Friday, 30 March 2012

Gladiator (2000) - ★★★★½

Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: David Franzoni
Stars: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Richard Harris, Djimon Hounsou

Winner of five Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor Russell Crowe, Gladiator is a movie that was and always will be a beautiful film. It is the story of Maximus, the general who became a slave and a gladiator that defied the empire ruled under Emperor Commodus, a sociopath that ordered his wife and child killed.

Ridley Scott masterfully directed the movie by drawing a fine line between making the fictional story mesh well with historical accuracy. There were many historical personalities incorporated into this story such as the Brothers Gracchi and Marcus Aurelius that were a delight to see enacted. Joaquin Phoenix was nothing short of brilliant as Emperor Commodus. The pained expression he expressed whenever he spoke of his father showed just what kind of loveless childhood he grew up in. Somehow, as evil as he was, I couldn’t help but pity the man for Maximus always overshadowed him. Phoenix brought depth to the character and the emotions he showed felt so real.

The battle scenes in the Colosseum were reminiscent of Ben-Hur, Best Picture 1959. Incorporating chariots, tigers and a beautiful backdrop of the crowd of 50,000 plus Roman citizens, the tension and authenticity of the fights set this film apart from most. Perhaps my favorite scene of the movie would have to be when Maximus reunites with his wife and child in the end with incredibly beautiful music signifying that he’s home. The computer animated Rome and cinematography of the many locations the Roman Empire conquered was outstanding, much like Lawrence of Arabia but toned down.

Gladiator will endure through the ages as one of the best movies of all time for many valid reasons. This movie connected with me, however it did not have the same emotional impact as Braveheart, its closest contender. Maximus is a larger than life hero that Crowe played beautifully. I finished the movie feeling happy – happy because I had just seen one of the finest movies that have come from the 21st century. This film rightfully deserved to be the first movie to win Best Picture in the new Millennium. 

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Lost In Translation (2003) - ★★★★★

Director: Sofia Coppola
Writer: Sofia Coppola
Stars: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johannson, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris

Lost In Translation, is a film centered around a middle aged man that has a sense of emptiness on the inside and a newlywed that is growing apart from her husband as a result of neglect. This is a great film because of the way it presents the characters as just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl. When they discover each other in Japan and start hanging out, they bring purpose to each others lives and make life seem not so bad. It's one of the most heart-warming, hilarious and realistic comedies I've ever seen.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Master and Commander: Far Side of the World (2003) - ★★★★★

Director: Peter Weir
Writers: Peter Weir (screenplay), Patrick O'Brian (novels)
Stars: Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany,  James D'Arcy

Beautiful music, remarkable scenery, masterful fighting and incredible ships are among the many splendid things Peter Weir's Master and Commander entails. Russell Crowe gives one of his most memorable performances as 'Lucky' Capt. Jack Aubrey, the master of the HMS Surprise. His best friend Dr. Steven Maturin, a naturalist and intelligent surgeon is played by Paul Bettany in his career defining role.

The movie begins when an enemy ship is spotted that is frequently referred to as 'The Ghost Ship' because of its speed, invincibility and tact in appearing out of nowhere in great speed. After a remarkably intense cannon battle, Aubrey manages to escape into the fog and avoid imminent disaster for a short while. The crew members are shown as rough, uneducated and superstitious in a raw and truthful way. When weather took a turn for the worse, they blamed an officer for being cursed, labeling him as the Jonah. After enduring constant intimidation and cruelty the Jonah committed suicide by holding on to a cannon ball and jumping into the sea; sinking to his death. This was an effective way of showing that it is human nature to find a common enemy with a majority.

The Cello and Violin are played to accompany the outstanding cinematography of the ocean and the Galapagos Islands. It made the film a delight to not only watch, but listen to. It truly is remarkable to have a film shot on the Galapagos Islands, yet this movie showed the world the beauty and uniqueness of the animals and scenery it bears. Russell Crow played a convincing strong and intelligent Captain that made the movie exciting to watch. The visual effects of the ship being hammered by a raging storm were remarkable and looked as real as if I were watching it happen in real life.

