Archive | May, 2013

Blade Trilogy – Review

31 May

When the the company Marvel comes to mind, the first characters that come to mind are Spider Man, Iron Man, X Men, and Captain America. Those are prime examples of the Marvel universe, but we shouldn’t forget about the more minor characters, like Blade. Blade is a vampire hunter, who himself is a hybrid, who made his first appearance in the tenth issue of The Tomb of Dracula in 1973. Now, he is better known for the movie trilogy with Wesley Snipes as the title character. These are, for the most part, exciting films and a smaller, but fun part, of the larger Marvel movie collection.

Let’s start our reviews with 1998 film Blade.

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Blade (Wesley Snipes) and his partner Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) have spent their lives hunting vampires, a secret race of genetic mutants that feed on human blood. Their vampirism is described as a plague that must be wiped from the face of the earth. On one night, Blade comes across Dr. Karen Jenson (N’Bushe Wright) as she is being attacked by the vampire Quinn (Donal Logue). He saves her and learns that Quinn’s leader of sorts, Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) has a plan to release an ancient vampire creature, La Magra, and use this entity to destroy the human race and create a society of vampires. This won’t be so easy with Blade, Whistler, and their reluctant new partner Karen hot on his tale and with plenty of motivation to stop him.

Blade is one of those movies where you have to know exactly what it is you’re going in to see. There isn’t much character development in this movie at all and the story could have been laid out a hell of  a lot smoother, but the movie really is a lot of fun. Part of this has to do with how much enjoyment the actors seem to be having. Snipes and Kristofferson both seem really into their roles and I immediately sided with them and their cause. The real scene stealer, however, is Stephen Dorff. He not only looks the part, but really dives into the whole persona of Frost and makes it his own. I feel like you can tell when actors really love their role, and this is one of those times.

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Blade also has great action, and a lot of it. When a vampire gets killed, it disintegrates into dust and bones, which looks really cool and remains that way for the entirety of the trilogy. There’s also gallons of blood to be seen in this movie, which is good because this is a movie about vampires. The narrative construction and character development may lack in a big way, but this film is a whole lot of bloody fun that makes me wonder what happened to cool vampires like the ones I’m seeing here. There’s no sparkling to be seen. Isn’t that incentive enough?

One of my favorite film makers, Guillermo Del Toro, would go on to make Blade II in 2002. This was a huge step forward for not only the series, but also for special effects and costume design.

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It seems like the last thing Blade would want to do ever is join forces with vampires. Well, unfortunately for him, that is exactly what he has to do. The vampire and human races are in danger when a new breed of vampire surfaces that feeds on both. These “reapers” pass on the virus to other vampires when they are fed on. Blade and Whistler, and their new partner Scud (Norman Reedus) are commissioned by the vampire overlord Eli Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschmann) to join a team of vampires called the Bloodpack to go out and hunt these reapers and take them all down, especially their leader and origin of the virus, Jared Nomak (Luke Goss). The Bloodpack was originally formed to hunt and kill Blade, so tensions are pushed which makes for a dangerous time for everyone involved, perhaps even more dangerous than the reapers.

I absolutely love everything about Blade II. This is one of the most fun action movies I have ever seen and it is shot so well. The story is an improvement from the first in terms of character development and complexity, but that’s only the beginning. The special effects and make up all look really fantastic. There are times when fights seamlessly become computer generated to show us angles and action that we otherwise would not have been able to see. The make up for the reapers also look outstanding, and appropriately fit in with any other monster in Del Toro’s films.

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Blade II continues the story and builds the universe of this trilogy very well and basically improves on the original in every way. Some of the make up seems to have inspired the creature design in the later Underworld films and the special effects add a new layer of awesomeness to the entire thing. The only thing that isn’t as good is the villain, but Dorff’s Deacon Frost is a tough act to follow. Blade II is a blast of a movie that shouldn’t be missed out on. It’s the most fun I’ve had with a movie in a long time.

Finally, the trilogy comes to a close with the 2004 film Blade: Trinity.

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A group of vampires led by Danica Talos (Parker Posley) finds a ziggurat tomb in the Syrian desert that is the resting place of Drake Dominic Purcell, better known as Dracula. Meanwhile, Blade is having a hard time with the FBI since they caught on to what he was doing, but believes he is a sociopath killing human beings. While dodging the FBI and other officers, Blade has to team up with vampire hunters Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds) and Whistler’s daughter Abigail (Jessica Biel) in order to take down Dracula, who might be his greatest adversary yet.

What can I say about Blade: Trinity? Simply stating that it’s the weakest entry in the series would be an understatement. Not only is it the weakest entry in the trilogy, it’s a pretty dumb movie all together. This is hardly even a Blade movie since the film makers seem to be interested in his co-starts than they are about Blade, himself. Jessica Biel doesn’t really do anything of interest in the movie except look nice and Ryan Reynolds… ugh Ryan Reynolds. I have nothing against the guy as an actor, but his performance in Blade: Trinity was almost too much to handle. David S. Goyer, who wrote all three Blade films and directed this one, obviously forgot what the concept of comic relief really meant. Every snarky line of dialogue that Reynolds says feels out of placed, forced, and not funny.

