Month: May 2015

Face/Off – Review #16

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Oh, Nicholas Cage. Will we ever be able to take you seriously? I do not know.

Face OffFace/Off, directed by famed Hong Kong director John Woo, tells the story of Sean Archer, whose son was killed in an assassination attempt by Castor Troy. This drives his road of revenge as he actually does capture him, but he leaves a bomb that’ll destroy Los Angeles. With no other options left, Sean must replace his face with Castor’s and attempt to get the password to the bomb from Castor’s brother. This starts a chain of events that jeopardizes Sean’s family and his own life.

‘Extravagant’ is the word for this film. It is known in the movie world that John Woo doesn’t under-use explosions, and this film shows his love for ‘things-going-boom’ at maximum overdrive. Things burst out in flames at places they’re not supposed to, and the explosions themselves in an early scene looks more like a fireworks display than an actual explosion. Of course, with John Woo as the director and the two main characters being who they are, did you really not expect that?

Speaking of our two main characters, Nicolas Cage and John Travolta. One mention of their names on the internet and you’ll be replied with tons upon tons of memes. Well, mostly Cage ones. They are surprisingly good in this. They actually emote than just being 2-dimensional characters. John Travolta as the hard-ass cop is enjoyable to watch, and Nicolas Cage (pre-face swap) is just a hammy delight. I mean, the dude freaking head-bangs to The Messiah. The enjoyment doesn’t decrease after their face has been swapped. Just try to imagine ‘John Travolta, trying to Nicolas Cage, trying to be John Travolta’. Glorious, glorious ham and cheese.

The one confusing gripe I have with this movie is the characterization of Troy being Archer. We all know he’s the antagonist, but he treats Archer’s family better than Archer! He makes a candlelight dinner for his wife, treats is associates well, it really does make you confused.

All in all, Face/Off is everything you dream it would be if you thought of John Travolta and Nic Cage in a movie together, and the bonus of John Woo just ups the action and cheese to eleven. If you liked something like Commando or Con Air, you really should watch this movie. It’s worth it on religious head-banging alone.

Videodrome – Review #15

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David Cronenberg probably increases the sales of Panadol ten-fold from all the headaches his movies give to his audience.

videodromeVideodrome, directed by famed body horror director David Cronenberg, tells the story of Max Renn, the president of a small TV channel that specializes and I quote ‘from soft-core pornography to hard-core violence’. Displeased with the station’s current plethora of thrusting and murdering, he decides to look for something that’ll get him a new audience. This comes in the form of Videodrome, something that basically only sadists would get off to. As the story progresses, Videodrome slowly drives Max’s mind on a downward spiral of hallucinations, all the while even the story starts to go a little cuckoo.

Oh, how does one start to dissect Videodrome? Personally, I believe that the unknown viewer should know as little about this movie as possible. The plot should not be spoiled. The message should not be told. In doing so, this have severely limited my thoughts that can be written here. It’s worth it.

What I will say, is that expect this movie to be dark; expect this movie to be weird; expect this movie to gross you out, question yourself, be grossed out again, question yourself again, and then be paralyzed to the screen, and then the film ends. Expect all of that.

The music is just brilliance. Just plain, un-distorted brilliance. Howard Shore produces a theme that, with just a few simple instruments and notes, produced the most atmospheric score I’ve heard since the electric clangs of Alien.

All in all, watch this film. The movie did not get its cult status for nothing.

Nightcrawler – Review #14

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Louis Bloom, the most ‘love-to-hate’-able sociopath playing with murder I’ve seen since Alex Delarge.

nightcrawlerNightcrawler, written and directed by Dan Gilroy, tells the story of Louis Bloom, a petty thief who takes on the job of ‘nightcrawling’, getting as much footage of crime scenes as possible and selling it to TV stations. And thus starts hid journey of deceit, lies, and even murder, all the while having smiling faces and shaking hands.

Ok, about Jake Gyllenhaal. I have not watched any of his films. However, if what I’ve heard is true, then it seems that I’m missing out. His performance in this movie is nothing short of method acting. His character is one of complexity. He pretends to be your friend, all the while possibly stabbing you in the back, and Gyllenhaal’s acting conveys that with flying colours. You genuinely believe that he’s this sociopath that you should be hating but for some reason don’t. His dialogue, small gestures and even eye movement doesn’t show an actor playing a role; it shows an ex-thief playing with humans to get good money. And, of course, he didn’t get nominated for best lead actor in the Oscars. This is yet another ‘What. The. F**k, Oscar’ moment.

This film is beautifully shot, proving that Dan Gilroy can shoot both talking scenes and car action spectacularly. Special mention has to go to the screenplay. From what I’ve heard from Chris Stuckmann, a Youtube movie reviewer, the screenplay was in intricate detail. This is probably why the plot flows so good, with little to no scenes which slow down the movie in anyway.