Master and Commander had an ending I won't soon forget. In a surprising yet entertaining twist, we find that after all the effort to take the Ghost Ship they must track it down and stop it again. I cannot stress enough how great this film is. It is definitely one of the best films of the 21st century. Although The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King is a visually stunning movie in its own right, Master and Commander: Far Side of the World was even more riveting (hard to believe I know). With a great story, great acting, great music and marvelous locations, this film deserved to win Best Picture in 2003.

On a side note: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring should have won Best Picture in 2001.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Little Miss Sunshine (2005) - ★★★★

Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Writers: Michael Arndt
Stars: Steve Carrell, Toni Collette, Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin, Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano

One of my personal favorite films of all time, Little Miss Sunshine is a beautiful and inspiring story of a quarreling family's journey to help their youngest member achieve her dream of winning the Little Miss Sunshine Pageant. With a flawless cast, brilliant dialogue, beautiful destinations and a great moral, it's hard not to fall in love with this film.

Toni Collette and Greg Kinnear are Richard and Sheryl Hoover, the parents of a dysfunctional family on the brink of falling apart due to financial difficulties and lack of things in common. Their son Dwayne, played by Paul Dano, has taken a vow of silence until he achieves his goal of becoming a fighter pilot and visibly hates his parents. Olive, their daughter played by the marvelous Abigail Breslin, is a cute little girl that is completely oblivious to the fights and troubles that is going on around her. The innocence of this little girl that doesn't sweat the small stuff and only focuses on the fun things in life shows that although she doesn't have the life experience or knowledge that the other adults do, she is more mature many aspects. Alan Arkin gives one of his greatest performances as the sex and drug addicted Grandpa of the family. He mentors Olive in her dance routines and constantly builds up her self esteem when her father knocks it down. In one of the most touching scenes I've seen in many years, Olive asks Grandpa if she is pretty. He tells her "I think you're the most beautiful girl in the world." Of course we cannot forget the knockout performance of Steve Carrell, playing a gay, intelligent and suicidal man that slowly gets his spirit to live back throughout the journey. All of these performances were just incredible and were the highlight of the movie.

There was much hilarity in this film as well as subtle jabs at the pageant industry for being too critical and judgmental of little girls who just want to feel pretty. I believe this is one of the best road-trip movies that has been made. It packs so much feeling and conflict between the family members that you don't know whether to feel sorry for them or to hate them. The ending brought them all together and made them see the bigger picture. That no matter how much we may hate our lives, at least we've got a family to fall back on and build us up again.

The Silent House (2010) - ★★

Director: Gustavo Hernandez
Writers: Oscar Estevez (screenplay)
Stars: Florencia Colucci

The Silent House delivers what it promises. That is a cheaply made horror movie with a few scares under its sleeve.

The plot is based on a true story that happened some time ago in a small village in Uruguay. The Silent House focuses on the last seventy eight minutes, second by second, when Laura intends to leave the house which hides an obscure secret and she hopes to leave unharmed. Laura ( Florencia Colucci) and her father settle down in a cottage which seems to be off the beaten track in order to update it since its owner will soon put the house on sale. They will spend the night there in order to start the repairs the following morning. Everything seems to go on smoothly until Laura hears a sound that comes from outside and gets louder and louder in the upper floor of the house. Wilson goes up to see what is going on while she remains downstairs on her own waiting for her father to come down. 

REAL FEAR IN REAL TIME, this is the most remarkable underlying feature of the film which will not go unnoticed by all those who may be willing to experience this different and disturbing film. I will admit that I was biting my nails in some scenes, however as I watched it a second time I felt ludicrous for being so scared as it all seemed so silly now that I knew what was ahead for Laura. With subtle hints of the twist at the end of the movie shown throughout the film, I put two and two together and the ending became obvious and clever. I recommend this to anyone who likes a cheap horror flick.

The Hunger Games (2012) - ★★★

Just a note; before I watched this movie I read the book myself and found it very entertaining. 

Director: Gary Ross
Writers: Gary Ross (screenplay), Suzanne Collins (novels)
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Donald Sutherland, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley

Considering all the 'Twilight-esque' fan hype that has been building over The Hunger Games, truth be told I wasn't expecting anything great. My expectations were exceeded, (not for the first time), because this film actually lived up to the quality of the book and followed the story almost perfectly.