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The action sequences are also really unremarkable and edited in a way that makes them feel slow and repetitive. The other Blade movies had editing which really made the viewer feel like they were in the middle of a hectic situation, and the fights in Blade II were choreographed by Donnie Yen, which is a plus there. In this film, they’re sloppy and slow. I can hardly call this a Blade movie. Even Wesley Snipes had major problems with it and stayed away from Goyer for most of the shoot. Bottom line, it doesn’t bring anything new or exciting, nor does it uphold what made the other movies so good. It’s a huge disappointment and I would recommend you stay away from this.

This trilogy is pretty cool for the most part. The original Blade is a welcoming start to the trilogy with a villain that steals the show. Blade II is one of the better action movies I have ever seen and I’m very excited to watch it again. Blade: Trinity is a stupid mess of a movie that I could have gone my entire life without seeing and been a better person for it. Two out of three movies aren’t bad and the first two shouldn’t be missed. Even though Marvel only produced the last film, Blade is still a Marvel character, making these pretty interesting pieces to the Marvel universe. If you ever find yourself in need of a break from Tony Stark, check out the Blade Trilogy, well… at least the first two.

The Machine Girl – Review

24 May

I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that a guilty pleasure of mine lies in the realm of Japanese B-movies, more exclusively those that fall into the “splatter film” category. I’ve reviewed RoboGeishaTokyo Gore PoliceMeatball Machine, and Helldriver. Now, adding to this list is The Machine Girl, an over the top blood bath directed by Noboru Iguchi, and gore effects by the master of B-grade splatter movies, Yoshihiro Nishimura.

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Ami (Minase Yashiro) is an average school girl who is very protective of her little brother, Yu (Ryôsuke Kawamura), especially since their parents killed themselves over a criminal investigation involving a murder that they were framed for. One day, Yu and his friend are killed by Sho (Nobuhiro Nishihara), the son of a samurai/yakuza boss, Ryûji (Kentarô Shimazu). Ami vows to get revenge for her brother, but is caught by Ryûji and has her left arm cut off (in a shower of blood that made me chuckle). Ami teams up with the parents of Yu’s friend, Suguru (Yûya Ishikawa) and Miki (Asami). They construct for her a machine gun to attach to her arm, and after some training, wage a war on the yakuza boss and his son.

Just typing this summary out made me realize how absolutely goofy the whole premise of this is. It wasn’t very easy to get it all down and make it sound somewhat interesting at the same time. That’s because the appeal of The Machine Girl is the visual chaos that fills pretty much the entirety of the movie. If you see the trailer, the summary that I wrote down seems a bit more interesting because you have a sense of how silly it really is. Like I said before, this kind of movie is my guilty pleasure. I recognize the fact that they really aren’t good movies. But, and this is a big but, they make me laugh and there’s plenty of blood and gore that paints the screen red.

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So, for the sake of being a proper critic, let’s objectively look at the movie. First of all, it looks really cheap, but that’s because it is really cheap. The movie is shot in HD which is common for movies of this kind and is pretty appropriate for the silly nature of the movie. If it was shot with beautiful cinematography, it would look and feel weirder than it already is. The acting in it is sub par and over the top. I can promise you that there is lots of fist clenching, teeth gritting, and yelling as characters run into battle. Finally, the writing is completely ridiculous. Honestly though, there really isn’t anything special about the dialogue. You could take all of it out and still know exactly what is going on.

A major plus for this movie is the insane camera work that is used during the more violent scenes. When Ami fires her machine gun arm near the camera, it seems to jitter a little bit like it is affected by the power of the gun. Iguchi used the same technique in RoboGeisha, which has a lot of similarities in its style. The gore effects by Yoshihiro Nishimura are also really cool. There is some CGI used for the blood and the gore, but a good deal of it is done with more physical means. Lots of arterial spray and limbs that go flying. The make up used for a character who has nails rammed into his face looks both disturbing, but very funny in its own dark way.

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Above all, that is really my main reason for watching all of these. The blood, the gore, and the action are so silly and over the top that I can’t help but be intrigued. The writing and acting may be bad and the HD may look cheap, but I can’t say that this wasn’t a really fun movie to watch. There were times where I got a little bored or was ready for the movie to be over, but most of the time I was into what was happening and wondered just what could possibly happen next. A machine gun arm, a flying clamp that rips heads off, a drill bra, and more make this a one of a kind movie. Well, perhaps not. It has been compared to Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, which is without a doubt a much better film. Still, I can see how much joy the film makers had making this because the finished product is so kinetic and enjoyable. It’s hard to explain how a movie is when you can really tell the makers were trying to make a movie that they would love to see themselves. The Machine Girl is one of these movies.

