heist comedy. None of the actors have chemistry with each other. There's no life to their words (especially Redford, which saddens me). At the very least, Dortmunder is the straight man of the bunch, but he's also like the Danny Ocean. But he was not smooth or charming. He was just... dull.

The music (or lack thereof) is also partly to blame. When there was a soundtrack, it never really did anything to elevate the mood. But the majority of the time, there was nothing. Now, I've run across a handful of films on this list alone that have been able to pull off the nearly empty soundtrack yet still give us a tight film. This was not one of them. It desperately needed... something.

I do think, though, on the whole, that it wasn't a bad film. It just could have been so much better. As it is, it's OK. I know I said a bunch of negative, but it was still somewhat fun to see the different heists and whatnot (even if I don't agree with how they do the last one). And you might wonder what my thoughts would be had I not compared it to the book. Keep in mind--I only got maybe 25% through the book. Even if I hadn't read what I did, I still would have felt the same about the blandness, especially in comparison to its potential based on the premise alone. Oh well...


Stop Saying OK! OK.

8.15.2011

Musical Monday: Chicago - Cell Block Tango (#20).

[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.]

One of the longer numbers on this list, and definitely one of the more "talkie" ones. This scene is hands down one of the best moments in the entire movie. Going from cellmate to cellmate as they reveal how they murdered their lovers all while wearing skimpy little outfits... yeah, that's pretty much all that needs to be said. It's twisted, demented, sexy, catchy, and fun. It's the "Cell Block Tango" from Chicago.


8.14.2011

The Vlog - S3.9: Jess' Version.

Here's episode S3.9.

If you don't have a knowledge of the previous Story Time episode, I'd strongly recommend going back to watch that one first. This episode is an alternate take on "Rachel's Version," so that the situations will be the same (actually the first "act" is almost exactly the same), but the dialogue and whatnot is a bit different (for the rest). The idea for this was that there's some kind of discontent between Rachel and Jess that happened a long time ago, but both of them remember how it happened differently (in the end blaming the other for the events). In other words, knowing/remembering "Rachel's Version" will help with the understanding and jokes of "Jess' Version." Of the two versions, I actually just slightly prefer this one, only because of the last 30 seconds and 2 lines given within that 30 seconds (one of which is, to me, this season's "mind penis" line... it's my favorite). Randomly, you might have noticed that neither this episode nor the previous Story Time were labeled as such. It was a mistake with Rachel's Version, but I carried it over to this one with the idea that "Nick" didn't title the former, as he wouldn't know there'd actually be more than one version. But the next Story Time after this is labeled, and it will be the last one. That being said... enjoy!

NOTE: For some reason, YouTube is being weird with the embedding. If the video is not loading for you here, click here and watch it straight from the site. Sorry for the inconvenience.


8.11.2011

Announcement: The 50/50 Project (2012).

Note: In honor of yesterday's Anonymous commenter, I've decided to move this post from Saturday to today. Also, I want to finish reading The Hot Rock before I watch and review the movie, so I'm giving myself a few extra days; therefore, I didn't have a post for today--so I might as well, right?

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UPDATE: The list is now complete! Thank you to everybody who volunteered and sent me films in record time!

So, you've been following along the 60/60 List, you've told me how great a project it is (some of you, anyway), you've given me some great comments, and you've wondered... what next?

I've wondered that same thing. In fact, it would almost be like an empty void on this blog after 60 straight weeks--that's about 14 months--on this project (since I started last November). It's been a project that has really broadened my cinematic horizons. However, I've also been met with "You should see _______" or "You haven't seen ________? And it's not on your 60/60?" Well, it's time to remedy that problem again.

This is where you come in.

Like last time, I'm going to request your help in establishing a list of films for this project. Unlike last time, however, I'm not going to categorize the films by genre. I was totally worn down on a style of film by the time I reached the end of the month that it sometimes ruined some experiences. That also had to do with the amount of Extras I chose (but there were so many promising films!). This time, there won't be any Extras, either. Why?

Because every month is dedicated to your own personal list. I would need 11 volunteers willing to give me a list of films to watch (January will be my month, since I'll only be using the last 2 weeks of it). Each month will be dedicated to that volunteer's list. You would give me a ranked list of films (about 10 should do, just in case) in order of importance. I will compare all the lists. If films conflict with each other, I'll look at ranking and alter accordingly, and then choose the Top 4-5 that remain.

"But Nick!" you ask. "How do I know what you have and haven't seen?" Well, remember those lists of every movie I've ever seen that I compiled and put on this very blog? Yeah, I had a secondary reason for doing those.