Set in an unspecified future, the world we are told of is made up of twelve districts which are under the rule of the Capitol. In the past, an uprising against The Capitol took place in which The Capitol won. To remind civilians that they are powerless against what can be seen as a dictatorship by President Snow, an annual Hunger Games is held. One male and female adolescent are given from each district as tribute to fight to the death with each other where only one can survive.    

Katniss Everdeen is a plain-faced and strong character which makes her instantly likable as she is not one of those typical beautiful figures, yet has beauty in different aspects of her personality. She is the rock of her family, the provider after the death of her father. She has to take care of them in the impoverish District 12, a coal mining 3rd world society. When her little sister Primrose is announced as the next competitor in the Hunger Games, she volunteers as tribute in an emotion packed scene. The boy that also had to compete in the games is Peeta Mellark, an honest and kind-hearted person that has a history with KatnissThe story revolves around whether Peeta and Katniss can survive The Hunger Games and if they've truly developed feelings for each other. The most disappointing thing about this movie was the anti-climatic fighting between the tributes in the film whereas in the book it was thrilling. Josh Hutcherson looked and sounded the part of Peeta, yet he came across weaker than the character in the book which also took away from the film. Jennifer Lawrence portrayed Katniss perfectly. She captured the look, the personality and everything that she should of been which was a great touch.

Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz and Elizabeth Banks were brilliantly cast in this film as the mentors of the two through playing the characters the way they should be. There were gut-wrenching death scenes and nerve-wracking close calls throughout The Hunger Games, but I cannot call it an 'epic' due to the lack of brilliant fighting scenes that would have enhanced this film greatly. The Hunger Games is a remarkable film that I will not easily forget. Through following the events in the book perfectly and using brilliant actors, I was not disappointed but thrilled once I left the theatre. I highly recommend this film for anyone that loves a good sci-fi flick.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

The Thing (2011) - ★

Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Writers: Eric Heisserer
Stars: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Eric Christian Olsen

Bringing real horror back, the remake of John Carpenters masterpiece The Thing in 1984 was inevitably not going to be able to live up to the original yet included elements that reminded me of its predecessor. With the incorporation of many different events from the original movie and actually suspenseful horror scenes, the film did have me on the edge of my seat a couple of times.

The story is set in a Norwegian research site in Antarctica, where Kate Lloyd, (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), is a research scientist who aids Dr. Sander Halvorson after a discovery of a UFO was found deep in the ice for hundreds of thousands of years. The attempt to pass Winstead off as if she was a plausible scientist was a laugh, as well as the fact that they had to come up with some ridiculous reason as to why Dr. Halvorson needed an American to aid him rather than a fellow Norwegian. Things, (pun intended), go awry in the camp as they find an alien life form buried in the snow and bring it back to camp. We later found out that this 'Thing' replicates other life forms through almost devouring their DNA and making an identical copy in appearance. However, the person or animal they have replicated becomes one of those Things and starts replicating the crew one by one.  

There was one big problem I had with the movie ever since of the plan to make it. The fact that the monsters were made with CGI rather than hand crafted like the original only took away from the movie. Although the special effects weren't bad, it wasn't good enough as to make it seem like this could happen, thus losing its authenticity as a real horror and became more of a what if this was real? One thing I can say that I enjoyed though was the similar station setting in Antartica which reminded me of the original where they stumbled upon the very same Norwegian space station and found an alien life-form and spacecraft.

The best thing about this movie is that in incorporating old bits of information about the Norwegian research site from the original movie, it makes for a pretty good prequel. It answered many of the questions people may have after watching the first movie, such as, "Why are they shooting at the dog?" and explains how the site got to be destroyed. The ending of this movie was my favourite part because it reminded me so much of the original film, which of course earns it some brownie points. In saying that, there was some pretty average acting, not so good CGI and unconvincing lead characters in Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.'s The Thing' which makes this prequel unsatisfying. If you're a fan of the original, I highly suggest you don't watch this movie unless you want to poke fun at it.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

West Side Story (1961) - ★★★½

Director: Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise
Writers: Ernest Lehman (screenplay)
Stars: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris

West Side Story in many ways was a disappointment for me. After hearing many great things about the acting, the dancing, the set and the costumes I thought that this movie would appeal to me greatly. However, 15 minutes into the movie I realised that it was a Romeo and Juliet rip-off set in New York between two rival gangs, The Jets (Americans) and The Sharks (Puerto Ricans). Although the story left me wanting more, I highly enjoyed this film from an artistic point of view.