So, yeah. This isn’t a good movie, but it is entertaining and silly as hell. I don’t always feel the need to put on some highly artistic movie that will make me reconsider everything I know about film making. Sometimes I just want to see some limbs fly and a girl with a machine gun arm kill some bad guys. This gave me exactly what I was expecting, and for that, I can’t fault the movie. This isn’t for everyone, and to the people who have seen it and hate it, I completely understand. The Machine Girl stupid fun, and I personally had a good time.

Star Trek Into Darkness – Review

18 May

The Star Trek universe has been given so many movies and series throughout the years. The original Star Trek and all of the movies that went with it, the Deep Space Nine series, the Next Generation series and movies, and most recently reboots directed by sci-fi prodigy J.J. Abrams. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek was impressive and very entertaining, so I had pretty high hopes for the sequel. This time, the movie has completely exceeded my expectations in a way that I may have never seen before. I’ve seen a lot of movies in my time, and I can honesty say that this is one of the greatest films that I have ever seen.

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A year after the events of the previous film, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) of the Starship Enterprise has created quite a reputation for himself that doesn’t sit very well with his superiors. Spock (Zachary Quinto), despite his good relationship with Kirk, is constantly getting him into trouble in his reports and has more recently become more distant with his lack of feeling. All of this stops mattering once John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a former Starfleet agent, bombs a secret facility in London.  Traveling across the galaxy to reach Harrison, Kirk and his crew begin to realize that the stakes are higher than they could have imagined, and they may even find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy that could compromise Starfleet in its entirety.

The first thing that I need to mention is the incredible writing that this film has been given. There are a few monologues that tug at your heartstrings in a way that not many summer blockbusters can do. Most notably, Spock explaining his lack of emotion when it comes to death and Harrison giving a brief summary of his past sufferings. But what is this dialogue without the talent of the actors to back them up? Every single performer brings their A-game, especially Quinto’s dry line delivery which is the cause of most of the jokes in the film and Cumberbatch’s dire demeanor that makes him and easy villain to hate.

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This part may be a tad spoilerish if you haven’t seen the 2009 Star Trek film, but if you haven’t, what are you waiting for? Get on the ball. Anyway, in the previous film, a main plot point is a black hole creating an alternate time line which Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy) goes through to reach the Romulans he is trying to aid. Therefore, everything that is seen in these movies takes place in an alternate dimension. Pretty cool stuff, and to be expected with Abrams. This leaves a lot of room for experimentation with new ideas and old ones. Star Trek Into Darkness makes good use of older story lines and references, but changing them in a way where it is recognizable, but still different. This should please long time fans of the universe, but also not get in the way of people who aren’t quite as familiar.

Now how can I talk about a Star Trek movie without talking about the action and the technology. This movie is a space adventure in its most respectable form. Warp speed, different planets, space jumps, and Starfleet battles are just what I need in a film with Kirk, Spock, and the crew. The effects are top notch, but what has impressed me even more with these past two Star Trek movies are the sound design. Using space as the vacuum that it is, there are many explosions and noises that you would expect to be deafening (a la Star Wars and many, many other science fiction film), but Abrams instead mutes them and makes it quite the opposite of what you would expect. There is still noise, but not as in your face or loud. This is a brilliant idea that was used more in the previous film, but still has relevance in this one too. There is a moment when two characters are out in space, and for a second all you can hear is their breathing. This reminded me very much of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Star Trek Into Darkness was a fantastic film. I could put it high up as one of my favorite films, and I’m not just saying that because it’s fresh in my mind and I really enjoyed it. Objectively speaking, it is an excellent movie. There’s brilliant dialogue, character development, action, science fiction, and effects/sound design. This has surpassed the original in every sense and completely blew my mind. This is definitely my pick for the best film of the year thus far, but that can still change. I can’t say I really expect it to, though. Do yourself a huge favor and get your ass to the theatre to see Star Trek Into Darkness as soon as you possibly can.

13 – Review

17 May

There are times when a foreign film maker shoots a film in their own language and injecting their culture into the plot, only to remake it for another country. Being an American, I notice quite a few foreign films and television shows get “Americanized” by either a production company or the original film maker. A notable example for me is Michael Haneke’s American version of Funny Games, which is a personal favorite of mine. In the instance of 13, Géla Babluani remade his 2005 Georgian-French film 13 Tzameti. How well the transfer goes is pretty up in the air, and in this case, it’s really iffy.

