Sunday, May 29, 2011

Battle: Los Angeles

Battle: Los Angeles (2011)

A Marine Staff Sergeant who has just had his retirement approved goes back into the line of duty in order to assist a 2nd Lieutenant and his platoon as they fight to reclaim the city of Los Angeles from alien invaders.

"Shit, I'd rather be in Afghanistan"

Aliens have invaded and it's up to a small group of Marines to hold ground in LA. They must rescue civilians and get the hell out of dodge before the city gets bombed.

Not a whole hell of a lot of plot in this one, but what else can you expect from an alien invasion movie. Battle: Los Angeles is a mix of Black Hawk Down and Independence Day, two films that are better than this one. You would think combining the two would lead to an sure fire winner. The film is loud and in your face, I mildly enjoyed it, but thought the overall experience was pretty lacking. 

The camera is more jolting here than in most hand-held camera movies like Cloverfield or Quarantine. I honestly thought the cameraman dropped the camera and picked it back up in one scene and they decided to keep it in to hide the fact that they didn't know what they were doing. I went into this film not expecting greatness, I simply wanted to be entertained. The film somewhat accomplishes this, for a few short moments, but near the end I found myself watching the same scenes play out over and over again. They get stuck in some location, have to shoot their way out, repeat. This is a very redundant film. 

I love some of the effects, the initial attack and carnage is great. The spaceships are mechanical so nothing too awe inspiring there. The aliens themselves are what really disappointed me. We never get a clear image of them and when we get something close enough, we see how uninspiring they are. The film is a war movie dressed up like a sci/fi, it should have been the other way around. It felt like an ad for the Marines.

The acting is as expected, nothing to talk about. People simply yell things at each other because they are in the heat of combat. Two civilians show up, Bridget Moynahan and Michael Peña, to make us feel like we are caught in the cross fire as well, since we are not marines wielding weapons. Speaking of the marines, I did not know who was who and I didn't give a damn. They all could have died and I probably wouldn't have noticed. 

Battle: Los Angeles biggest defeat is how generic and blah it turned out to be. There was no awe moment, which I was waiting for. No kick ass moment or even a scene that stood out above the rest. The whole movie went through the war movie clichés and didn't even seem to try to make a mark in the sci/fi genre. Will we be talking about this movie in the next few years? Nope, I doubt we will be talking about it in the next few months. That's the problem, it's a forgettable action, sci/fi flick.


Have you seen it? If so, what's your opinion?

Friday, May 27, 2011

True Grit

True Grit (2010)

A tough U.S. Marshal helps a stubborn young woman track down her father's murderer.

"I do not know this man. "

The Coen Brothers are great, making films that are dark and serious (e.g. Blood Simple, No Country for Old Men), comic (The Big Lebowski) and so that combine the two (Miller's Crossing and Fargo). Their remake of True Grit fits into the latter but their remake of The Ladykillers was reason to give some people concern. Luckily they know how to make a remake right this time.

Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is a 14-year-old girl whom father had been murdered by one of his hired hands, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). She plans to gain revenge and make sure that Chaney is tried and hung for his crime, so looks to hire a bounty hunter. She hires the most ruthless deputy Marshall she could find, Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), an elderly alcoholic. But a Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) also wants Chaney for a crime he committed in Texas, working both as an ally and a foe. They go into the Indian territories to find Chaney and avoid bandits in the area.

The Coen Brothers set out to make a more gritty, Earthy type of Western and this approach has been used in many recent Westerns, Unforgiven, The Proposition, Deadwood, 3:10 to Yuma and The Assassination of Jesse James. The Coen Brothers made the violence realistic but did not linger on it, getting shot was nasty but they did need buckets of blood to show it. The focus of the film was on the characters and the journey they had to go on. For a mainstream audience it works as a simple revenge story but it is the focus on the Mattie character that truly makes True Grit an interesting film. There action is not the main focus of the film: for the most part it was kept at a distance. The world The Coen's shows is bloody, dirty and hard, this is not a glamour version of the Wild West and more historical accurate. There is also plenty of dark imaginary, with the use of a wintry landscape, the dirt road town and the characters' clothes added with a soft, piano based score.

The acting is great in the film and Steinfeld is obvious talent for the future. Her performance had to hold the film because she was in nearly every scene. She should be nominated for Best Actress, not Supporting Actress. She made sure Mattie was a smart, quick witted character who was both funny and determined. She is a character who is still a young girl at the time. Bridges and Damon inject a lot of humour in the film and had excellent interplay with each other and with Steinfeld.

The best way to describe True Grit is that story and the imaginary is dark and serious, but the characters are make sure that the film is not a dower experience.