The story revolvs around Tony (Richard Beymer) and Maria's (Natalie Wood) forbidden love due to them belonging to opposite gangs. I couldn't relate to them as I would with most movie couples. They seemed cold toward each other, which brought the movie down for me. I found the beginning of the movie where the two gangs walk through the street clicking and stalking each other extremely entertaining and was the highlight of the movie for me, as well as the lovely music that accompanied it.

This movie has masterful interpretive dancing and incredible music but it left me yawning and trying my best to pay attention to this movie. The story reminded me of a bad rendition of Romeo and Juliet that a child wrote. It just didn't catch me. If you enjoy good acting and original plots above all else, give this movie a pass. If you enjoy remarkable dancing and ageless music more than anything in a film, then this is the movie for you.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Grave of the Fireflies (1988) - ★★★★★

Director: Isao Takahata
Writers: Isao Takahata (screenplay), Akiyuki Nosaka (novel)

Grave of the Fireflies is to animated movies what Schindler's List is to live-action films. The best way to describe this movie is heart-wrenching. Made in 1988, Grave of the Fireflies is one of Studio Ghibli's earliest movies. This is arguably the greatest tear-jerker of all time. The anti-war argument speaks loud and clear through the telling of the lives of two innocent children. The first time I saw this movie, I cried for an hour. Every time I hear its score, I still cry.

Set in Japan during WWII, it is about the struggles and love of two siblings that were left homeless and parentless after the bombing of Tokyo. Seito, a teenage boy, and Setsuko, his toddler sister, display such a strong affection for each other that is rarely seen in most western animated movies. The film centers around their love for each other and the willingness they would go to-to help each other through adversity. All they have left in the world are each other, making this movie all the more gut-wrenching as you follow their story.

In the beginning, you see Seito dying in an underground station where people treat him like he's just another homeless person, which is understandable because at the time there were many fatalities from poverty. After he passes, one of the dead collectors throws his tin of fruit drops into a field, which causes a swarm of beautiful fireflies to awaken. Then we see his sister appear amongst them, waiting for Seito to come with her. This scene has the most haunting music, which clearly makes one assume that it's supposed to be sad, yet we shouldn't be sad at all, because they are happy to be reunited. It would have to be in the Top 10 greatest scenes in cinematic history. So symbolic, so poetic, and above all, so sad.

The emotion only became greater from there. It just got sadder and more unbearable to watch as it went on, which was the aim of the movie, to pull at one's heartstrings. I believe Isao Takahata is a genius. The love and friendship between the two really drove one to love the characters, while the moral of the story was wonderful. It taught me that sometimes in your darkest moments, turning to one of your loved ones will be the light that will help you through it. In my honest opinion, this is better than any of Hayao Miyazaki's works with Studio Ghibli.


Saturday, 10 March 2012

Urban Legend (1998) - ★★½

Director: Jamie Banks
Writer: Silvio Horta
Stars: Alicia Witt, Jared Leto, Rebecca Gayheart, Loretta Devine, Tara Reid

Urban Legend is in many aspects just another 90's horror movie where teens are killed one by one by a surprising killer. What sets this movie apart from others though is the unbelievable yet entertaining plot of a serial killer that murders students at Templeton College using Urban Legends as their method. This movie is thrilling and entertaining but unfortunately the combination of bad acting and terrible dialogue make this movie just as ridiculous as it is scary.

In a memorable scene at the beginning of the movie, we see a young woman driving in the rain singing (badly) to 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' by Bonnie Tyler. She notices that her gas tank is empty, so she pulls over to an eerie gas station and meets a deformed and suspicious gas station attendant that tells her that her card has been declined. Little did she know, he got her out of the car because he saw someone in the back of her car. She thought he was trying to kidnap her so she got back into her car and drove away with the axe wielding murderer, which ended in a suspenseful and brilliant start to the movie.

