Month: August 2015

Straw Dogs (1971) – Review #40

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…Peckinpah…don’t you EVER, do that to me again without permission, you GENIUS! You…you MADMAN!

Straw DogsStraw Dogs, directed by Sam Peckinpah, takes place in the small town of Cornwall, England. In this countryside, David Sumner has come to live with his wife, Amy. However, some of the locals don’t like his presence in their village, and then things start to get riled up.

Sam Peckinpah knows how to take his time. This film is a slow burner- nothing much happens in the first 44 minutes. Looking back, I was filled with boredom and desperately wanted something to happen, all the while my score for the film was slowly declining. However, I now realized why he did it. It was to build suspense and dread. Not only that, when stuff finally goes down, it goes down hard, just constantly building and building until the finale where it just explodes with fear and shotgun shells. It takes you off guard, and so leaving a much bigger impact. And so did the score shoot up.

Dustin Hoffman is David Sumner, our protagonist for the film, and he brings a great performance. He is a logical and rational man, who tries to maintain peace, so much so that he almost kills himself and his wife. He is driven to desperation, and the transformation which is caused by it is slow, hair-tearing, and just the way Peckinpah intended.

Overall, Straw Dogs is a film that at first seems drawn out and tedious, but at somewhere around the 44 minute mark, will grab you by the balls with an iron grip, and just keeps squeezing it until the film finishes. Mark my words, when the end credits starts to show, you will have no idea how to respond. You will just sit (or lay) there, processing what you have just witnessed. You will need some time to recover.

Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs, the R-rated version of Home Alone.

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Noise – Review #39

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Very nice taste in music, Anthony. Very nice.

dmZzZgH1IDffJVOvF3YtIAanUzbNoise, directed by Anthony Le, is a short film that analyzes and shows the world of hip-hop and it’s artists, and why they do what they do.

Now, the world of hip-hop has been generally viewed like this:

‘Money! Hoes! Money! Hoes! Ni**a ni**a what?!’

Now, obviously this isn’t the case for all of hip-hop, and Noise sets itself to prove that. While songs similar to the above made up line do exist, and there are rappers that simply revolve around those principles, most of the beloved hip-hop alumni- Kendrick Lamar, Tupac, Childish Gambino, use hip-hop to express themselves and their history, and to send out messages to their fans. For example, this song. A personal favorite of mine.

The way that the short gives its message is through various sound-clips of rappers giving interviews while the words are displayed with different cuts and styles, with images connected to what is being said in the background. This combination of fast cuts and fluttering text gives the overall message and what is being said a much bigger impact, although caution is advised for people who are prone to epilepsies.

Overall, Noise is undoubtedly Anthony’s best work. While Routine was indeed very good, Noise just eclipses it with its much more engaging visuals. Another film well made, Anthony.

Routine – Review #38

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Man, you have a lot of pets, Anthony.

282598-routine-0-230-0-345-cropRoutine, directed by Letterboxd’s own Anthony Le, is a short film with no plot, or to be more specific, no three-act structure. It proposes the question of the clockwork of life, and why routines just seem to happen.

Shot with a budget of exactly $0, Routine is a minimalist short. The scale is limited to a house, and the various ways that Routineexpresses itself is through various assortments of domestic animals and household appliances. Using these examples are really clever, as there are few things as universal as household pets, and so allows the short to express itself in the broadest way possible. The use of black and white and time-lapses also helps in its presentation of giving this unbiased look of life.

So, yeah, Routine is a very well made short discussing the sequences that life goes through. There’s not much else to speak about it. I recommend it to anyone who wants to watch something avant-garde in a short time.

In Remembrance of Robin Williams, and Why Comedians Have Depression

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You know, it’s been a year since Robin William’s passing, and until just now, I didn’t realize how big of a loss it was.

He wasn’t that big of a childhood icon to me. Jumanji and Night at the Museum were the only things that I watched with him in it. But still, I loved the guy.

There’s a saying that almost all comedians have depression. And in retrospect, that’s probably true.

People with depression hate themselves. They think that they bring nothing but unhappiness to other people’s lives. They feel they don’t deserve to live, because who cares if they live?

And, to add more salt to the wound, there’s no cure. It isn’t a physical injury, and it’s not something that you can just turn off. Sticks and stones may break the bones, but at least they get better. With depression, you don’t get better. Oh, you might have some happy days, but most of the time, you feel like shit. No, you feel like you are shit, and that you deserve to be nothing more than shit.