That being said, here is how this will work:

1) I need you to email me a ranked list of films at nicholasjobe@gmail.com.
2) I will take the first 11 volunteers to send in lists.
3) The films can be whatever you want with the following exceptions:
*No porn (the movie can be very sexual and have a lot of nudity, but no straight-up porn)
*Nothing I've already seen
*Nothing impossible to get my hands on (or that you aren't willing to send me yourself if it is)
*Preferably films older than 2010, but that's not a requirement
4) In other words, as long as you're following those guidelines, you can be as evil or as rewarding as you want to be. If you think I need to see some of the worst mainstream films made in the 2000s and give me Baby Geniuses 2 and Son of the Mask, that's up to you (and no, the films don't have to be categorized like that). My viewing is totally in your hands, from genre to quality.

However, because this new project is taking only 11 and a half months instead of 14, it obviously won't be 60 Weeks/60 Movies. Instead, this new project will be 50 Weeks/50 Movies and be, thus, the 50/50 Project.

You may begin emailing me whenever you want. I will send out occasional reminders if need be and announce the new list at the end of December when the 60/60 comes to a close. Thank you for your cooperation.

8.10.2011

60/60 Review #40: Chinatown.

Well... I didn't see that coming. If you've seen this movie, you probably know what I'm talking about. And no, I'm not talking about the reveal of the villain or the reason behind it. Anywho, moving on, Chinatown focuses on private detective J.J. Gittes (Jack Nicholson) who is hired to snoop around on Hollis Mulwray (Darrel Zwerling) and an affair he's having. But, well, one thing leads to another and Gittes not only has a murder investigation that gets him caught up with Mulwray's wife, Evelyn (Faye Dunaway), but a much bigger conspiracy that has something to do with water.

Coincidentally, I just watched Rango the night before this one, giving me two nights in a row with films on water dumping and thievery. Needless to say, the novelty of such a fresh idea didn't grab me as it probably otherwise might have. But then again, it's not that fascinating of a motive. The story was both interesting and... not. The movie wasn't boring, don't get me wrong. I think the way the film played out the story was done quite well and kept you guessing. However, the story itself, when all's said and done (with one major exception), is like... huh, OK. Now, the major exception is the shocker I mentioned in the opening. I totally didn't see it coming, and when you look at it after-the-fact, it's one really effed up movie. The following paragraph is spoilers, so read with caution if you haven't seen the film.

(SPOILERS) What's clear is that Katherine is Evelyn's sister/daughter due to incest... great, thanks a lot Polanski. Bringing me back to rape again, damnit! Anyway, what I gathered from there is that Evelyn's father and husband were business partners when she was a little girl. They had a fight when she "was still in grade school" and separated. Then the partner ends up marrying Evelyn, meaning he has to be at least 20 years older than her. Eventually, the man has an affair with his wife's sister/daughter. Not only is that weird in and of itself, but the girl was probably between 13-16 (OK, pedophilia), then the man himself had to be 30-40 years older than the girl or something. Unless I totally missed something. So the dad ends up seeing his former partner and current son-in-law cheating with his daughter/granddaughter and kills him, which also gets him the water rights he wants. And there's a whole other convoluted mess in there with land buying and whatnot, but I haven't figured that out yet. Anyway, to top it all off, at the end of the movie, the father not only gets away with it, but he takes his incest-daughter/granddaughter with him to do who knows what with. (END SPOILERS)

If I had any other complaints, it would be that this film is tough to follow. I'm still not 100% about everything that was going on or the motives behind things and whatnot. I'm sure that would be an easy fix with another watch, but I strongly doubt that will happen for a while. I didn't dislike the movie, but it's not one I'm gonna pop in when I'm bored. On the positive side, the acting and the writing in general was pretty dang good. Nicholson is great, and John Huston as Noah Cross was pretty fantastic. Of course, the writing won an Oscar for this film.

Sorry to disappoint, but I don't have any major thoughts on this film. It was good. I liked it. I'm not gonna go out of my way to watch it again, but I'm not disappointed I've seen it. I'm glad I have. Perhaps if anyone would like to spark a conversation in the comments, we could go from there. But for now, I'll just leave it at that.


I Am McLovin!

(P.S. Please note, that rating is almost entirely on the film's entertainment value for me, not on its quality.)

(P.P.S. Whoo, review #40! I'm 2/3 of the way through the list!)

8.09.2011

LKMYNTS: Franklyn.