Other highlights to the movie was the cop that tries her best to be like Foxy Brown, played by Loretta Devine, and Rebecca Gayheart's brilliant performance as Brenda. Jared Leto and Tara Reid also star in this movie and surprisingly Tara does a great job at being a semi-intelligent outspoken coed. What took away from this movie most was whenever the main character Natalie tried to emote how scared or upset she was, she just came across as an actor trying to act. The good thing about this movie is that most scary scenes were executed well however it just wasn't enough to save it from everything else.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Clash of the Titans (2010) - ★★★

Director: Louis Leterrier
Writers: Travis Beacham (screenplay) Phil Hay (screenplay)
Stars: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Mads Mikkelsen

Clash of the Titans is a story about the mortal son of the god Zeus (Liam Neeson), Perseus (Sam Worthington), who embarks on a perilous journey to stop the underworld and its minions from spreading their evil to Earth as well as the heavens. Zeus' brother, Hades (Ralph Fiennes), has hatched a scheme to usurp the throne from Zeus because of a feud they had extremely long ago when he was tricked and then condemned to be the God of the Underworld. Sounds like a pretty interesting storyline right? 

I think the greatest thing about this movie are the monsters that were involved, such as The Kraken, Medusa, Giant Scorpions, Djinn (magic creatures of the desert), and the Sisters of Fate. I thought all of these creatures were created beautifully and really were the highlight of the film. Particularly the CGI on the Kraken, it was just remarkable. 

Sam Worthington is one of those actors that can't carry make me feel any emotion. Even in Avatar, he just seemed to be a blank canvas. As Perseus, his distinct Australian accent and so-so acting were perhaps one of the lowest points of the movie. The thing that held this movie back was the way it was adapted to appeal to the younger audience. I hated how there were silly jokes and a love story I just couldn't connect to, and I'm usually a sucker for a good romance. I also have to mention the fact that it is hardly historically accurate too. Liam Neeson didn't play a very convincing Zeus. He just didn't exude power or wisdome, whereas Ralph Fiennes was flawless once again as Hades. Fiennes is just one of those actors that can make a crappy movie look good. As a whole I found Clash of the Titans entertaining, but also disappointing. It sets you up to think there will be brilliant battles and non-stop action. Unfortunately we got some of that and a lot of love story. 

Monday, 5 March 2012

The Thing (1982) - ★★★★★

Director: John Carpenter
Writers: Bill Lancaster (screenplay), John W. Campbell Jr. (story)
Stars: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, David Clennon, Donald Moffat, Thomas G. Waites

From what I consider to be the master of horror, John Carpenter's 'The Thing'  is one of the best horror movies ever created. This is my personal favourite horror movie. Now I'm not a fan of gore but I can make an exception for this film because it has outstanding acting, the most horrifying extra-terrestrials I have seen and a brilliant plot.

Set in Antartica, we see in the opening scene Norwegians shooting at what appears to be a poor sled-dog. When they stumble upon an American scientific station, they attempt to shoot the dog in front of the Americans, and subsequently get shot because of a misunderstanding. What makes this such a great opening sequence is that it makes you ask questions straight away. R.J. Macready (Kurt Russell) is a strong, burly man. He and a team of scientists investigate the Norwegian's camp and find that everyone is either missing or dead. The strangest thing they find is a what appears to be two humans submerged into one body, which looks terrifying. Upon further investigation, they find a large spaceship buried deep within the ice which must have laid dormant there for at least 100,000 years.

This movie contains unforgettable scenes where humans transform into aliens. These hand crafted effects are masterful. They look so real, exactly what we'd imagine our worst nightmares to look like. The actors in this movie did a splendid job at reacting the way any person would at the sight of these monsters. The Thing has believable dialogue, an excellent cast and the best effects I've seen in a horror movie since An American Werewolf in London. Perhaps the most frightening thing about this movie is the fact that it all seems very plausible. Who knows, maybe there are things hiding in the depths of Antartica that just haven't thawed out yet...

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Moulin Rouge! (2001) - ★★★★

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Writers: Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearson
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, John Leguizamo, Jim Broadbent, Richard Roxburgh

What can I say about Moulin Rouge? The movie has beautiful music, outstanding costumes, amazing use of visual effects and pretty good acting. Somehow this movie managed to pull at my heart-strings, and that's why I love it.

The story of Moulin Rouge begins by spoiling the ending for you, which does nothing but leave a constant cloud of depression over the viewer's head, knowing that the love is doomed. It's like making a movie about Romeo and Juliet but telling us how it ends before it has even started. That was the one thing that annoyed me about this movie.