All in all, this film is fun. That’s what it is, fun. The protagonist is somehow the antagonist at the same time, and it’s great. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a performance that I feel that even he himself should be proud of. An immediate recommendation.

I’ve never been to Los Angeles, nor live anywhere near it, but if it’s like what the movie shows, I might just go there and do some nightcrawling myself. (You know, minus the whole driving like Steve McQueen from Bullitt part.) It looks cool.

And with that I sign off. My name is William, an amateur film reviewer. That’s how it should be read and that’s how it should be said.

The Babadook – Review #13

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I had the pleasure of watching the first half of this film late at night with the lights off and the dis-pleasure of watching the other half on my way to school on the bus in broad daylight. I’ll say that the former setting is not really ‘preferred’, but is much more ‘adequate’

babadookThe Babadook, directed by newcomer Jennifer Kent, tells the story of Amelia, a mother whose husband died trying to take her to the hospital to give birth to their son. Speaking of their son, Samuel, he is a bit of a troublemaker. Well, if building homemade crossbows and pushing girls off tree-houses is ‘a bit’. One night, Samuel asked his mother to read him a story. She lets him choose and he takes what else but The Babadook. What follows is a brilliant descent into the psyche, the feeling of grief, and the problems of parenthood.

Essie Davis gives one of the best performances from a lead actress I have ever seen. Her was so realistic, so gripping, that not even mentioning it felt like a sin. Noah Wiseman too, playing the disturbed Samuel, deserved more starlight. Most kid actors his age range from either watchable to absolute crap, but Noah does the most eerie ‘normal-looking-creepy-kid’ I’ve seen since Danny from The Shining, the 1987 masterpiece of modern horror.

I might have said this before, but I am a strong believer of spoiler-free reviews unless stated so. So, I’ll just tell you which part scared me the most.: The return of the book. Oh yeah, I can see the people who watched the movie going: ‘Oh s**t, that f**king book. What even in the…’. To know more, well, you’ll need a few dollars for the Blu-ray for that. It’s worth it.

This is-and I’m being as truthfully as possible-The Shining for a new generation. It avoids using the current nauseating formula of screeching strings and jump scares, and revels in the creepy atmosphere, superb acting rarely seen in movies nowadays, and brilliant directing. It’s also like The Shining in that it was under-appreciated, in this case by the public than the critics. I mean, come on, it didn’t even air in any cinemas in my country, if my presumptions are correct. I sincerely wish that this movie will be talked about as one of the horror greats for the generations to come. And, to a Jennifer Kent, thank you for the most frightening experience I had in a movie. I shall be waiting for your next one.

Birdman – Review #12

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I’ve always wanted to be in the movies. Ever since seeing Robin Williams in Jumanji, I’ve wanted to dabble into that world. Now, in recent years, my interests have turned from acting. I realized that I didn’t have the ‘look’, and thus decided to change it to directing, although that initial spark has not left. Birdman, I shall say as loud as the word will allow, has left me astounded as both an actor and director in the heart.

birdmanBirdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, tells the story of Riggan Thomson, a washed up has been of an actor who was known for playing a superhero called Birdman, but now struggles to keep his Broadway play up. He’s constantly bothered by the voice of Birdman, and may or may not be able to do superhuman feats. The rest of the film focuses on him trying to make the play work, his problems with his daughter, played by Emma Stone, and his internal struggle between himself and the character Birdman.

This movie deals with a lot of issues, mainly the relationship between actor and character. Can the actor, after doing a BIG role, truly steer himself from the repetition of sequels and do something new? One would say of course. All they need to do is sign a contract and there you are. But, is he truly away for good? Even after retiring the character, knowing he ‘made’ you, can it really leave? It still happens today: Chris Evans, for example. Captain America made him into the celebrity he is today, but thus completely overshadowed some of his arguably better work, like Snowpiercer. Am I condemning career-making films? God no. It’s the movie that raises this question, and that was simply my opinion on it.

The performances are downright amazing. The side characters, with Edward Norton as the asshole theater guy; Zach Galifianakis portraying Thomson’s producer and best friend; and even the citizens of New York, all do a great job. They have to step down though, for the unexpected brilliance of Michael Keaton. This may be completely false, but I think that this film was very personal to Keaton. Thomson is basically a exaggerated version of Keaton. Who knows? Maybe Alejandro wrote the part specifically for Keaton. The only person I can really see as Thomson besides Keaton is Christopher Reeve, but sadly he has gone to the big place above. Oh well.

On the directing side, the camerawork is exceptional. Making everything look like one shot is visually enthralling, albeit maybe a bit unnecessary. The music as well is somehow smooth and jumpy at the same time. The soundtrack is a must get for any fan of jazz, with the drum being the prominent instrument.