With depression raining down blows upon blows of sadness and loneliness, how do you think people with it try to combat it? Why, with the exact opposite of it, humor. They try to cover it up with smiles and jokes, while in the inside they feel no joy. This probably sounds counter-intuitive. I mean, what’s the point of being funny if you don’t find yourself funny? Well, there’s this quote that I really like, which I think sums up most of why comedians with depression do what they do. It goes like this:

“If I can’t make myself happy, then I’m gonna try my damnedest to make everyone else happy. Better to spread laughter in the face of sadness than to not spread anything at all.”

I love this quote, and nothing anyone can say will change my opinion of it. To think, that people who cannot, mentally cannot be happy, put on a mask and entertain the masses, all the while with the very big possibility of them hating themselves more because of it, because they know it’s not them. It’s not who they are. But yet, they still do it, and you know why?

It’s because they don’t want anyone else to experience it. They know it’s a downward spiral, and they sacrifice silent anonymity to steer other people away from it. If that’s not one of the most noble causes a person can do, I don’t know what is.

And now, back to Robin Williams, the reason why I’m writing this in the first place. You see this man and his body of comedic work. Whether you like it or not, you have to admit, he had energy. He could fill the whole room with laughter louder and quicker than I argue anyone could. His role in the now classic Aladdin, Hook, Mrs. Doubtfire and much more caused him to be engraved in the children who watched them. And to the adults who already knew of his comedy, he proved that he had actual acting chops in movies like Good Will Hunting, The Fisher King and One Hour Photo. He had the comedic world in his fingertips, and last year, the fingers let go. It was that realization that even a man who was universally loved, a man who had everything, a candle with a light that brightened the world, could be dimmed so quickly, that pushed me to write this.

Depression isn’t a funny matter. Nor it is a invalid excuse to seek medical help. People who say that depression is just something that one can just ‘get over’ are people who never experienced depression for themselves. To the people who have despression: go see a therapist. You might feel that going to a therapist means accepting that you are sick, and while it’s true, accepting that you have a problem is the first step in fixing it. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation – Review #37

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Somewhere between A Few Good Men and Collateral Tom Cruise found the Fountain of Youth, I’m sure of it.

MV5BMTQ1NDI2MzU2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTExNTU5NDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, directed by Christopher McQuarrie, is the fifth film in the Mission Impossible franchise. It stars the always photogenic Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames and Rebecca Ferguson. Ethan Hunt is on the trail of finding The Syndicate, an international crime organization. However, he has been ambushed, and even worse, the organization he works for, the IMF, has been shut down. With the help of his closest colleagues and a mysterious woman named Ilsa, Hunt must find and stop the leader of The Syndicate, before they can cause even more destruction.

I went into Rogue Nation with relatively high expectations. Ghost Protocol had great action scenes and performances, and the buzz of Tom Cruise doing his own stunts, while nothing new, still increased my hype for this movie. Oh, and the trailer was pretty good to. And so, I am quite glad to say that Rogue Nation held up to my expectations, giving both intense action and bone-chilling suspense, while also providing a bit of humor.

Say what you want about Tom Cruise, you have to admit that he is a very good actor. His fifth portrayal of Ethan Hunt is one of magnificence. The rest of the IMF too gets their time to shine. Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames are great, serving as the movie’s comic reliefs, although they don’t do just that. Simon Pegg is funny as always, although that Halo 5 joke was a bit out of nowhere. Alec Baldwin is the director of the CIA, and he does well too. And then there’s Rebecca Ferguson. Oh boy, Rebecca Ferguson. With her and Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road, this has been a great year for female heroes, the likes of which I haven’t seen since Linda Hamilton in T2. And how long was that ago?

Rogue Nation takes place in various locations and set pieces, and the director, Christopher McQuarrie, makes great use of what he is given. Each set piece allows the action to give its own flair. One scene in particular is set at an opera house while Turandot is being performed. If Turandot sounds slightly familiar, it’s probably because of this song in particular. In fact, the song’s music sheet plays a vital part of the movie. The less you know about it though, the better.

However, because of it’s set piece to set piece flow, the film might feel a bit strangely paced. And besides that, I can’t really say the villain was a strong one. Sean Harris as the leader of the Syndicate gives a good performance, but his voice…it didn’t work for me. His Vito Corleone-esque raspy tone didn’t show this brilliant evil genius, it showed a man who had a sore throat. Luckily he doesn’t say much.

All in all, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is one part action extravaganza, one part spy thriller, one part Rebecca Ferguson’s Oscar nomination, and all parts a great movie. Watch it at the cinema while you still can.

Watchmen – Review #36

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Who watches the Watchmen?

I did. And it was f**king glorious.

Obvious joke is obvious.