Have you seen it? If so, what's your opinion?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pineapple Express

Pineapple Express (2008)

A process server and his marijuana dealer wind up on the run from hitmen and a corrupt police officer after he witness his dealer's boss murder a competitor while trying to serve papers on him.

"It's almost a shame to smoke it. It's like killing a unicorn... with, like, a bomb."

Do we really need another stoner comedy? With Dude Where's My Car? Harold and Kumar's various adventures, not to mention the Cheech and Chong movies already out there, surely Pineapple Express is a bong movie too far? Well fear not because this latest vehicle for the ubiquitous Seth Rogen is a likable and funny addition to the stoner buddy comedy canon.

Seth plays Dale Denton, a process server with a penchant for pot, who witnesses a murder. Unfortunately for Dale, in his panic to flee the scene he discards a joint made from Pineaple Express, a drug so pure and exclusive, only one dealer possesses it, the bad guys are soon after him and said dealer (James Franco). Franco is great as Saul Silver, laid back and poetic purveyor of illegal substances, his character is a million miles from the stuffy, stiff and wooden Harry Osborn he plays in the Spiderman movies.

The chemistry between Rogen's antsy chatter and Franco's addled musings is pitched just right, in a tight Rogen Goldberg script (Superbad) that throws in some sparkling dialogue for our heroes. Indeed, the script only really falters with the weak subplot involving an Asian gang muscling in on gangster boss Ted Jones'(Gary Cole) drug empire.

There are some great supporting characters, Danny R McBride's haplessly indestructible Red is a scream and has the best line in the film, "You just got killed by a Daewoo Lanos, motherf****r!" The bickering hit men Budlofsky and Matheson, played by Kevin Corrigan and an hilariously childish and camp Craig Robinson respectively, nag their way through the movie like an old demented married couple.

Throw in a hilarious car chase, which wonderfully subverts the machismo of more serious action movies, shoot outs, explosions, fist fights and not forgetting the greatest pot ever devised, Pineapple Express, that according to Saul is so good "it's like God's vagina!" And what you have are the ingredients for the world's first and best violent stoner action comedy.


Have you seen it? If so, what's your opinion?

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects (1995)

A boat has been destroyed, criminals are dead, and the key to this mystery lies with the only survivor and his twisted, convoluted story beginning with five career crooks in a seemingly random police lineup.

"Who is Keyser Soze?"

"The Usual Suspects" starts out just like a crime film, but evolves into an almost classic mystery. It's the kind of film you need to watch twice in a relatively short period of time to truly understand the script's mastery. I've seen the film twice, but years apart, so my insight into the tremendous cinematic achievement of director Bryan Singer and writer Christopher McQuarrie is there but limited.

"Suspects" is derived from a concept of a line-up of hardened criminals who have been brought in not with any evidence, but just because they are "the usual suspects." Their union, however, soon finds them all on a job that ends up with a giant boat explosion and only two survivors, one of them being only one of the criminals, "Verbal" Kint (Spacey) a constantly rambling cripple who must explain the entire situation to the police. The story is told almost entirely from Kint's perspective, which already adds a shade of suspicion to the plot.

The film lines up in strong cast with Spacey including Gabriel Byrne, Stephen Baldwin, Benecio Del Toro and Chazz Palminteri. Their characters, especially the criminals, all add an interesting dynamic to the film, keeping all the scenes interesting when the greater mystery is really the film's greatest asset.

McQuarrie has lined the script full of gems so carefully that when he unloads one of the best twist endings in cinematic history, you are slapped across the face and filled with absolute glee. There's no other way to put it. Credit for this also should go to Singer and Spacey. There's no question that Singer's direction keeps up the intensity. It romanticizes the criminal lifestyle a bit, but it's necessary. Spacey's incredible portrayal of Kint, not only in his mannerisms but in his dramatic highs and lows keeps the storytelling engaging too.

You simply have to watch this film and then watch it again. Then you will unquestionably like it to some degree. If you need a heavy dose of action in all your crime films, that degree will be lesser. This movie does rely heavily on script and character to keep your attention. However, as far as pure mystery goes, you can't beat "The Usual Suspects."


Have you seen it? If so, what's your opinion?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Red Cliff I / II

Red Cliff I / II (2008)

A two-part story centered on a battle fought in China's Three Kingdoms period (220-280 A.D.).

"We must fight even if we cannot win."

As per any film directed by John Woo, you will be getting lots of action from the off, and despite this being set on old traditional epic battles, there is just a refinement to his old style. Big explosions, slow-motion detailed violence, and long drawn out fights are all bundled together as in many of his other movies. However, this film is more than that and is an intelligent look at the machinations of old field battles.

The premise of the movie is of an alliance of clan forces arming and battling against a belligerent megalomaniac who craves to take over the "Southlands" and the wife of one of his opponents. The whole film plays over the strategic plans and tactics each use over each other in graphic detail, be it a giant battlefield attack or navy manoeuvre. It's all a literary take on the art of war.