Warning: While this review does not contain spoilers, the cast/character list alone on IMDb does. If you're planning on watching this, I'd suggest avoiding its page.

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Man, talk about a movie that will leave you thinking. I love it when I come across movies like this--ones that very few people have heard of, but more people should really see. I guess that's why I do this type of review, huh? This film is a split narrative, giving us 4 seemingly unconnected stories. First we're introduced to Jonathan Preest (Ryan Phillippe), a young man in a futuristic dystopian city called Meanwhile City. In this town, every individual belongs to a religion--except Preest, the lone atheist. Preest acts as detective and vigilante to take vengeance on a man called The Individual who is responsible for killing a pre-teen girl he was supposed to protect. The other 3 narratives of this film, however, take place is modern day London. Next is Milo (Sam Riley), another young man whose fiance decides to leave him right before their wedding, and now he tries to reconnect with an old flame. Third is Emilia (Eva Green), a depressed artist whose newest project deals with her recording her various attempts at suicide, erstwhile dealing with her uncaring mother. Finally, we're given Peter (Bernard Hill), a man who is out looking for his lost son.

Franklyn is the type of movie for your Donnie Darko and Stay crowd (which is ironic, since Ewan McGregor was originally attached for Phillippe's role--now that would have been interesting. Also of note, Paul Bettany and John Hurt were also originally cast as the two other characters but had to pull out. The only original cast member to stay was Eva Green). Anyway, back on point. This movie will mess with your head in a couple ways. First and foremost, you will wonder what any of the four stories have to do with each other. Then you'll wonder if the movie is going anywhere. Then you reach the third act, and that's when the film punches you in the face.

It's a movie that makes no sense and absolutely perfect sense. Reading up on it afterward, there are three types of people who watch this movie. There are those that watch it and don't understand it whatsoever. Then there are those who watch it and understand it just fine and have no idea why everyone else is having trouble understanding it; however, they just get it on a surface level, able to put the basic clues together and just say what was happening with the film's story. Finally, there are those who attempt to dive deeper, to take the movie apart and try to put it back together, wondering what every little thing meant--what each character symbolized, if certain characters were even real or not, what the themes of the film were, who the *beep* is Franklyn, etc. You can put me in that last group, because while I (think I) understood it on the surface level, there is just so much more to this film than that.

It's a film that explores living with or without faith--in any kind of way. Is it justifiable to be atheist? Does having faith make life easier? Does having too much religion cause more harm than good? It's also a film that explores the boundaries of mental health, and how one brings oneself to survive and cope when everything about you is fighting back hard. And then, eventually, there's a question of fate and, if there is a God, does He make it so everything truly happens for a reason? Is there always order in chaos?

At the heart of this movie are its four stories. Unfortunately, this is also the biggest negative of the film. As I said earlier, you have no idea how these stories connect or where this movie is going for probably the first hour. The fourth story (the dad looking for his son) doesn't come into play for a while, either, and it's a bit jolting when you all of a sudden have another storyline to follow that doesn't seem to fit anywhere. Of course, the best and most intriguing of the stories is the one that doesn't fit the most--the dystopian future. I would have watched an entire movie based on that one scenario alone. Don't get me wrong, the other stories are interesting (and they certainly end up taking you in a direction I can assure you that you probably didn't see coming). But the movie itself plays to one of the themes of its characters--order in chaos. When everything doesn't seem to connect for the bulk of the time, and then you end up with--well--what you end up with, it gives you a journey that might just be more about the destination than the journey itself. Some people will like that. Some won't.

Fortunately, everything else is there to keep you glued. The acting is great on all fronts, particularly Eva Green (who is gorgeous). Ryan Phillippe is kind of a Rorschach character, though thankfully he doesn't try to aim for the gravel in his tone. There's a little there, but it's nowhere close to, say, Bale's Batman. On top of that, this movie is gorgeous to look at. The cinematography is beautiful, and there are some sharp contrasts between dark and bright colors (though not too bright) that are played with at times (particularly reds and greens). Yet at the same time, it has a gloomy feel. It's a hard look to describe, but it works well.

I'd definitely recommend checking this one out (it is currently on Instant Streaming). It's a movie that makes you think about not only what's going on, but about its deeper meanings. If you do watch it, my one bit of advice is to stick it out. You might at times start questioning what the point is, but it all eventually comes together--so stick it out. I think it's very much worth it. I definitely need to check it out again. I think it's gonna be one of those I like even more the more I watch it.


A Keanu 'Whoa'

8.08.2011

Musical Monday: Newsies - King Of New York (#21).