Now to the good parts. The beautiful Nicole Kidman is casted perfectly as 'The Sparkling Diamond', Satine; a courtisan of rich men. Ewan Mcgregor and his puppy dog eyes played Christian, a poor writer that falls in love with Satine through a big misunderstanding of identities; which leads Satine to fall for him after a beautiful rendition of Elton John's 'Your Song.' The best thing about these two is that they had great chemistry. They were funny and heart-shattering at the same time. Jim Broadbent was also spectacular as Harold Zidler, the owner of the Moulin Rouge. Personally, he was the highlight of the movie for me.

I cannot write a review about the Moulin Rouge without complimenting the brilliant costumes, the great song selections and remarkable hand built sets. This movie aimed to be seen as a classic among other musicals. While I do not agree that it is one of the greatest musicals of all time, I do agree that it is one of the best in the last 20 years. Moulin Rouge will be a delight for any fan of musicals, romance and drama.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

The Descendants (2011) - ★★★½

Director: Alexander Payne
Writer: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon (screenplay), Kaui Hart Hemmings (novel)
Stars: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Nick Krause, Matthew Lillard

Finally! George Clooney showing real emotion in a movie! The Descendants is a charming but sad film about a Dad struggling to fix his relationship with his daughters and deal with the news of his wife having an affair. On top of that, his wife is dying in hospital as a result of a boating accident. This doesn't sound like the kind of movie many people would enjoy right? Well wrong, because this movie somehow made me change my opinion on George Clooney's range of acting and it actually made me feel something for every character, whether it be pity, happiness or anger.

Filmed in Hawaii, there are some truly beautiful shots of the Island as he and his daughters relationships get stronger. There were many subtle issues addressed in this movie, such as the youngest daughter getting less fatherly attention because she is better behaved than the older one, the step-father who will always blame his step-son for his daughter being unhappy, the oldest daughters boyfriend who also has many issues of his own yet no one really cares about it and the issue of whether it is right to hate his wife for cheating while she is dying.

George Clooney really shines in this movie, as does Shailene Woodley. The anguish on their faces when they hear the bad news was natural and convincing, as was the scene when George found out about the affair. Overall this is a movie about a messed up family coming together through the death of their mother and actually growing stronger because of the ordeal. Very, very good.

30 Days Of Night (2007) - ★½

Director: David Slade
Writers: Steve Niles
Stars: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster.

Barrow, Alaska. It is a cold, harsh winter. The town experiences 30 days of constant darkness. Throw in some vampires, ridiculous dialogue and some bad acting, then you have yet another thoroughly average horror movie.

Josh Hartnett and Melissa George play Eben and Stella Oleson, two very attractive police officers that happen to be very handy with a weapon even though they look like they've never been in a fight. When strange things start occurring in the town like a pile of burnt phones and a bunch of mutilated sleigh dogs, Eben Oleson finds it very 'strange,' as he keeps saying throughout the movie. The story, other than the town being overrun by vampires, is that he and his ex-wife are learning to love each other again through fighting them off. How completely original right?

The only good thing I can say about this movie is that the monsters are actually slightly frightnening. They're different from the same old run of the mill beautiful vampires we see in other movies such as Interview With The Vampire and Dracula; they were unpredictable and I liked that. There are some scenes that made me jump, however this was not enough to keep me interested in seeing what happens because it was a boring, predictable and an unrefined movie. Why can't modern horror movies focus more on character development and less on cheap scares? Just some food for thought.

The Matrix (1999) - ★★★★

Directors: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Writers: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Ann Moss, Hugo Weaving, Gloria Foster

The Matrix is in many ways one of the most epic and original cinema creations of all time. It's revolutionary use of effects, almost incomprehensible yet totally astonishing storyline and great cast makes this movie one for the all time greats list.

Neo can be seen as the average hero just like in many movies. He's a normal man with a desk job, a suit and apartment. Only he really isn't. None of that is truly real. It is actually a computer generated simulation that machines use to make humans think they are living out their lives on planet earth, when really they're stuck in a tube that will eventually lead to their energy being harnessed by the race of machines. Quite a lot to rap your mind around huh? Now you can't tell me that doesn't make for an interesting story...