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Vince Ferro’s (Sam Riley) family is in some financial trouble. While all of the family works really hard to make ends meet, things just don’t seem to be looking any better in the near future. After overhearing a conversation about a quick way to make a lot of money, Vince jumps at the chance and winds up at a mysterious mansion in the middle of the forest. There are plenty of other people there, most of them wealthy. Among these people are Patrick Jefferson (Mickey Rourke), a convict who is forced into this game; Jimmy (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson), Jefferson’s escort to the game; Jasper Bagges (Jason Statham) and his psychotic brother Ronald (Ray Winstone), who is competing. The game is simple, yet deadly. A group match of Russian Roulette. The last person left standing is the winner.

When I first heard of this movie, I began thinking of Deer Hunter, which is a movie about Vietnam and its psychological effects, but a main portion of the story involves games of Russian Roulette. 13 is very different, because the game is done in a more stylized and unrealistic manner. Deer Hunter, on the other hand, makes it as real as possible. The idea behind this movie is certainly intriguing, as one can observe with the praise the original 13 Tzameti received on the festival circuit. Now, just because I like the concept doesn’t mean that 13 is a good movie. In fact, it’s a pretty objectively bad movie with sloppy storytelling that really brings the entire film down.

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The biggest problem for me is its complete lack of any real character development, even though there are times where the film really does seem to be trying. The whole point of the film is for the viewer to root for Sam Riley’s character. Too bad I didn’t really get enough information on him to really care. On top of that, there are so many side characters thrown your way that you’d like to learn more about but never do. The whole section concerning Rourke’s character is completely pointless and the movie would have been better off if it wasn’t even in there. Then maybe more time could’ve been spent on Statham’s character and Riley’s character.

13 was just way too short to be effective. A film involving an underground crime ring that hold Russian Roulette tournaments is such a great vehicle for a ridiculous amount of suspense. Too bad the whole plot flies by before you even have a chance to get acclimated. On top of all that, the last 25ish minutes of the movie could have been used for more character development. Instead, we get a subplot that has such little relevance to what’s going on that I’m completely surprised it’s in the movie at all. The person who looked over this screenplay and approved it without revising it in a major way should be fired. Seriously, some of the worst character development, narrative structure, and plot points I have ever seen.

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I do have to give the movie some credit though. All of the performances were at the least solid. Sam Riley was acceptable, even though he was pretty uninteresting. Statham gives a nice performance alongside Winstone, both sharing good on screen chemistry. Michael Shannon has a small, but excellent part that, if I were to be casted, would want to play. Finally, Rourke and 50 Cent were ok, but seriously, they did NOT need to be in this movie. The suspense was also good when the actual roulette game was being played, and the very end was pretty awesome. If anything, I was mildly entertained, and it was a pretty easy movie to watch and shut down for an hour and a half.

Even though there is some good to be said about this movie, it is still not very good at all. In fact, it’s pretty bad. The unfortunate thing is that there was so much potential, and Babluani already proved himself with the original version of the story. If you need some background noise while you fold laundry, 13 may do the trick, especially since you hardly need to pay attention. Anything more than that, don’t waster your time.

The Cook, the Thief, his Wife, and her Lover – Review

15 May

There are movies that I see every so often that pretty much change my concept on the way movies should be made. These films usually break the rules or rewrite their own, sometimes combining the two in the process. The Cook, the Thief, his Wife, and her Lover is one of those rare ones that combine them. Equal parts movie, stage play, and painting, this film exceeded all expectations that I had for it in its story and its style. Now if I can just remember the name when I’m talking about it…

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Albert Spica (Michael Gambon) is a gangster who has just gotten a nice new restaurant run by the chef Richard (Richard Bohringer). What you need to know about Spica is that he is loud, violent, and particularly abusive towards his wife, Georgina (Helen Mirren). On one day in the restaurant, Georgina and bookshop owner Michael (Alan Howard) lock eyes and promptly start an affair that grows with each passing day. Richard helps Georgina and Michael continue with their affair, but Albert is not as stupid as everyone likes to think he is. Soon he starts piecing together what is going on leading to some unfavorable results for everyone involved.

It would have been easy to make this movie look like an average movie, but there is nothing average looking about it. Peter Greenaway, the director of the film, is actually an accomplished painter which shows in how everything is composed. Every frame of this movie looks like you could take it and turn it into a painting to hang in some museum or another. Each room of the restaurant has a different color theme with the kitchen being green, the dining hall being red, and the bathroom being white. Each time a character walks from one section to the next, the color of their costume changes to the appropriate color of the room.

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While it does look like a painting in pretty much every frame, this movie also has a very theatrical feel. A lot of the sets, especially the “exterior” ones look like they are being shot on a stage. Along with the look of being performed on a stage, the plot is about as dialogue driven as movies get. I felt like there was always someone talking at every point in the movie. Gambon’s character does most of the talking and I would imagine that it’s a pretty demanding role. Kudos to him for being able to yell that much for such a long time. The dialogue is witty and dark with parts that will make you question wether you should laugh or be disgusted. Every character has this sense of mystery about them, and we never really get to know them too well. The course of the film takes place over a week, and that is all we are allowed to know about.