[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.]

Always my favorite from Newsies, this song is easily the catchiest in the film. It's such a simple number, too. And then the last minute of the number has some fun choreography... ending in my favorite bit--the kid spinning from the ceiling fan. Who hasn't wanted to try that at least once? Anywho, not much to say on this one besides that. So check out "King of New York"!

8.07.2011

The Vlog - S3.8: An Unxpected Contact.

Here's episode S3.8.

So, wanna hear something crappy? I had a short joke that, for some reason, was really buggy when I transferred it to my editing program. So it kinda messed up part of the video when I went to save it. Because of that, I just had to take it out and add in a new joke (which should now be obvious when you reach that point). Anyway, this is one embarrassing video for me, mostly because of something I do in it. At this point, I'm still deciding whether or not I want to show you the entire thing since you just got the short bits I put in this (yes, there is a full version). Anyway... hope you enjoy the video!

8.06.2011

Update: The Demented Podcast... Hiatus?

Hey all you DemPod fans out there. Now that I've brought you 20 straight shows, including numerous great guests, dynamic discussions, impressive impressions, and some crazy climbs of The Tower (including 2 Battle Royales), I am here to say that the Demented Podcast will be taking a brief hiatus. There are currently some plans in motion, and the podcast is going to be changing slightly (hopefully for the better). I've been trying to catch my groove since the start while simultaneously keeping things fresh, and it's proven to be somewhat difficult. That being said, I think there are some interesting things in the future of the show, but I don't have enough time in the next week to get it ready and have a show for you. With that, I also have the return of my job in a couple weeks, since the school year is about to start up, so I'm not sure how crazy the beginning of the year will have me. All of this is why I'll be taking a brief break, so that I can get things smoothed out and ready for the epic return.

For now, I wouldn't expect an episode until at least late August or early September at the earliest. So until then, please keep reading and commenting on my posts, as well as viewing (and commenting) on The Vlog--which shall be wrapping up in roughly a month itself. Also, keep an eye out for an announcement on 60/60 Part 2 (next year's edition... yes, I'll be doing it again). That announcement should be coming in the very near future, as well.

Thanks!

8.05.2011

COWBOYS & ALIENS.

Warning: This review has major spoilers. I try not to do that, but I couldn't help it for this one.

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Yes, there are cowboys. Yes, there are aliens. But how well do they play together? We're introduced to Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig), a former outlaw who can't remember anything--including his name. And he has a strange metal device attached to his wrist. He soon stumbles into a nearby town that's run with an iron fist by Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) and his good-for-nothing son, Percy (Paul Dano). He meets some of the other inhabitants, including Doc (Sam Rockwell), Meacham (Clancy Brown), Sheriff Taggart (Keith Carradine), and the sheriff's son, Emmett (Noah Ringer). He also runs into a mysterious young woman named Ella (Olivia Wilde) who is very interested in Jake's past. But just when things are rough enough as it is, them darn aliens have to show up and make things even more complicated by kidnapping half the town. Now those left are forced to team up and find the alien base so they can rescue their loved ones. But this is still the old west, so they also have outlaws and Indians to deal with, too.

When I first saw the trailer, I was surprised at how serious the movie seemed to be taking itself. You'd think a movie with such a title would appear to be a lot campier. But I (and others) held hope that maybe the trailer was a bit off and figured it would still be campier in the film. However, while there are a few goofy moments... the movie plays pretty straight faced. And maybe to its detriment, that makes it come off like two different movies shoved together.

On the one hand we have a pretty solid western. An outlaw with amnesia wakes up in the desert, strolls into town, and takes care of a thing or two before getting shown for who he is. They have to deal with the tyrannical ruling of the man who keeps the town alive and, thus, must put up with his son. Eventually it becomes an adventure film and they must face other outlaws and angry Indians along the way. I'm not a huge fan of the genre, but I did like the normal aspect of this film quite a bit.

On the other hand, you have War of the Worlds mixed with Battlefield Earth. Aliens invade, take people prisoner to study them, and their reason for being here in the first place... is that they want gold. Yes, that's right. Gold. But you also have a decent alien abduction story with a man who was taken along with his lover, accidentally gets a super-weapon attached to his arm, escapes, and helps fight back and destroy the invaders. It's actually not quite as strong as the western element, and there are parts of it that don't feel like they meld well.