One would think from my description that it would be about a war against machines, (very similar to The Terminator no?). However this movie focus' on Neo's path of enlightenment through learning that he has been stuck in the Matrix for his whole life. It is a classic 'zero-to-hero' story where he starts of weak, confused and not as good as what others expected him to be, then ends up being even better than what should have been. The many incredible effects used in the film such as the Bullet-Time scene (in the photo above) separate this movie from all others. Overall this movie is a riveting watch and though it can be compared to others, it can never be seen as inferior.

Mommie Dearest (1981) - ★

Director: Frank Perry
Writers: Christina Crawford (Book), Robert Getchell
Stars: Faye Dunaway, Diana Scarwid, Steve Forrest, Howard Da Silva, Mara Hobel

Arguably one of the worst movies of all time, Mommie Dearest was as terrible as it was unconvincing. On one side, you've got Faye Dunaway playing Joan Crawford, the alleged abusive and neurotic monster of a woman, and then Diana Scarwid playing what I consider one of the most annoying screen roles in cinematic history, Christina Crawford. For the life of me I cannot figure out what was going through Faye Dunaway's head when she acted out some of the most ridiculously memorable scenes throughout the movie. I will grant her this, she does look similar to an older Joan Crawford and I thought she played Crawford great. The problem lied with the unintentional ridiculous dialogue and rotten directing. What can an actor do when all the elements are against them?

You may be thinking "surely Christina Crawford wasn't that bad of a character." Well here is why I couldn't stand her. Perhaps the number one reason is because she was constantly being portrayed as if she was a model daughter, someone any mother would've been happy to have. It seemed very much like a project by Christina to boost her ego. Another reason I hated this character, or dare I say person, is because the acting was so extraordinarily bad that I cringed at everything she said.

This movie took cheap punches at Joan Crawford with all the accusations of her sanity and whether she deserved to be called a legend. I call them cheap because she couldn't even defend herself because this piece of garbage was made after she died. The real Christina Crawford even admitted that some of the scenes in the movie were fabricated for the screen so that the movie would do well. One of them being the famous "NO WIRE HANGERS" scene.

If you see a copy of this movie anywhere, please destroy it. It is just a long pile of nonsensical hogwash. The one redeeming quality is Dunaway's good acting.

Watch the Wire Hanger's Scene here!

The Artist (2011) - ★★★★★

Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Writers: Michel Hazanavicius
Stars: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Missi Pyle

The Artist is a gift that I'm sure the whole world can appreciate, which is the gift of bringing silent films back into the public eye. It's quite a revolutionary film in the way that it did something that hasn't been done for a long, long time. It was nice to watch a new movie where people acted with their faces rather than using their voice to accentuate how they feel. As the great Gloria Swanson once said in her legendary role as Norma Desmond, "We had faces then." This movie shows that we have faces now, and may continue to have faces if the silent movie trend does indeed catch on. I very, very much hope that it does.

Dead Man Walking (1995) - ★★★½

Director: Tim Robbins
Writers: Helen Prejean, Tim Robbins
Stars: Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Margo Martindale

Tim Robbins' classic true story of a murderer on death row and a nun who wants to help him atone for his sin is one that is not biased on any side of the capital punishment debate, which makes for a very intriguing watch. 

Sean Penn plays Matthew Poncelett, a man sentenced to death for the brutal killings and rape of two innocent teenagers. A nun, played by Susan Sarandon, helps him try to atone for his sins and get the trial he was deprived of due to his poor background. She played the do gooding nun beautifully and was a delight to watch, while Sean Penn once again delivers what can be seen as a class performance. This role was one that made many see a bright future ahead of him, and they were right. The most noteworthy scene of the movie is when both are getting to know each other and you see Susan's face through the window, but Sean's reflection is also seen, so we can see both of their faces looking at each other at the same time. 

Dead Man Walking is a movie that I would recommend to those with an open mind on whether the death penalty is ethical or not. The way this movie displays both the murderers side of the story and the feelings of the parents obviously forces the viewer to pick a side. However, I did not pick a side, because I thought both sides had valid points, and both sides were very much in the wrong. This is why the movie is so great, because after you watch it, you're left to ponder where you stand on the issue after hearing both sides of the argument. 