What kind of person would I be if I didn’t rant and rave about the camera work? I feel like I need to mention it. Tracking shots, tracking shots, tracking shots. So many tracking shots, all of them a little better than the last. These shots combined with all of the changes of color makes for a very unique visual experience. I think that it’s pretty clear that this is what stuck out to me the most.

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The Cook, the Thief, his Wife, and her Lover is a unique film that is a treat both aesthetically and narratively. The story is dark, disturbing, and absolutely hysterical. There was so much potential for this movie to be mediocre and stereotypical, but it is more equivalent to a moving painting. It is a story splashed with color and lies that should not be missed by any cinephile. Check this one out and I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

House – Review

15 May

This may be one of the hardest reviews I’m ever going to have to write. House is a Japanese movie from 1977 that was directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi, who started as an experimental film maker and advertiser, but was asked by Toho to make a film that would resemble the American hit, Jaws. When Toho got House in return they were completely shocked and eventually pulled it from the theaters after it started doing well in the box office out of fear that people would think that this is the direction Toho would be going in. Is it as strange as this introduction has made it sound? Absolutely right it is, but that is just fine with me.

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Gorgeous (Kimiko Ikegami) is a Japanese school girl who invites her friends to come with her to visit her aunt’s (Yōko Minamida) house in the country. Her friends are appropriately named Prof (Ai Matsubara), Melody (Eriko Tanaka), Kung Fu (Miki Jinbo), Mac (Mieko Sato), Sweet (Masayo Miyako), and Fantasy (Kumiko Oba). Each girl’s name represents their different personalities. When they arrive at the house, they all get the grand tour and are very happy with what they see, all of them looking forward to their stay. Unfortunately for them, on the first night strange things begin happening and one by one they all start to go missing. The house turns out to haunted by the strangest apparition you may ever see on film.

I really can’t give a a summary of this movie and make it sound interesting. It’s a very cut and dry narrative to look at written out. On the surface, it would seem like a stereotypical haunted house movie. That couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a head trip, psychedelic experience, horror film, and dark comedy all mashed together in one film. There’s a piano that eats people, a cat portrait that shoots gallons of blood across a living room, a pair of disembodies legs causing all sorts of mayhem, and of course, my personal a favorite: a giant head that comes out of nowhere with a warning to the terrified girls.

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The real draw to this movie is the in camera and analog effects that Obayashi exploits. He really does not hold back when it comes to showing off what he can do. What one needs to remember when they are watching House is that it is from 1977. A lot of the shots outside used matte paintings to make the world that these girls inhabit very surreal and other worldly. The images seem almost too beautiful and artificial to be real, and that’s because they absolutely are. A lot of the effects are also done with a blue screen which are very obvious to notice. Normally, this would be a detraction, having special effects that look unreal. For this movie, however, it works just fine. Nothing about this movie is supposed to look ordinary, so the effects look very cartoonish and silly. This adds to the whole dream like vision that Obayashi wanted, even though he even said he wasn’t too thrilled with some of the effects. I personally loved them.

For the times where there wasn’t a crazy special effects happening, there was at least one or two boring scenes of the girls just sort of hanging out. This makes the movie feel a lot slower than it should feel, especially with the subject matter of the movie. This could be on account of sloppy writing, since some of the jokes seem to stretch on too long or there are plain and simply scenes where nothing really happens. Another contributing factor to the pacing may be that there are scenes that are so ridiculous that when it slows down, the change almost seems jarring. One second, possessed mattresses are attacking someone, and the next the characters are sitting around talking and laughing. It feels weird to me.

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House truly is a one of a kind movie for better or for worse. Some people will call this a masterpiece when it comes to cult classics. Others will say that it shouldn’t even exist and that it’s a blemish on the history of film making. Personally, I don’t see how you could possibly ignore this. It isn’t perfect, but then again it isn’t really anything that can be classified or labeled. It simply exists, and it is up to the viewer to decide what they make of it. Trying to say that it’s good or bad wouldn’t be doing the film justice. House is just House, nothing more and nothing less.

King Kong (1933) – Review

12 May

I feel like it’s fair to say that most people know the story of King Kong. Boy meets girl. Boy falls for girl. Giant ape takes girl into jungle. Man saves girl. You know, that story. This is where it all began, however, in the year 1933 with its original release. Studios weren’t too excited about getting this movie made since the executives thought that a story like this wouldn’t make them any money. Directors Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, on the other hand, were determined to get it made. With two years of their lives dedicated to this movie, audiences both then and now get the pleasure of experiencing one of the most inventive and exciting movies ever made.