Fortunately, everybody seems to be having a good time in the film. Well, Daniel Craig is relatively stoic as always, but everybody else seems to be having a good time. Harrison Ford is really good as the gruff tyrant-esque businessman/cowboy. My only real complaint about him is that his character arc has a notch missing somewhere in the middle. He starts as... not a good person. By the end, he's good. But there's somewhere in the middle when this transition starts that feels as if it missed a beat, some drastic moment that begins his change (besides his son being taken). And speaking of Paul Dano, he was hilarious in this movie. He was probably my favorite part, at least his interactions with Daniel Craig, and it's sad that he's not in it a whole lot. Though Sam Rockwell is pretty good, too. The one that kinda bugged me the most was Olivia Wilde. As soon as she was introduced, I felt she was out of place. And then I was like "she's an alien," because she--well--looked like one. Her head was bulbous in this movie. And what do you know...

I think the best thing I can say about this movie is that I don't feel like I wasted my time or money. I was entertained while watching it (though it is a tad bit too long). But as others have said, there's not a whole lot that's very memorable about it. I think that's in large part due to how serious it took itself. It didn't allow for camp or cheesy one-liners or epic dialogue. Had it loosened up a bit, I think it could have been a lot more than what we got. But still, it was entertaining enough.


Stop Saying OK! OK.

8.04.2011

60/60 Extra: The French Connection.

Man, this was a tough one. I'm gonna get Hell for this one... so let's just get this over with. The film follows two cops in the narcotics unit, the foul-mouthed 'Popeye' Doyle (Gene Hackman) and his partner, Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider). They start getting wind of a big drug deal about to go down, so they spend a couple months following its suspects and staking everything out before they make their move. But there's a French connection--a French man who has come to the States in order to make the deal.

This might sound confusing to those who read the Heat review, but my issues with this film are almost the exact opposite reasons of my issues with that film... but at the same time, almost the exact same reasons. Let me explain. As I mentioned, Heat had too many unnecessary subplots that tried to deepen the characters but ended up just staying at a shallow level and never amounted to much. Despite this, I could follow that film easily and always knew--and even, at times, cared--what was going on. This film had no subplots. It didn't try to make its characters very three-dimensional whatsoever, with the exception of the last minute of the film (which I'll get to later). And even watching with my fullest attention, I had a hard time following or caring much about anything.

First and foremost, I didn't give a damn about any of the characters. And it wasn't because I disagreed with their personalities or anything like that. They just felt so foreign (no pun intended). Almost nothing about their personal lives was explored. All we saw of them, for the most part, was them following people for the entire movie. I just... felt nothing for these characters. And if I can't get invested in the characters, then... you're gonna have a hard time grabbing me for the movie.

Of all the kinds of "cops" films out there, the narcotics/drugs ones always tend to be my least favorite (Training Day notwithstanding). They just don't really catch my interest. So, as with Training Day, they tend to need to catch me with great characters and some fine acting. They've already lost me on the characters. Can they at least make up for it in the acting?

Gene Hackman does the best with what he's given. And as he's the main character, I'm happy for that. He's at least interesting as the "bad cop," the one with the attitude. I suppose maybe because of the time the movie was made, but I would have liked to have seen more with the character. Besides that, he has a moment in the last minute of the film where you notice he's really lost it due to his obsession. And then you get the ending--which I think might have worked better had they stopped there and left it ambiguous. But whatever.

There are two scenes that I feel should be mentioned, both involving trains. First is my favorite scene in the film: Gene Hackman is following the French dude into a subway station, but the Frenchman knows he's being followed. So he keeps getting on and off the trains at that station to throw off Hackman, and Hackman keeps having to come up with excuses to follow him on and off the trains. It's almost a comedy routine, but I found it pretty clever. The other scene is the famous "still holds up today/most epic scene ever" car vs. train chase scene. Going in, I heard nothing but excellent things about this, and I was waiting just to see this bucket of awesomeness. And then it happened and... I was so sorely let down. Not only is about half the car part done in first person so you're rarely even seeing the car as it speeds on, but the car and train are almost never shown in the same shot. It gives a feeling that it's not really a race as much as two separate scenes juxtaposed against each other. And on top of that, almost literally the entire thing has Gene Hackman honking that damn horn, and it got really annoying pretty fast.

I'm just gonna end this review there. On the whole, I can say that director William Friedkin made a solid film. "WHAT?" you say, after I just finished ripping it apart. No, I think that on a technical level, this movie isn't bad. I mean, Hell, it won 5 Oscars, after all (nominated for 8). And you know the guy is a talented director. Right after making this, he went on to direct The Exorcist, nominated for 10 Oscars (winning 2). (Coincidentally, co-star Roy Scheider was only 4 years away from starring in a little known horror film of his own.) Anyway, all of my issues with this movie are--for the most part--purely personal. The story and the characters and the filmmaking, etc., weren't bad by any means. They just weren't what I want and like in a film. Hence, that's why I feel this was a tough one.