Some comic moments and characters release tensions at points, but the whole movie is a set of giant bonfires with the action ruthless in scale once it begins (as expected with John Woo).

Aside from the action, the scenery and direction is wonderful, and the acting very good from the multitude of characters (and there are many to get to grips with!). Add in some great set-pieces in the direction (the "tortoise" piece) and you don't get just some gung-ho blood fest as some battle movies have become.

Yet after all those positives, there's still something missing. There have been many great Chinese epics over the past ten years, and this is not amongst the lower rungs. However, it seems to have a gap in what it's trying to achieve. 

The story was good but at the end not gripping and the length of the film made it at times feel to drag on. Was the film meant to be maybe just an action movie? I doubt it, but with the way the story was going you just wanted the action to get going to get it over with at times. That is the disappointing point. It was aiming to be greater than sadly it finally was. Not by any means a bad film, but it has a likely lot to live up to with its budget, star names and director.


Have you seen it? If so, what's your opinion?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Road to Perdition

Road to Perdition (2002)

When his pregnant fiancee becomes the latest victim of a serial killer, a secret agent blurs the line between good and evil in his pursuit of revenge.

"May you get to Heaven an hour before the Devil knows you're dead" 

When you say gangster movie, you immediately think about movies like "The Godfather" and "Goodfellas". "Road to Perdition" is also a gangster movie but it's different. It's more stylish and focuses even more and goes deeper in on the characters.

Visually this movie is absolutely wonderful! The atmosphere is brilliant thanks to the likewise brilliant cinematography by Conrad L. Hall who won a well deserved Oscar for it. Unfortunately the brilliant Mr. Hall died 11 weeks before he could collect his second Oscar. "Road to Perdition" was a worthy last movie for him. Also the sets and costumes and last but not least the subtle and soft music by Thomas Newman all add further to the atmosphere.

Tom Hanks is absolutely wonderful in this film. At first he plays a strict father and tough gangsters but as the movie progresses his character becomes more and more loose and open. The way the father/son story is told is brilliant and almost touching. Not only the Sullivan/Sullivan Jr. story but also the Sullivan/Rooney father/son story. I can't say that I'm always happy the way Jude Law's character is used throughout the movie and about the character in general. Veteran Paul Newman of course is a wonderful addition to the solid cast.

The story is told in a wonderful way by director Sam Mendes with lot's of visual beauty. Result is a unique gangster film with some unforgettable scene's such as the rain shootout, which is absolutely a brilliant scene thanks to the cinematography, music and the sound or better said the lack of sound.

A wonderful character driven, crime drama.


Have you seen it? If so, what's your opinion?

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Descent

The Descent (2005)

A caving expedition goes horribly wrong, as the explorers become trapped and ultimately pursued by a strange breed of predators.

"Hey, there's something down here... "

"The Descent" is a movie I've been wanting to get my hands on for quite awhile now. It had received near-universal positive reviews over the past few years and I was curious to see if it would live up to the hype. The answer is YES, it does, and in spades. "The Descent" is one of the creepiest, darkest, nastiest little movies I've seen in quite some time.

The setup is pretty simple: a group of women who enjoy extreme sports/adventuring start out the movie on a white water rafting trip. On their way home from that trip, Sarah (our eventual heroine) loses her husband and young daughter in a head-on car crash. A year later, the still-grieving Sarah meets up with the group again for a new adventure, this time exploring a cave in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina.

The main strength of "The Descent" is how it builds slowly; in fact we don't even see the creatures (dubbed "crawlers," though I kept thinking of them as "C.H.U.D.'s") until the film is more than half over. The first hour is scary enough without them, as the girls squeeze through holes in the rock in near-total darkness, occasionally getting stuck, fighting amongst themselves as the stress of the situation begins to get to them.

"The Descent" is one of those movies that actually works better on a TV screen, as long as you're in a dark room; it heightens the film's claustrophobic vibe. Make sure you pick up the "uncut, unrated" DVD, which contains the original ending from the British release of the film, rather than the truncated/fake "happy" ending of the American version.

Monster movie fans can pick up "The Descent" with confidence. Those with claustrophobia or fear of the dark should probably pass on it.


Have you seen it? If so, what's your opinion?

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Poltergeist (1982)

A family's home is haunted by a host of ghosts.

"They're here."

It's not the scariest movie I have ever seen but it certainly is the most fun to watch.

Unlike many other horror movies this movie has very little gore but that doesn't mean it's not scary. It has lot's of sounds and visually scary moments. The tree and the clown scene are two of this very scary scene's!