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Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) is a big shot film maker who specializes in traveling to exotic locations to get the most interesting shots imaginable. He finds the beautiful Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) on the street and recruits her to come with him and his crew to Skull Island to shoot his most recent film. On the ship ride over Ann meets Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot), and they both fall for each other. Once they are on Skull Island, the crew runs into the natives who prompt kidnap Ann and offer her to their god, Kong, a giant gorilla. Jack and the crew lead an escapade to find and reclaim Ann, but Carl has another goal entirely: to capture Kong and bring him back to New York City and make millions off of his prize.

The first thing that I need to touch on is the outrageous special effects that are in King Kong. In Peter Jackson’s version, which I really enjoy despite a run time that is way too long, Kong, the dinosaurs, and a lot of the scenery was done through the usage of computer graphics. In the 1933 version, all of Kong’s movements, the dinosaurs, and the jaw dropping fights that happen between them is all stop motion effects using models that were made and moved by hand. Giant limbs and heads were also built for close ups of Kong that strike me as a little off putting compared to how awesome the full model is. The forest is also all built or drawn and is absolutely mesmerizing. Finally, to make it seem like the actors were actually there during some of the major moments of the film, they would composite the actors in, super impose, use matte shots, or use rear projection. All very difficult, all very time consuming. Now, I don’t want anyone jumping down my throat here. The work put into the computer graphics of Jackson’s King Kong is also remarkable and very difficult. I’m just a bit of a freak for stop motion and puppetry.

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While the effects are my favorite part of the movie, I need to touch on the story since it has become a classic tale. The whole idea of a giant ape taking a woman away who is part of a film crew sounds pretty preposterous when put that way, but when you actually see it play out, it’s actually a very touching story. Sure, there’s a lot of action and adventure, but Kong’s character is a very interesting one. He’s an ape who understands beauty and will fight and kill to protect the woman he finds so beautiful. Certainly not a love story in the most traditional of senses, but definitely a deep one. While Kong may seem like the “villain” (and I’m using that word pretty loosely), we find out during the film that mankind is the real “villain.” Denham and his crew want to exploit beauty, but Kong wants to appreciate and cherish it.

The story of how this plot line came to be is pretty remarkable when you stop and think of the history of it. From 1933 to 2005, there has been two other King Kong movies and a sequel, Son of Kong, also from 1933 which didn’t do nearly as well as its predecessor. There was even a Toho produced movie that is wonderfully titled King Kong vs Godzilla. How cool is that? Anyway, back to how the story came to be. According to Merian Cooper, he had a dream that a giant gorilla attacked New York City. From there, he started at the infamous scene on the Empire State Building and worked backwards. So that’s it. The idea for this movie simply came from a dream. Maybe I need to start keeping a dream journal. Food for thought.

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Simply put, King Kong is a masterwork of American cinema whose legacy speaks for itself. It has been remade, copied, parodied, but above all, it has been appreciated. Production companies may have been nervous upon its original release, but this is the movie that single handedly saved RKO. I understand that movies from this time period may not be everybody’s cup of tea, however, if you haven’t seen the original King Kong, it is pretty much a must see. The effects, the acting, and the chance to see the story in its original format shouldn’t be missed. If you’ve seen it already, why don’t you watch it again after you’re done reading this? You know you want to…

The Exorcism of Emily Rose – Review

9 May

Believe in it or not, the concept of being possessed and needing some sort of holy man drive whatever all fiction has taken hold of your being is a pretty bizarre and terrifying. When The Exorcist was released in 1973, people were blown through the theatre walls and it was called one of, if not, the scariest films ever made. Now, it’s pretty much a guarantee that we will see an exorcism movie at least once a year. They have become a dime a dozen. In 2005, when The Exorcism of Emily Rose was released, this wasn’t yet the case, making this movie an original and surprisingly dramatic piece of film making about innocence, morality, and personal beliefs.

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Father Richard Moore (Tom Wilkinson) is charged with criminal negligence in the death of Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter), a nineteen year old girl believed to have been possessed and put under the care of Father Moore. Defending him is a rising star lawyer, Erin Bruner (Laura Linney), who is an agnostic who is only taking the job to get her name on the law firm and establish herself as an accomplished defense lawyer. Through a series of flashbacks and witness recounts, the story of Emily Rose is slowly put together, and Bruner’s beliefs are tested when what she thought was real melts away with this supernatural possibilities taking over her life.

The first thing that really sticks out about The Exorcism of Emily Rose is the depth that this story is willing to go.  The focal point of the story could have easily been the exorcism itself, and filled with really crazy exorcism scenes  which would have helped in selling tickets and surging the audience’s adrenaline. Instead, Scott Derrikson chose to take a more dramatic approach which really forces the audiences to think about their own beliefs and open their minds up to greater possibilities than what they really think is true. The same thing can sort of be said about The Last Exorcism, but that movie got to be so overblown by the end, I wasn’t really doing any introspection.