Stop Saying OK! OK.

8.03.2011

60/60 Review #39: Heat.

PLEASE WATCH BEFORE READING. THANK YOU.



So what a better way to start a month of heists, cops, and robbers than with Heat? It's more a movie of themes than one of structured story, so it's difficult to give a plot synopsis. The best I can give is that Neil McCauly (Robert De Niro) is a professional criminal who is continually pulling big heists. Lt. Hanna (Al Pacino) is the cop hot on his trail. And there are over a dozen other characters, almost all with their own subplot, it seems. I know that doesn't give the story justice, but it's the best I got.

First, we have to look at this cast list. Besides this being the first time De Niro and Pacino were on screen together, we have a cast that also includes the following: Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Ashley Judd, Ted Levine, Dennis Haysbert, William Fichtner, Natalie Portman, Tom Noonan, Hank Azaria, Danny Trejo, Henry Rollins, Mykelti Williamson, Tone Loc (seriously), Jeremy Piven, and Xander Berkeley. Now that's a freakin hardcore cast right there.

My biggest complaint on the movie is that it's way too damn long. It's just shy of 3 hours. This is mostly thanks to subplots that really didn't need to be there. Sure, you could argue that they add a more human element to the story and the characters. However, there are so many of them that all you get is surface level stuff and aren't left with enough time to truly explore the intimacies of each one. Natalie Portman has daddy issues--we get about 3 scenes letting us in on it before a climactic moment near the end, but we're never given anything beyond the point of him never being there for her. A lot of these guys have marital or relationship issues, but outside of some arguments in the home, it's never explored within the psyche of each character. It's left at the scene and just waits until they're together again before they argue some more. It's almost like it's there just for the sake of being there, not to affect the characters in any personal way (the closest it gets is at the end when De Niro has to make a choice, but that's about it). And there are so many other little subplots that do nothing but take up time and don't add much. Don't even get me started on Dennis Haysbert's character, who only seems to be there for thematic purposes.

I suppose in this sense, the film tries to be grander than the box it puts itself in. It wants to be a size 14 shoe in a size 10 box--it almost fits, but it needs to shrink a few inches in order to do it. And I'm not saying it should remove them completely... just choose more carefully and expand on what you have left. Really, I feel the film is easily an hour too long (at the least). It also says a lot that while there were times I was distracted on my laptop, I could look up at the scene and know exactly what was going on without even hearing dialogue. Most times I'll get lost and have to rewind or something to catch what I missed. But I was easily able to follow this film even while not paying close attention (don't worry, I only did that for no more than 20 minutes of the whole film, and sporadically). You can take that how you want--as a sign of good film-making or a sign of being clearly formulaic.

But I personally don't find that really to the detriment of the film. Besides some slow pacing here and there, there are some fantastic scenes in between. The shootouts and robberies are fun and loud and adrenaline-filled. But the best scene, hands down, was (obviously) the diner scene. Sure it might not have been as long as you wanted it to be, but it portrayed some of the finest acting between De Niro and Pacino inside or outside of this film (definitely Pacino's best moment in this film, as I was otherwise trying not to laugh at his over-the-topness throughout the rest, particularly the first half of the film. But that's just Pacino).

The last thing I want to mention is the soundtrack. It was strangely quiet through the majority of the film. I noticed while watching how low the music was, even during an action scene where it was heavier music that would normally be cranked up to increase your adrenaline and get you going. To me, it was almost non-existent. That being said, it only increased my reaction to the music of the final scene of the film. Not to spoil anything, but as we're given our final shot, we hear this haunting music playing at an actual normal level, which leads us into the ending credits. It's a fantastic number, and it really elevates the mood of the closing.

So I'm glad I've finally seen Heat, and if you wanna talk about it (I'm not a loser!) and/or argue why I'm wrong about everything, feel free to comment below. It's a fine crime film with an outstanding cast. It just could have used some trimming. I'll probably revisit it someday, but probably not for a while. So until then, I'll just leave it by saying I enjoyed it.


A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. This rating is ironic considering Keanu was apparently originally up for Kilmer's role in the film, which I find really funny after-the-fact since I kept thinking early on how the role would have fit Keanu nicely.)

