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The Crazies (2010)
Great Romero remake, recommended!
Just saw this at a matinée. Much better than I expected! Constant action with a great sense of pacing, tension-filled (the scene in the car wash is particularly terrifying). The acting is surprisingly strong for a Romero-related movie. Big budget too, which helps. The setting (Ogden Marsh, Iowa) is the perfect place for an outbreak-type movie- lots of great cinematography of vast, open fields and sky. While technically speaking, The Crazies is not exactly a zombie movie (the infected are still alive and somewhat intelligent), this is an interesting variation on the genre. Not as gory as the Dawn of the Dead remake, but still a lotta blood gets spilled. And the social commentary is still there, as well. Great remake and the best movie I've seen this year.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Great End-Of-Summer Movie (mild spoilers)
Had the fortune of seeing this the day after Labor day (furlough day) in an almost-empty theater. Loved the titles, the music, the storyline....Tarantino is already pretty well known for tense scenes but this movie is packed with them, and surprisingly less gore than expected, save for the last 10 minutes and the "scalping" scenes. One of the main action sequences the movie hinges on lasts only about 10 seconds of screen time, which gives the movie a great feeling of existing in real time, in the moment.
Great performances all around, especially Pitt (who seems to be playing a variation on his Thelma and Louise character) and Shoshona, the heroine and movie buff. By going against audience expectations (140 minutes of expletives and flying Nazi body parts), Tarantino creates one of his most fully imagined worlds yet. And I love the use of subtitles and the actors speaking primarily French or German (or bad Italian)- one of the characters even taunts the Americans for speaking only one language.
Entertaining completely. One of my favorite Tarantino movies, better than Jackie Brown, not quite as good as Pulp Fiction. A grower for sure.
Year One (2009)
Not nearly as bad as everyone seems to think
Saw this at a matinée yesterday, with very lowered expectations. Don't quite get all the hate on here for it. If you like Jack Black and Michael Cera, they perform as expected here, loudmouthed braggart and wimpy foil, respectively. Amazing cast...David Cross as Cain and Paul Rudd as Abel? Inspired. Oliver Platt as a hairy-chested high priest? The "McLovin" Kid? There's even a member of Upright Citizens Brigade who puts in a very brief cameo. The story is dumb, and there's a few jokes that fall flat...but the sets are impressive and everyone involved seems to be having fun. A good rental, at least. But you people that are rating it a 1? Save your venom for movies that deserve that, like "Meet The Spartans" (unwatchable) or the latest Michael Bay atrocity.
Full of interesting characters, too bad the music stinks
After renting this hyped Altman movie from my library, my conclusion is what promises to be an interesting character study was overlong and packed with lengthy, absolutely excruciating songs that have not aged well at all.For someone born after 1973, the hideous polyester leisure suits are freaking hilarious.There's plenty of nudity and sex and drugs going on, so it has that going for it as well. The scene where the faded country star suffering an on-stage breakdown is kind of eerily amusing(and more than a little reminiscent of a medicated Courtney Love), but overall, good performances from Ned Beatty and Lily Tomlin suffer from just too much crappy music to make this watchable more than once or twice. 6/10
A History of Violence (2005)
Crappy, over-hyped, lame (spoilers)
I can't believe the reviews this crap is getting. Three and a half stars in Rolling Stone? Save your money, here's what happens: Tom Stall (Viggo Mortenson) leads a bland mid-western existence, but is attacked by bank robbers which he kills when they try to rob his diner. He becomes a media hero, which attracts mobsters led by Ed Harris, who claim his real name is "Joey" and he is really a Mafia assassin. Tom/Joey kills the mobsters, then takes a road trip to kill his brother. He returns to a sullen family who grudgingly accept his return. Oh, and there's a dumb ass subplot about his kid being picked on by a jock lifted right out of The Brady Bunch, as well as an appallingly pretentious quasi-rape scene. We ultimately learn nothing about Tom except that he is really efficient at killing people in self defense. Who cares? Not me.
Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
(Contains Spoilers) Well, after waiting first till February, then March, and now mid-April to finally see how this revenge fantasy plays out, I finally saw it last night, and guess what? This blows away Vol 1. for me. The characters are more fleshed out, we finally understand the Bride (and Bill's) motives for revenge, and believe it or not, Tarantino ultimately delivers a love story (albeit a sick, twisted and massively dysfunctional one.) Michael Madsen was amazingly sympathetic as Budd, an "alkie loser" you feel sorry for because he realizes he deserves whatever he gets. I loved Daryl Hannah's evil Elle. I haven't liked her in a movie like this since, well, ever. The fight scenes are sparser than in Vol 1, but the Budd/Elle/Bride showdown is definitely worth the wait. (Don't open the suitcase!) Again, Tarantino pulls out his bag of cinema tricks- we get scenes with rear projection, shot in b/w, grainy color stock for the kung fu scenes, credit fonts from the thirties, etc. The final showdown is surprisingly brief, but still satisfying. Uma Thurman has never been lovelier, and the movie holds up well on its own as a separate piece from Vol. 1- amazing. This and the Dawn of the Dead remake are my favorites so far for 2004, but it's hard to see how anything could surpass this. 10/10.
The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
Great story, but Keanu still can't act
Well,the trilogy is finally over- and although some people have been griping about the somewhat vague ending, I can't think of any other way that would have brought a satisfying resolution to the story- which is left wide open for a sequel in the future (although they should really just stop here.)
What I liked: The Zion Attack scenes were amazing, there's no padding in the first half hour like in Reloaded,unexpected character deaths,
the final Agent Smith battle put the Burly Brawl to shame, and the whole train station scene was touching and well thought out.
What I didn't like: Keanu still can't act, Morpheus and Persephone had nothing to do, the confrontation scene with Bane was ridiculously stretched out.
This was far more satisfying than the last installment, although everyone should really watch all 3 movies in a row before they start griping about it. The philosophy elements were toned down as well, but still intriguing (The Merovingian's "cause and effect" view, versus Neo's "free will/choice" view.)
My Score: 8/10
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
Just O.K, not great.(Spoilers)
The original is still the all time classic, but this had its moments. R.Lee Ermey was brilliant casting as the sadistic cop. Jessica Biel's breasts were nice. Otherwise, this was a fairly rote exercise in gore with interesting stylistic experiments (like the inexplicable "Blair Witch" rip-off, with the quasi-documentary footage) that sometimes work ,sometimes not. Leatherface had a skin disease? What a dumb-ass idea. Do we really need to feel sympathy for him? I think it's scarier if the characters and the audience don't know the reasons why the killers act the way they do (a la "House of 1000 Corpses.) Anyway, effects were good, people screamed and jumped in the audience, what more do you want for a matinee? Although some dumb-ass frat boys and their dates decided to keep a running commentary going through the whole film behind me "Dude, don't go in there!"-you get the idea. Worth a rental when it comes out, but buy the original on DVD instead.
Run Ronnie Run (2002)
Fat Kid Kicks Ass!
O.K, true, this isn't quite up to the quality level of Mr. Show, but it is redeemed by several hilarious scenes: namely, the "Survivor" parody, the Jack Black musical number with an animated squirrel, and of course, the "Fat Kid Kicks Ass" sequence. Holy Shamoly, that has got to be the funniest fight scene in a movie ever.
Worth a rental, at the very least.
Cabin Fever (2002)
Gory and funny in equal measure
Some of the reviews I've read of this movie seem to be entirely missing the point. Sure, this movie is derivative (Evil Dead meets 28 Days Later meets Night of The Living Dead) and somewhat predictable (although anyone that says they were expecting the "Pancakes" scene is a damn liar), but so what? The whole horror genre is built on exploitation and homage. There are bad ways to do this (Darkness Falls) and interesting, creative ways to do this, like Cabin Fever. We have the requisite sex scene and shower scene, tons of gore,inbred locals and idiotic law enforcement- all you need for a horror movie! This movie revels in its indebtedness to other movies. It has a great sense of humor ("Don't sit next to Dennis", the hysterical "Pancakes" scene, the classic exchange of: "Why are you shooting squirrels?" "Because they're gay." and a bunch of other weird sight gags (like the Bunny) that show how much fun the filmmakers must have had making this. And that leg-shaving scene, OH MY GOD! Utterly classic. Plus, NOBODY WINS! That's right, they all die! How cool is that? More subtly, nobody actually dies from the so-called virus in this movie if you pay attention: all the deaths are attributable to the characters lack of moral fiber (the bum is set on fire, the first infected girl is dispatched with a shovel, etc. etc.) This movie is bound to be a cult classic and beats the pants off of the boring and predictable Freddy vs. Jason. See it!