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Still though, the scenes that did show Emily Rose and her possession were top notch horror. Jennifer Carpenter gives an absolutely outstanding performance both vocally and physically. A lot of the vocals are created in post production with audio layering, but when she contorts her body in all the crazy positions that we see, it’s just her. Even something as simple as a hand gesture is stiffened and gives off this really creepy vibe that is necessary in movies like this. These scenes are also very important in ensuring that the more drama oriented court room scenes have some points of reference and really balance out the movie.

The scenes in the courtroom are also really good, but do suffer from some heavy handed dialogue and some acting that is just a little off from some of the more minor characters. Even some of the main characters like Bruner and Father Moore have some over the top dialogue that wouldn’t have worked if the actors saying them weren’t as serious and into their roles like Linney and Wilkinson. Hearing them sometimes would pull me out of the movie and make me think, “no one would actually say that.” What is cool about these scenes is that they don’t fall into pits of cliches and the proceedings can be pretty unpredictable. The ending is so unpredictable that I still don’t really buy it, and it would have been better for the writers to stick a bit closer to the actual history.

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The Exorcism of Emily Rose wasn’t so much an entertaining movie as it was an intellectually engaging one. That seems sort of odd to say about a movie that is about an exorcism, but again, this was before the time that one was pretty much release every year. It’s more than just a courtroom drama and an exorcism movie. It’s a clever combination of the two that will force the viewer to look inside themselves and see what they actually believe. Any movie that can shake someone up so much has to be good, and that’s what this movie is. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a genuinely good movie.

Iron Man 3 – Review

8 May

It’s so nice to see old friends again, granted the old friends I’m talking about are characters in a Marvel movie. But you know what, I don’t think that’s so weird. Through all the Iron Man films, I’ve grown really attached to Tony, Pepper, James, and even Jarvis. Here they are again, all returning for the highly anticipated Iron Man 3, the kick starter of the summer movie season. If this movie is any indication of what the summer’s going to be like, then it’s gonna be great overall, with a very punishing disappointment…

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Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) hasn’t been doing so well since the events of The Avengers, which makes a lot of sense since he went into a wormhole to set off a nuclear bomb and save New York City. The stress and anxiety has also took a toll on the love of his life, Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow), who can’t seem to take the nervous outbursts and distance of Tony. Their world literally seems to come crashing down with the threat of a new global terrorist, the Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley), as bombs begin detonating all over America. Tony wages a one man war against the Mandarin, only to realize that his past is back to haunt him in the form of Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), who adds another layer to the Mandarin threat that no one could have expected.

I could start with what I really enjoyed about the movie and how it had some of the best moments than any of the Iron Man movies to date, but I think I’m going to start with something else. Yes, this part will contain spoilers, but it is absolutely essential for me to get this off my arc reactor.

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Ok, so halfway through the movie, Tony Stark finds the Mandarin’s hideout and goes there to kick some terrorist ass. Cool, right? The first meeting! It would be cool, except it turns out that the Mandarin is some low life, junky actor hired by Aldrich Killian to distract the powers that be from his nefarious plot. So… the Mandarin’s a joke? Is that it? He’s not real? Killian’s not the Mandarin, although he has some traits that can be attributed to the Mandarin. The real one isn’t real at all. What in the world were they thinking? At first I couldn’t take this. It was all just too much to handle, but as the movie went on I kinda got used to it and thought it was a little clever. There’s still this taste in the back of my throat that I just can’t get rid of whenever I think about how the Mandarin gets treated.

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The rest of this movie is really intense, though. In fact, I’d say this is the most intense Avengers tie-in to date. There are parts in this movie that really pull on your heart strings and remind you how much you really care for these characters. I can guarantee you that you will forget how to breath during a couple of Iron Man 3‘s more intense moments. Shane Black is an accomplished director who has a knack of creating action films that are charged with humor, his most popular being the Lethal Weapon series. My personal favorite of his is Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. This movie is loaded with humor, even at the heaviest of moments just to remind us that Tony has it under control.

But he really doesn’t have it under control. The most effective scenes are the intimate moments of weakness that we very rarely see with Stark. The past three movies that he’s been in, he’s been the overconfident one who knows how to handle a situation. In Iron Man 3, there were times where I really didn’t think he was going to make it through this whole thing ok. That’s what makes this movie so good. Stark’s character is built to such a degree that I’m really curious where they’re going to go from here.

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Is Iron Man 3 better than the first? It just may be, if not, it’s very close. There’s only one glaring, obnoxious problem in the movie that I’m still very unsure of. The rest of the movie is top notch summer entertainment. I can’t really let one thing bring the entire movie down. Proportionally, that just doesn’t make sense. As a start to the summer blockbuster, it’s great and puts me right in the mood for the new Thor movie. Let’s keep these superheroes coming.