8.02.2011

Top 10 Favorite Luc Besson Productions.

I've always stated that Luc Besson is a favorite of mine. Either directing, writing, or producing, I always tend to enjoy (almost) whatever the man touches. Sure, a lot of it is mindless action, but some of it is much more than that. So today, inspired by Steve's review of The Fifth Element at Man, I Love Films, I'm going to share with you my Top 10 Favorite Luc Besson Productions--and I say productions because I'm including not only what he's directed, but things he's written or produced, as well. Here we go...

Note: I have yet to see The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, so I can't include that on this list.

Top 10 Favorite Luc Besson Productions

10) La Femme Nikita (1990)

Affiliation: Directed, Wrote, Co-Produced

About:
This was the film that somewhat started his popularity. It's about a female felon who is given the chance to become an assassin instead of going to jail. It received 2 spin-off TV shows (one in the 90s, and one very recently). And it was remade 3 years later as Point of No Return. Jean Reno's character in this was also the inspiration for another one of Besson's films...

Thoughts:
I'll be honest, I've only seen this once, and I wasn't all that enthralled with it. It's OK, and I respect it for what it is, but I honestly can't say I love it enough to put it past the number 10 spot on this list.


9) District B13 (2004)

Affiliation: Wrote, Produced

About:
Made in conjunction with parkour inventor David Belle (who also stars), this is a pure dystopian action film that really shines with its parkour style. It's a 'near future' film where the ghettos of Paris have been split up into districts, and a cop teams up with a criminal in order to infiltrate a gang and stop the detonation of a bomb. It recently received a sequel... but it's not that good.

Thoughts:
As I said, this is a fun action film thanks to its parkour stylings. If you don't know what parkour is, it's the urban ninja free-running stuff you see all over the place these days. This movie has a very minimal plot, and it's not deep whatsoever, but the only reason you'd want to see it is for the action anyway.


8) Wasabi (2001)

Affiliation: Wrote, Produced

About:
Teaming up yet again with Jean Reno, Luc Besson wrote this strange action/comedy. Reno plays a French cop who is forced to take some time off. He goes to Japan to settle some issues with his ex-girlfriend, only to discover he has a teenage daughter... and that he's also inherited a lot of other problems, including the reason why his girlfriend left him in the first place.

Thought:
It's a fun movie, but it's definitely not perfect. It's the strangest mix of French and Japanese cultures that I've ever seen in a film, though. If you like Besson's more recent productions of action/comedies, definitely check this one out. It's not fantastic, but it's worth your time if you're a fan.


7) The Transporter (2002)

Affiliation: Wrote, Produced

About:
Not necessarily the film that made Jason Statham famous (you can thank Guy Ritchie for discovering him), but definitely the film that brought him to popularity in the States. For those that don't already know, Statham plays a hired driver who will help get you out of sticky situations or deliver packages--all with no questions asked. But when he breaks his own rules and discovers his recent package is a young woman, things get complicated. The film has received 2 sequels, only one of which is actually worth watching.

Thoughts:
I love this movie. Statham is a badass, and there are a ton of amazing action sequences--the famous oil slick scene merely one of many. Sure, there's very little substance to the film, but this is a pure popcorn action flick.


6) From Paris With Love (2010)

Affiliation: Story, Produced

About: Like Wasabi, it's an action/comedy that mixes cultures--this time British, French, and American. Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays an assistant to the US Ambassador who is hired to drive around John Travolta, an American spy who is out to stop a terrorist attack... and a few other things along the way. Chaos ensues.

Thoughts:
The first 15 minutes of this film prior to Travolta's introduction is painfully dull. But Travolta is truly what saves this picture. He's hilarious and awesome in this movie. And while I didn't love it nearly as much the second time through, I was still thoroughly entertained on all fronts by this flick.


5) Taken (2008)

Affiliation: Wrote, Produced

About:
Everyone knows this movie by now. Liam Neeson once had a job where he had acquired many skills. But when his daughter is kidnapped and brought into a sex trafficking circuit, Neeson turns into a badass and goes out of his way to shoot first and ask questions later.

Thoughts:
Like The Transporter, the plot is just a vehicle to give us some great action. Sure, there's a bit more substance to the film than the former, but not much. Even so, Liam Neeson is freakin' awesome in the film, and you truly believe him and are scared of him when he threatens the men over the phone. Chilling stuff.


