Tag Archives: juliette lewis

Kalifornia – Review

11 Apr

There are times when I’m browsing the bargain bins that are filled with a mountain of some of the most random, and often obscure movies that I could possibly find and I get surprised. One of these surprises was when I found a film from 1993 that I’ve never heard of called Kalifornia. The packaging seemed interesting and it starred David Duchovney before he became known for his role in The X-Files and a young Brad Pitt before his career even took off. I really know nothing about this movie so getting it was a complete gamble, but sometimes it’s possible to find a small gem in a container filled with trash.

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Brian Kessler (David Duchovney) and Carrie Laughlin (Michelle Forbes) are an artistic yuppie couple with dreams of moving to California, where they feel all of the jobs and inspiration will be, especially since Brian can’t get his new book on serial killers started. Unfortunately for the two artists, they don’t have the money to get to California, which makes Brian think he can find someone else trying to get to California to come with them and help them pay, while stopping at famous murder sites to get pictures and information for his book. Enter the lower class hillbilly couple Early Grayce (Brad Pitt) and his childish girlfriend Adele Corners (Juliette Lewis), who also have dreams of moving to California. While the relationship between the two couples is strained at best, but what Brian and Carrie don’t know can hurt them. A subject for Brian’s book may be closer than he thinks with Early being an ex-con who’s breaking parole, but who is also wanted for murdering multiple people.

I want to get the bad out of the way, because this movie really did have a positive effect on me. First of all, Duchovney’s performance is rather flat, and I feel like part of that is because the character is pretty flat. His voice over is pretty bad as well, but that’s mostly due to his monotone voice which works well for Fox Mulder on The X-Files, but not so much for his character here. Another problem I had here is that the writing is pretty baffling at points, which means that things happen and I really have a hard time buying some of the things that happened in this movie.  Along with this is that there is really a lot of material to work with in terms of suspense and conflict, but it isn’t really used to its full potential.

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While Duchovney’s performance and some of the writing may be questionable, these things don’t ruin the movie at all. In fact, I thought this movie was surprisingly entertaining. I like looking at this movie like a road trip film with a sadistic twist. Looking at it only as a horror/thriller may the wrong way to go. Being a road move/horror film is a cool and interesting combination. Another surprising thing was the questions and points that the movie brought up, topics that I wasn’t expecting to be explored. One is the difference of two cultures, one being the yuppie/art culture and the other being the lower class/hillbilly culture. Both of the couples are hammed up and portrayed as stereotypes, but it works well for the sake of a plot device and a possible discussion point. More interesting to me are the brief moments of dialogue and questions on the psychology of serial killers, and if they should be locked up or killed, or if they should be put in a mental institution and treated. Kalifornia doesn’t answer these questions, but allows the viewer to have their own opinions on the topic.

There’s nothing entirely special about the directing by Dominic Sena, who started with music videos (and that occasionally shows), but there are a few moments that were pretty cool. What makes this movie seeing more than anything else are the performance by Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis. Pitt seems really deep in his role, and there’s a story where he chipped his tooth opening up a beer while in character and decided to keep the tooth chipped because it worked well for his character. He does seem a bit over the top at times, but he keeps that level throughout the entire movie and I believe that he became Early Grayce. As great as Pitt is, the real scene stealer is Juliette Lewis. While I have always considered her a good actor, her performance in Kalifornia can easily be called great. Her character is played to perfection and is the deepest and most tragic aspect of the entire movie. She is fantastic and plays childish innocence very well, and her and Pitt’s chemistry are note perfect.

Kalifornia was a great find and having spent five whole dollars on it, I definitely feel like I got more than I payed for. This movie is by no means a classic, nor is it going to be remembered and talked about for the years to come. However, as far movies go, this is a really fun movie that is actually a lot better than I thought it was going to be. The whole idea is great, but unfortunately can’t achieve that greatness because the elements aren’t used to their full potential. If anything, you should see this movie for Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis alone, but as a whole I can still recommend this movie. It isn’t anything special, but it works just fine.

 

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Cape Fear – Review

28 Dec

For a horror movie to really be successful, it’s important that it preys on very basic and human fears. What both the original 1962 version of Cape Fear and Martin Scorsese’s 1991 remake exploits the fear of the intrusion of our personal spaces and the disruption of our lives. In this review, I’ll be talking about Martin Scorsese’s version, because this is the one I’ve actually seen. Traditionally, I can’t review a movie if I haven’t seen it, you know? So here we go.

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Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) is a lawyer who appears to have a great life. His family has a nice standing in the town of New Essex, and the only real problem is their teenage daughter, Danielle (Juliette Lewis) going to summer school. The carpet is quickly pulled out from under them when a convict of 14 years Max Cady (Robert De Niro) gets released. Cady and Bowden of a past that doesn’t add up just right and cost Cady 14 years of his life. Now that he’s freed, he vows to have his biblical revenge on Bowden and teach him all about loss.

The terrifying thing about this movie is that it isn’t something that just happens in the movies. People’s lives get invaded, uprooted, and otherwise ruined more often than one might think and the way Scorsese plays it in Cape Fear isn’t hard to believe. The incidences with Cady start out small and act as more of an annoyance for Bowden, but as the plot slowly moves along, Cady begins moving deeper and deeper into the minds of the Bowden family until he finally reaches their breaking point.

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Robert De Niro absolutely kills it in this movie and is definitely one of his best performances along with his role in Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, both Scorsese films strangely enough. It’s easy to become immediately repulsed by his character right when you first see him in the first scene of the movie. There’s automatically something that you just hate about him that progresses throughout the movie. The other scene stealer is Juliette Lewis as the young teenager whose mind is a blank page for Cady to scribble his psychopathic mumbo jumbo. She’s innocent and relatable for everyone whose ever been a teenager. You want to jump into the scene and save her from his madness, but you have to keep telling yourself that it’s just a movie.

One thing that kind of grinded my gears was the overuse of blue screen. There’s scenes with these really over dramatic clouds and stormy weather if something foreboding or sinister is happening in the Bowden household. Having that happen once is passable on the grounds of dramatic emphasis, but more than once just takes away the realism that this movie tries so hard to establish.

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I will say that I love the helplessness that you’re bound to feel while watching this movie as a result of the helplessness of the main characters. Nolte’s character really tries to get help from the legal system, but Cady is able to find loop holes in every instance. I’m not saying that Scorsese was trying to condemn the entire legal system, but he does succeed at pointing out the problems and inconsistencies that make it very easy for intelligent and scheming people to exploit to push the law to their favor.

This was a genuinely scary and suspenseful film because of its true to life nature and the brilliant performances by Robert De Niro and Juliette Lewis. The exploration of the legal system also adds depth without really straying away from the main story. This certainly is Scorsese’s best work, and I’m not sure of anyone who would rate it higher than Goodfellas or Raging Bull, but it’s still a great piece of film making, albeit a little over the top at points, that does its job to its fullest and then some.