In conclusion, Birdman is an experience. It is, from a director’s point of view, ground-breaking and from an actor’s point of view, emotional and somewhat epiphanic, and I had the pleasure of feeling both sides.

Frank – Review #11

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Was the mask supposed to be terrifying?

frank-2014-film-poster-one-sheetFrank, directed by Lenny Abrahamson tells the story of a man named Jon. He’s an aspiring songwriter, and one night he had the chance to play for a band called the Soronprfbs. There he meets the band leader Frank, who always wear a papier-mâché mask. After playing, Frank invites Jon with them to record their album. What follows is a strange tale of mental illness and indie music.

I went into this movie with no idea what the plot would be, but I heard that it was very good, so I had relatively high expectations. After watching it though, I can’t say I really liked it. Maybe that’s only because I’m not a fan of indie music in general, or maybe everyone besides Frank was so unlikable in this movie.

Michael Fassbender as Frank was very good, I’ll admit, but I could easily see someone else in the role. He doesn’t make it his own, and maybe that was the point, but I didn’t saw the amazing performance I was hearing.

The rest of the cast was extremely unlikable. Again, maybe that was supposed to be, but making a cast unlikable to spread a message doesn’t make the cast un-unlikable. Domhnall Gleeson as this popularity-hungry keyboardist left a bad taste in my mouth. My dislike for him is more on the personal side, so I won’t delve deep into that. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character also left a very negative impression on me, what with him hating Jon for no reason what-so-ever. He was just doing what he thought was right.

One last thing to note: the representation of Twitter. Not the Twitter community itself, although that comes into play, but the act of tweeting. When Jon tweets something, it’s shown on the screen with Jon speaking the text. I appreciate the director trying to do something new, but the quite constant appearance of narrated tweets taking up the screen quickly grew tedious.

All in all, I can’t say I enjoyed Frank. Yes, Fassbender was very good, the end song wasn’t that bad, and the message is very good, but the unlikable characters mixed with the weird music that they make drag the film down. I definitely see the appeal, and to those who liked it, all the power to you, but to me, weird doesn’t exactly equal to good.

Gone Girl – Review #10

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F**king hell, David Fincher, what did you do to me?

MV5BMTk0MDQ3MzAzOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzU1NzE3MjE@._V1_SX640_SY720_Gone Girl, directed by David Fincher, director of Se7en, The Social Network, and that film we don’t talk about, is the adaptation of the book of the same name by Gillian Flynn. It tells the story of Nick and Amy, two people that were perfect for each other, but after Amy goes missing, it’s up to Nick to find what happened to her, and the events and twists that follow.

David Fincher is a film-maker that has somehow gone under my radar for a long time. I have not watched any of his other works, and that statement will probably be the death of me. So, after dismissing the long running time and praise I’ve heard of Fincher, I delved into this film with criticism hot on my mind and bias out of the window, and here’s how I came back.

You know that feeling when your jaw just drops and you’re too transfixed in the movie to even care about it? That’s what I felt in several portions of this movie. I had the GREAT pleasure of not being spoiled of the plot twists this movie goes through, and I’llNOT be the devil and spoil it here. Let me just say that the ‘jaw-dropping-until-you-can’t-feel-it’ moments are all due to exceptional storytelling and not from character stupidity.

Speaking of the characters, let’s talk about Ben Affleck as Nick and Rosamund Pike as Amy. Their relationship is…picture perfect. Affleck’s in his best acting role yet, and as for Pike, her performance is stunning, to say the least. Honestly, you guys have no idea how hard is it to talk about the characters without spoiling them. Even Tyler Perry, who somehow pulls off a dramatic role. Yes, Tyler ‘Madea’ Perry is good in a movie. I must cleanse my fingers after this.

I wish I can talk about the directing more, but as I’ve said, this is my first Fincher movie, so I can’t make comparisons. I must say though, his directing makes dialogue interesting. I have no idea how he did it, but for two and a half hours, I did not move my eyes from the screen at all. Not one part of the movie felt boring to me.

One thing that might set people off of this movie is the long running time. What the viewer most understand though, is that for mystery films, longer times are generally better. Yes, it might seem as though it drags and slows to a crawl, but that’s the point. You can’t just skip character building and actual intense moments for a shorter running time.

This film was so close too being a 5-star rating, but one thing just brought that down: the ending. No, the ending is not so bad that it feels as though the whole film was for naught. Heck, some people might argue that the ending was the BEST part of the film, but I did not like it. I’ll say this: if you’re a fan of karma, the ending might not tick with you the right way.

In conclusion, Gone Girl is a very good mystery suspense film. David Fincher has grabbed my attention, and seeing that I have that film we don’t talk about in my collection, I think I’m due in correcting an error in my radar.

One last thing to note: Just because I didn’t like the ending doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch it. It’s called an opinion, guys. And girls.