Friday, 2 March 2012

Spirited Away (2001) - ★★★★★

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Writers: Hayao Miyazaki
Stars: Daveigh Chase, Suzanne Pleshette, Jason Marsden, Susan Egan, David Ogden Stiers

Arguably Studio Ghibli's greatest creation from the great mind of Hayao Miyazaki, there is only one word that can truly describe Spirited Away, magic. The movie entails a young girl named Chihiro, who is moving to a new town with her parents. Spirited Away is a film that is very to the point with no boring introductions or set-ups. We are sucked right into the story when the family takes a detour through what they think is an old abandoned amusement park. It is actually a sort of spa for the spirits, a place where spirits can bathe and be pampered.

Chihiro is employed to work for the owner of the spa, a witch named Ubaba, in return for not being turned into a pig like her parents. This brilliant movie focuses mainly on the magic of the characters through their differences being so unimaginably unique and strange. We the viewers cannot help but root for Chihiro to find her way back home with her parents, but at the same time we don't want her and Haku to have to leave each other.

Many amazingly visual and well thought-out events happen in this movie, but the ending is something to be admired. After a tear-jerking goodbye between Haku and Chihiro, she cannot turn around to take one last look at the world she's been a part of for what seems like months or else she won't be able to leave. This led me to question whether I wanted her to leave this beautiful world or whether I wanted her to return to the dull normal world.

Through the whole experience, Chihiro appears to have emerged a stronger, older and more intelligent girl than she was when she first started. Spirited Away is an inspiring movie from a creative genius that entails a remarkable story of adventure, love and strength in the face of adversity.

Titanic (1997) - ★★★★★

Director: James Cameron
Writer: James Cameron
Stars: Leonardo Dicaprio, Kate Winslet, Gloria Stuart, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher, Bill Paxton

Titanic is a movie that has been described by many people as an epic, heart-wrenching, beautiful masterpiece. I for one absolutely agree with them. This movie is one of the finest crafted cinematic experiences that has ever been created.

The film starts with a shot of the ocean swaying in the moonlight to the beautiful theme of the movie. We then see the real Titanic submerged underwater which is an experience worth the price of a movie ticket in itself. The eerie yet beautiful shots of the halls and bedrooms of the former passengers are a sight to behold.

Throughout the movie we follow a young woman named Rose and a young man named Jack. Rose looks like a refined woman yet she's not afraid to ask questions or get her hands dirty. She's engaged to Caledon Hockley, a chauvinistic, snobby heir to a steel fortune that at first seems to try to love Rose. Jack is a man that Rose describes as having "limited means." He travels with his friend Fabrizio from country to country, barely scraping by. He has an impeccable talent for drawing and an admirable outlook on life.

The story turns into a classic forbidden love triangle between Jack, Rose and Cal which while it may not be an original plot, it is acted with such purity and fluidity that it's as if we're sucked right into the situation with them. With incredible CGI affects of the ship and outstanding hand built replicates of parts of the ship, The Titanic is recreated breathtakingly. Iconic moments such as the 'flying' scene during a pink and orange sunset with Jack and Rose are upon the most recognizable scenes in movie history, and arguably the most beautiful.

When the ship hits the ice-berg and begins to sink, Cameron's true genius shines as the panic sets in among the passengers. The most incredible thing about the sinking scene is that they actually built half of the ship so it could be used for the part when the ships rises and falls. Seeing all of the passengers, some we've seen throughout the movie, run for their lives to the railings of the ship as it starts tilting truly make your heart race.

It is scenes like these that make this movie saw raw and powerful. There have been previous movies made about the Titanic, all legendary in their own right, but none of them displayed the panic of the sinking as honestly and brutally as James Cameron's version of events. Once the ship has been submerged and the screams of the those freezing have all but died, Jack and Rose's love affair is over, and we are all left gutted even though we knew that the story ends with tragedy.

However that is not how the story ends for Jack and Rose, for the true end to their story can only be described as one of the most divine movie endings I have ever seen. Truly, this movie had me fascinated from start to finish. With brilliant performances from Kate Winslet, Leonardo Dicaprio, Billy Zane and Gloria Stuart, Titanic is a movie for the ages and will forever be one of the all time greatest movies ever made. Let's face it, this movie is almost guaranteed to make anyone tear up.