 

The Qatsi Trilogy – Review

5 May

Ok, this is gonna be a weird group of movies to review. The Qatsi Trilogy are not your everyday documentary films that show life with either a voice of God narration or interviews throughout. Godfrey Reggio, the director of all three films, simply documents and puts the beautiful images that he captures to the music of master composer, Philip Glass. Without a single word of dialogue, these three films will make you think about the world and your existence like you may have never thought of it before, and will definitely open your eyes to different aspects and places while completely changing your view on the familiar.

Let’s start in 1983 with the first film of the trilogy, Koyaanisqatsi.

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Koyaanisqatsi translates to “life out of balance.”  What this film shows first is beautiful and monolithic images of nature. The transition is quick as these stone monoliths start being destroyed with the culprit being mankind, and the reason being so that we can construct our own manmade structures. Life of humanity is shown in fast motion photography with symbolism and allegories that can be seen in the editing and the photography itself. Finally, the film ends with a warning against our obsession and reliance on technology that won’t soon be forgotten.

This is one of, if not the most, beautiful and hypnotic films that I have ever seen. The fast motion photography is the most obvious way of showing the speed at which our lives move. We are a civilization that almost seems to never sleep or even slow down. In one particular scene in a train station, we almost seem like insects moving around our mound of dirt. Another scene shows highways with red lights flying through them, which reminded me almost of blood cells traveling through veins and arteries with the city being the hear that keeps it all moving. Images like this really stick out and make the viewer think about what they are seeing, and that’s what makes Koyaanisqatsi so excellent.

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I feel like this is more than a film, it’s a cinematic experience that will leave your brain in constant thought and bewilderment. You’ll ponder your existence and the effect that your existence has on the world around you. You may even be torn on the true meaning of the movie, whether it’s a good or bad one. That’s part of the brilliance of this movie, the ambiguity mixed with the power of the visuals and fantastic music. This is definitely one to check out and be amazed.

In 1988 the sequel was released, Powaqqatsi.

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As the poster shows, Powaqqatsi translates to “life in transformation.” This film is about life in multiple third world and developing countries, and how they are growing and constantly evolving. There is also a theme that can be noticed about the west’s cultures effects on these more eastern civilizations. The film starts out slowly with tribal rituals, and small villages in their own everyday lives. A train is a transition to urban development which is quicker than what was shown before, but still nowhere near as fast as the photography in Koyaanisqatsi.

The reason why it is so slow is to show the contrast of more modernized society. The lives these individuals live seem to be more focused and, in our view, slowed down. The photography is still beautiful and the music by Philip Glass is still great. This is definitely not as great a movie as its predecessor, however. Nowhere near. I understand the need for the slow motion, but it didn’t keep me too interested for the entire run of the movie. It also seemed very haphazardly edited. Koyaanisqatsi almost had a narrative that was hidden in the fluidity of the movie. Powaqqatsi seemed more like a film that was thrown together. It made it much less interesting than it could have been.

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Powaqqatsi was still an engaging and beautiful movie with powerful music to match. It still makes you think about your life, but this time with the knowledge of how other people live. It’s jarring and strangely inspirational. The only thing that could have improved this movie is better pacing, a shorter run time, and a more strategically constructed narrative. This isn’t a necessary film to watch, but I can understand why it was made.

Finally, in 2002, Godfrey Reggio released the final film of his trilogy: Naqoyqatsi.

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Naqoyqatsi translates to “life as war.” This is the black sheep out of the three films with a lot of its footage coming from archival videos and television. The themes that are tackled range from the follies and plasticity of celebrity life to the tragic apex of technology and life: war. Phillip Glass’ music still plays a big part in this film, but the footage itself is much more digitized with a lot of special effects to really stress the notion of technology.

I’m really torn over this one. Part of me wants to like this one more than Powaqqatsi, but the other part of me tells me that  that’s impossible. It certainly kept my attention more and the themes constructed more of a narrative, but the work that went into both of its predecessors completely seems to outdo the work put into this film. The effects were really cool, but soon got to be a bit overdone to the point that it was distracting. Glass’ music is also completely unmemorable. I can hum some parts from the other two films, but can’t seem to remember any of the music from this one.

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My main problems with Naqoyqatsi are that it seems overblown with cool effects and it is altogether just not as powerful. It certainly doesn’t match the beauty of Koyaanisqatsi and PowaqqatsiIt still does have a powerful message that can be connected to the messages of Koyaanisqatsi, so in that way, it’s a fitting conclusion to the trilogy, but is the weakest in my opinion.

The Qatsi Trilogy is an incredible cinematic experience that is very difficult to explain, and is something that really must be seen. While I do have some gripes with the second and third entries, they still provide a powerful trip into different parts of the world and different parts of our minds. They are a perfect combination of music and images and experimental and documentary. I can’t recommend these movies to everyone, because it’s certainly not going to appeal to a national audience. For the people who find themselves interested in these ideas, check them out if you haven’t already.