Like being hit by a train
Holy crap, I just rented this movie and was completely blown away. The simple revenge plot and somewhat banal dialogue aside, this movie hurt me. The two central sequences, the murder by extinguisher in the gay club, and the horrible, prolonged rape scene, are some of the most gruesome images I've ever seen. I like horror/gore movies, but these are simply more disturbing because they look extremely real, and you feel kind of voyeuristic and sick that you're actually watching them. Perhaps this was intended by the director, I don't know. Frontloading the movie with the most horrific parts means the movie kind of dwindles down by the end/beginning, but after the wringer the audience has gone through, they are not doubt relieved. A must-see, but be prepared, because this movie is not afraid to alienate the audience. Not really a crowd pleaser, to put it mildly.
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
Who says this movie ain't deep? (Spoilers)
Very interesting sequel to the classic original. My friends and I were talking after the movie ended about the layers of philosophy at work here: if, as the Architect says to Neo, he has saved Zion 5 times before, and Neo was really never meant to save anyone, but instead was being used as another system for control ("religion" facilitating that control, then free will has been a joke in this world until that point. Consciously choosing a different path is the first real act of choice, and cannot be undone (as evidenced by the Architect saying "you won't see me again.") So, the revolutionary/messianic aspect of Neo was used by the system as a means of control. This is similar to Foucalt's contention that leftist groups consolidate the power of the state and lend it legitimacy. If the average person sees a leftist group or demonstration, they themselves are less likely to act, as they think that "Someone else will do that." Therefore, the state contains dissent by encouraging dissent: the trappings of revolution are used to ensure the continuation of the state. Wow. What other movie has references to Greek mythology, Shakespeare, and Foucalt? People who didn't like this movie should give it another chance- it really is as deep as the original, you just need to process it all. I agree, though, that the Zion scenes are talky and boring. The movie doesn't really get going until the enter the Matrix. Can't wait for part III!
A Mighty Wind (2003)
Don't miss out on seeing this movie
I can't remember the last time I've laughed so hard in the theatre I had tears running down my face, but that was the case last night when I saw this. The familiar (if you've seen Waiting For Guffman and Best in Show) cast are hilarious as always, especially Eugene Levy as Mickey, the confused half of a 60's "romantic" folk duet. I don't want to give away any lines, but the movie is loaded with hysterical ones. (Fred Willard, as usual, gets the best of them.) SEE THIS NOW, before the summer blockbusters push it out of the way. A classic for sure.
Trite and boring
My roommate rented this the other night and I decided to check it out. I should state at the outset I've never played any of the games, but he said it really didn't have anything to do with the games anyway. We were both so bored and appalled by the awfulness of this movie we shut it off with 30 minutes left. The animation was flawless, but a pretty look can't distract you from horrible acting, a ridiculous plot and the movie's complete lack of interesting characters. Most of the time, I couldn't figure out what was going on onscreen, and when I did, I didn't care. May I suggest Resident Evil for a more faithful video game adaptation than this self-indulgent swill? (Looks great though.)
I just saw this in the theatre last week, and was completely blown away. Just saying it's a good anime doesn't do it justice- face it, it's a great movie, period. Everything about this movie shines. The wonderful animation style and backgrounds, the bizarre but compelling plot, the sympathetic main character (although she is annoying at the beginning of the film, we grow to like her as her character grows in turn), the great musical score- I can't pinpoint one flaw here, although some scenes are a little intense for small children- I'd say Ages 8 and up for this one. It honestly felt like being transported to an insane but compelling dreamworld. And for those who complain about the story or lack of explanation behind some of the elements, who cares? Does a dream have to make literal sense to be enjoyable? Of course not.