Also unlike many other horror movies this movie is in a way fun to watch. The movie also have seem to be made with lot's of fun and there are some typical Spielberg comical moments and dialogue. Just one of the things that proof to me that Spielberg was more then just a producer/writer. Other things that proof this are the characters and the way some of the scene's are shot. Even the atmosphere is the same as in "E.T." that Spielberg made the same year. I don't know what Tobe Hooper did for this movie but it can't have been much.

The cast is excellent. Rarely have I ever seen such a great realistic and natural portrayal of a family. I especially like Craig T. Nelson as the father of the family. The characters that aren't part of the family are mostly extremely entertaining such as the neighbor Ben Tutthill or the pool workers who have to take at least one bite out of everything that's in the kitchen. But also of course Zelda Rubinstein as the extremely small but smart and wise Tangina Barrons.

Another wonderful thing about the movie is the cinematography, the editing but especially the music by Jerry Goldsmith. It's too bad he didn't won an Oscar for it but if you have to compete against John Williams score for "E.T." you just don't stand a chance and then it's no shame to lose.

The special effects are typical 80's like and can now days be described as with all respect; campy. They can be compared with the one's used in "Ghostbusters". But for some reason it adds to the charm of the movie and I extremely like it.

Wonderful movie with some scary moments that still is very fun to watch.


Have you seen it? If so, what's your opinion?

Friday, May 13, 2011


Watchmen (2009)

In an alternate 1985 where former superheroes exist, the murder of a colleague sends active vigilante Rorschach into his own sprawling investigation, uncovering something that could completely change the course of history as we know it.

"What, in life, does not deserve celebrating? "

Watchmen is based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The movie takes place in an alternate time-line. Set in 1985, and at the brink of nuclear war, Watchmen will either force you to be open-minded and accept this alternate reality, or reject the very idea of such an outlandish plot-line.

The characters are unique and very human. They make Wolverine (usually considered a brash and thuggish superhero,) look like Clark Kent. Our vigilante crew lacks superpowers , but they make up for it with attitude and maxi. Each member of the Watchmen are very different, so chances are you will end up loving at least one, and hating another.

The movie's opening credits are the real winner here. Set to Bob Dylan's ,The Times They Are A-Changin', you will be hooked from the first second. The colors, costumes, and "wax museum look-a-like still scenes" will mesmerize you. Don't Blink!!!

The movie is rated R and rightfully so. Parents should not let their kiddies partake in this orgy of blood, sex, nudity (both male and female,) and violence. This is no Fantastic Four!!! Watchmen is definitely more Scorsese than Superman!!! 

At just over 2 hours, the movie's plot and ending lose a little clarity due to the time restraints, but not much. If for nothing else but the colorful scenes and fantastic soundtrack, I would say give Watchmen a try. And if you actually like violence, sex, and superheroes, and haven't yet seen the movie- What the hell are you waiting for??? The movie's music and scenes will stick in your head for days, and you will want to watch it again and again. I already have!!!!!!!


Have you seen it? If so, what's your opinion?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


GoodFellas (1990)
Biography | Crime | Drama

Henry Hill and his friends work their way up through the mob hierarchy.

"As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. To me, being a gangster was better than being President of the United States."

Martin Scorsese is hailed by many as the greatest living American filmmaker, but with the passing of Swedish master auteur Ingmar Bergman in 2007, I would argue that Scorsese is the greatest living filmmaker in the world. "Goodfellas" is a perfect example of the brilliance of Scorsese, as he takes his audience inside a world that is often misunderstood by the general population.

The film feels unbelievably authentic, not just because it's based on actual events, but because Scorsese understands this world as well as any filmmaker ever could. Growing up on the streets of Manhattan's Lower East Side, Scorsese had plenty of exposure to the violent world of the "Mafia." Scorsese understands better than anyone the destructive nature of the "mafia" lifestyle, but he also understands how appealing it can be. That is what makes "Goodfellas" such an incredibly powerful film, the fact that the characters are not portrayed as one-dimensional villains, but are presented as ordinary men who have been seduced by the lifestyle from an early age.

Scorsese does a masterful job of creating a world where death seems like an inevitability. The famous "Funny Guy" scene is one of the most powerful scenes in movie history because it so effectively captures the volatility of the mafia lifestyle. The truth is, your best friend one day, can become your worst enemy the next. Nothing gets in the way of business, and as a result, friendships are of secondary importance. No filmmaker is better at probing the psyches of violent men than Scorsese. He burrows into the world of the mafia and doesn't attempt to sugarcoat it, which results in a film that is incredibly violent and profane, but never gratuitous.

"Goodfellas" is not only a masterpiece and one of the greatest films of the 1990s, but it is further proof that Martin Scorsese is a filmmaker of incomparable talent.


Have you seen it? If so, what's your opinion?