0600005030QAr1.qxd:0600005030QAr1Watchmen, directed by Zack Snyder, is the movie adaption of the critically acclaimed comic book series of the same name by Alan Moore. It is set in an alternate universe 1985, where superheroes are real, but not in the traditional sense. None of them have actual superpowers, save for Dr. Manhattan, and the world has pretty much shunned them. Those ‘It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Nite Owl!’ times have long seen past, replaced with the ‘Down with the heroes!’. When one of the retired heroes, the Comedian, is murdered, another hero known as Rorschach, warns the other retirees that the murderer may be coming for them. That’s the general plot, but the actual complete storyline is much more complex and deep.

A word of advice to anyone who wants to show this movie to their kids: This ain’t your normal superhero movie. Everyone probably knows this by now, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. We don’t want our young-uns to see a man quite literally tear apart and then resurrecting with blue balls, plain for anyone to see, now do we? And that ain’t even the worst of it. Shiny blue dong is one thing, but the movie is rated R for a reason. Everything from attempted rape to cold-blooded murder is shown in grizzly but not over-reaching detail.

I could talk about each of the main characters in detail, but we would be here all day, so I’ll just give you a quick go-through of them. Patrick Wilson is Nite Owl II, the self-appointed leader of the group. He is the every-man hero, the hero with unmovable morals. Personally he is my least favorite of the bunch, as he is the one with the least personality, bringing little else to the overall film.

Malin Åkerman is Silk Spectre II, the accidental daughter of the original Silk Spectre. She gets into a relationship with Nite Owl II, and is the only female hero of the group. She also is one of the more lesser characters, almost acting as only a plot device to the other heroes. What saves her from becoming a bore is Åkerman’s acting and Spectre II’s relationship with her mother.

Billy Crudup is Dr. Manhattan, the accidental hero following a freak accident involving molecules. He has the ability to control atoms, and so can manipulate anything to his will. Because of said accident, he has become a self-omnipotent immortal being, having little to no emotion. Crudup’s acting is great in that department, giving him a subdued, calm voice, and yet be this imposing figure who can literally destroy worlds if he wanted to.

Matthew Goode is Ozymandias, the villain of the film. But can we call him the villain? From one standpoint, definitely. He has killed, committed a major felony, and so of course he must be punished. But on the other hand, he killed to save. Committed an act of destruction to ensure an act of recreation. Do the ends justify the means? Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few? This is the question that he proposes, and one that Watchmen asks the audience.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan is The Comedian, the eldest of the Watchmen. His character is one that I really like because of his viewpoints on humanity in general. He treats everything as a joke, because in his eyes, human nature is a joke. He knows that as much as he and the crew do to ensure peace, there will always be criminals. There will always be the bad guys, and as made himself into a caricature of it. He accepted the ugly truth, and made a joke about it, and that joke is The Comedian.

And finally, Jackie Earle Haley as The Rorschach, arguably the most popular hero from the comic books, and my absolute favorite of the heroes. To him, everything is black and white. Nothing should be shrouded and nothing will be shrouded. Gray areas are non-existent. This is a personal thing, but I love Rorschach because I agree with his philosophy entirely. I DO think that the black and white should be exposed for what it is. The ends may justify the means, but the means should be shown to the public to see. This is a completely personal opinion, and I understand if you don’t agree with me, but that’s the philosophy that I stand on.

Zack Snyder is known for his distinct style in art direction. His use of soft-shadowing and distinctive colors in his films give it a high quality graphic novel kind of feel, which would be most appropriate, as his filmography largely consists of adaptations of famous comic book and graphic novel stories. And just to get this out of the way, I don’t think Man of Steel is good or bad, because I haven’t seen it. I don’t care about it, and I certainly don’t have plans to watch it anytime soon. With no bias what-so-ever, I have to say that Zack Snyder’s directing in this movie is amazing. Some people have said that the constant use of slow-mo was distracting, but to me it allowed the viewer to soak in the plain gorgeous set pieces. He makes it look like a comic book that came to life with flying colors, only being bested by Robert Rodriguez and Sin City, and that’s only because of the one-two combo of Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke.

Another thing that’s magnificent about the movie is the soundtrack. Besides the wonderful score by Tyler Bates, with him giving the film a campy feel, the movie also contains various songs from the 1960’s, accompanying several key scenes in the film. They fit like bread and butter, providing the audio to the visuals perfectly. Special props go to the song ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and Snyder’s great use of slow-mo at the opening credits. I won’t spoil much about it here, but let’s just say that he was able to establish an entire world in just 5 minutes, a very challenging feat in terms of visual story-telling, but he pulled it off with master class and I love it.

Overall, Watchmen is without a doubt one of the best comic book to movie adaptations of recent years, as it not only brings the colorful and intriguing characters to life on the big screen, it also more importantly brings the themes and ideas of the movie, and thus raising it from just becoming a standard superhero action movie. A definite recommendation.