4) Angel-A (2005)

Affiliation: Directed, Wrote, Produced

About:
Here's one of his directorial efforts not too many people have seen. It's essentially a dirtier, more grown-up version of It's A Wonderful Life. A con man is in some serious trouble and owes a lot of money. When he tries to kill himself, a very tall woman jumps off the bridge first and he ends up saving her. Turns out she's an angel, and she helps him get his act together and get some money to straighten his life out. Unfortunately, love gets in the way.

Thoughts:
I own this movie, but I've only seen it once. I really need to watch it again, but I loved it when I saw it. The acting is great. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous (and the whole film is in black-and-white). Is it the most original film in the world? No. But it's still one I'd highly recommend.


3) Unleashed (2005)

Affiliation: Wrote, Produced

About:
Otherwise known as Danny the Dog, this is one of Besson's most underrated productions... and one of my favorite Jet Li films. Li is stolen as a child by Mario himself, Bob Hoskins, and is trained to be a dog and used as the man's personal attack force whenever his collar is taken off. But after an accident, Danny escapes and is taken in by a blind Morgan Freeman and his white (older-)teenage daughter. He's slowly shown the beauty of human life... but things go out of whack again when Bob Hoskins returns to the scene.

Thoughts:
Another film I love, love, love. If you haven't noticed, a lot of Besson's productions are low on substance and high on action. This is one of those exceptions. It has a great story, some good substance, and some amazing and brutal action. If you're a fan of Jet Li or action movies in general, and you'd like to see one with a lot of heart to it, I strongly recommend this one.


2) The Fifth Element (1997)

Affiliation: Directed, Wrote

About:
Strange that this is the one film on this list he didn't actually act as producer in any kind of capacity. Originally meant to be a trilogy of films, they couldn't get the budget to pull it off, so the three scripts were shoved into one and we're left with 3 very different acts to one very awesome Sci-Fi movie. Bruce Willis plays an ex-military cab driver in the future (where cars fly!) when a strange, young, half-naked Milla Jovovich almost literally lands in his lap. He discovers that she's the key to stopping the universe from ending, so he must go on a mission to find 4 stones that, when aligned with Milla's fifth element, will stop the big bad destruction blob thing from taking over. Unfortunately, Gary Oldman is after the stones, too.

Thoughts:
One of my favorite Sci-Fi films ever. I loved this movie when I was growing up (it came out when I was about 11, so I was basically the perfect age for it). Despite having been in other films prior to this, it popularized Milla Jovovich and kick-started her career. Yes, it has some really weird costumes (I still have no idea what that is on Gary Oldman's head). Yes, it has Chris Tucker being really, really hyper. But I find all of it vastly entertaining and I can't help but love this movie.


1) Leon, The Professional (1994)

Affiliation: Directed, Wrote, Produced

About:
Could there have been any other in this spot? Inspired by Jean Reno's character in La Femme Nikita, Leon is a professional assassin who lives right down the hall from a young Natalie Portman (in her debut role). Portman's father is a drug dealer that tries to steal from a crooked DEA agent played by Gary Oldman and ends up getting the whole family (sans Portman) killed. In order to not get killed herself, Portman ends up at Leon's door. He takes her in and, despite the mixed emotions at first, ends up caring for her and teaching her the ways of assassination. But things go downhill when Portman wants to get revenge on Gary Oldman--not for her parents' deaths, but for her little brother.

Thoughts:
I'll say this again: If you're going to see this movie (and you should), you NEED to see the director's cut entitled LEON, not the American release entitled solely THE PROFESSIONAL. The latter is an abomination to this film, cutting out over 30 minutes of footage, removing the heart and soul of the film. Leon gives us every taboo moment, from them going around with Leon teaching her how to kill people... to her getting drunk... to her admitting her love for him and wanting to sleep with him. The American version makes it a senseless, shallow action film, while the original/director's cut gives it the depth and heart that Besson originally intended. This used to be my favorite film prior to Shaun of the Dead (remember, I never include Little Shop of Horrors, as that's an automatic Top Spot), when it changed. It's a fantastic film, and Luc Besson has unfortunately never been able to top it since.


So what are your favorite Luc Besson productions?

8.01.2011

Musical Monday: Aladdin - One Jump Ahead (#22).

[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.]

And now for something much more fun than last week's! It's no secret that this is one of my favorite animated Disney films (and I've already had one song from it on this list). And, strangely, not only did I just talk about this movie with friends last night, but we quoted this very song (without me realizing it was today's song). Anywho, I love all the songs in this film, but I really like this one as it's the first big number of the movie... and it sets up your main character nicely. Not to mention it has some puns and very clever wording. And it's catchy, to boot.