Rent this movie now. If you have an open mind, you won't be disappointed.
House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
Brilliant genre exercise (with reservations)
Wow. House of 1000 Corpses does exactly what it promises on the box- it delivers an extremely bloody, brutal hour and a half of horror. When I recently saw it, about four people of an audience of fifteen walked out-strange, you would think that with a title like "House of 1000 corpses," some violence or blood might be involved. Perhaps their idea of a horror film is something like "Scream", in which case maybe it's good they left. This is horror in the '70's sense: no big name actors, no complex plot, and no "character development." In a sense I think it's superior that we don't know these maniacs and we don't know their motivation for acting the way they do- it adds to our sense of disorientation and lets us sympathize more with the victims.
My reservations about the movie are based on Zombie's desire to simply throw everything he possibly could at the screen to see what sticks. So in the last twenty minutes, a story about some redneck serial killers suddenly takes off into science fiction (with what sounds like the "Terminator" music playing, no less.) The sets are great, the music is very chilling and atmospheric (if a little anachronistic), and the effects top-notch. Still, this thing is all over the map- from "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" to "Rocky Horror" to "Natural Born Killers", Zombie is not afraid to let his influences show. Still, an enjoyable addition to the genre. If you're not put off by buckets of gore and sadistic violence, go see this before some angry parents group yank it out of the theatre. Out of 10: 8
Melvin Goes to Dinner (2003)
Amazingly good, but not Mr. Show
I just got back from SXSW in Austin and saw the premiere of this movie. It was a packed house, and Bob Oedenkirk, the writer, the guy who played Melvin, and Michael Penn (who did the score) were on hand to answer questions afterwards. The film was great. Basically it's the story of Melvin, a guy with a complicated and unsatisfying love life, who meets up with a friend of his and some strangers for a dinner, over which many embarrassing secrets are revealed. Originally a play called Phyro-Giants, the movie fleshes out the story with pieces at the begining and end that give us more understanding into Melvin's character. Great performances all around, from a relative cast of unknowns (although David Cross and Bob Oedenkirk both pop up, as well as Melora Walters as Melvin's demanding girlfriend and a certain unbilled member of Tenacious D as a mental patient.) The audience loved it. The dialogue was amazingly real (and overlapped in places, like a genuine conversation) and the characters fully realized. One of those movies that you don't want to end. If you're an Oedenkirk fan, please realize it's nothing like Mr. Show (no guys in funny wigs.) Right now it's without distribution, but since they won the Audience Prize I hope they get some- this could be a huge word of mouth film.
All or Nothing (2002)
Slow, but ultimately rewarding
I wasn't sure what to expect of this movie, but I had seen Secrets and Lies a while ago and really liked it. Suffice it to say this movie starts out excrutiatingly slow, but about halfway through character's motivations begin to reveal themselves, and things start to happen. Timothy Spall is great in the lead. He wanders around for most of the movie with a look on his face like his dog was hit by a car, but by the end you realize why. The last 20 minutes in particular are devastatingly emotional and provide the needed payoff for the slow beginning. A real movie about real people with real emotions-certainly needed in the current movie climate of idiotic chick flicks and "family friendly" entertainment. Go rent it, it's worth a look.
Darkness Falls (2003)
***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** Without a doubt, the dumbest movie I've seen in a long, long time. This movie was so bad, the entire audience was laughing hysterically by the end (which took forever to arrive.) The acting sucked, the plot made absolutely no sense and was filled with holes, and it had one of the most patently awful cop-out endings I've ever seen.
Things that made no sense:******SPOILERS******** If The tooth fairy was a ghost, why did she have a physical body that could attack people?
It's said in the movie that she would only attack people that saw her, but the main character's mom is killed in the beginning by her attacking from behind, as was the drunk guy at the bar. Huh?
What kind of hospital only has emergency power that lasts for two minutes?
Why does the kid at the beginning have scars on his face from the attack before the attack happens?
If she attacks people that lose teeth, why hasn't the entire population of the town been decimated by this point?
When they're being attacked in the car, why don't they just turn on the dome light instead of messing with the kerosene lamps?
Dumb, but not completely worthless (I got a few laughs out of it.)