Friday, September 23, 2011

Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto


Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion is a film that first came to my attention thanks to the band Fantômas. They released an album titled “The Director's Cut” that features the bands renditions of famous movie scores. The movie score itself is by Ennio Morricone, a composer that I absolutely adore. Most of my fellow Americans love John Williams and his well known movie scores but I worship at the feet of people like Morricone and Phillip Glass. I cannot overstate how amazing the score is for this movie, it helps set the tone for every single where the score is featured. 

Most people are very familiar with a crime dramas and murder mystery films. A murder is committed and the police attempt to discover the killer who is always one step ahead of the lead detective. This film is the complete opposite of every single other crime drama. In this film the head of the Homicide Department murders his mistress and deliberatley leaves clues that point to him being the murderer. Immediately after this murder we discover that our unnamed policeman has been promoted to head up the Security Division if Italy to help curb the tide of subversive communist students and workers. This puts our man in a position where he is so powerful and respected that he is literally above suspicion.

The lead has a very fascist way of speaking and acting and it would be very easy to write this movie off as some left-wing propaganda piece. The real motive of the director is about how our lawmakers, judges and police act and behave while they are attempting to maintain justice and order. When one of their own commits a heinous crime, are they really capable of policing and judging themselves? How do they do this without actually destroying their capability to maintain justice and order in society as a whole? The other problem is the nature of power. Is humanity incapable of being placed in positions of such extreme power and still maintain their morality?

As the lead continually tries to implicate himself in the murder and his colleagues continue to ignore all the clues that point towards him as the murderer he begins to become desperate. The film begins to become very surreal as he desperation explodes out into a near nervous breakdown. As you watch the film you have to begin to question the nature of humanity and whether or not you agree with the director and his rather pessimistic statements about people.

This is a must watch.

5/5


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Kumonosu-jô



Kumonosu-jô or Throne of Blood is yet another samurai film from Japanese cinema genius Akira Kurosawa. Almost all of his samurai films seem to star the amazing Toshiro Mifune and this film is no exception. Mifune stars as the samurai Washizu in this film.

The film begins with news of disaster for the lord of Spider's Web Castle as it appears one of his vassals has joined an opposing lord and launched a surprise attack on the frontier fortresses. Bad news quickly becomes good news as messengers arrive saying Miki is defending his fortress like a man possessed despite overwhelming odds. This is followed by the news that Washizu has boldly sallied from his fortress, caught the enemy by surprise and completely routed them and then launched a massive assault on the enemy forces attacking Miki. These two warriors are summoned by their lord after the battle to receive honors.

The two warriors quickly become lost in the Spider's Web Forest by freak weather and then are haunted by some cackling laughter of a spirit or demon. They endeavor to attack and vanquish this evil spirit but instead they find an old women in a hovel spinning thread. This women tells Washizu that he will become the Commander of the Northern Garrison and then lord of Spider's Web Castle and that Miki will become Commander of the First Fortress and that his son will one day be the lord of Spider's Web Castle. This prophecy sets everything into motion. Soon Washizu's wife is urging him to go on a bloody quest to fulfill the evil spirit's prophecy.

If your like Shakespeare you might be thinking, “this sounds a lot like Macbeth.” You would be right, this film is Kurosawa's take on the play by the famous Bard. The story proceeds in wonderful fashion that highlights why the movie is so aptly titled “Throne of the Blood.” Washizu even utters a wonderful line about creating a deluge of blood that will stain the woods red as he fights for his throne.

See this movie at all costs! Stain your hands red with the blood of your enemies to obtain this film!

5/5



Monday, September 12, 2011

Irréversible



Irreversible is a movie that deals with the brutal rape and assault of a woman named Alex. Her boyfriend and ex-boyfriend go on a quest for revenge in order to find the person who raped and beat Alex. The film is graphic, brutal and at times so gritty and realistic that you want to turn away from the screen. Since it becomes obvious fairly soon in the film the scenes are shot in reverse as you begin with the end of the film and progress towards the beginning of the film, as it is slowly revealed how this horrible event happened and what fueled the quest for revenge.

The film employs a technique used by Hitchcock in the film “Rope” in that it attempts to use only single cuts for each and every scene. Other strange camera angles are used as the camera seems to spin and flip around at random during certain portions of the film. This helps make the cuts look more seamless as the camera randomly focuses and blurs as it flips up to stare at the ceiling before returning to the characters. The end of the film might also cause some people seizures as it flashes and pulses more and more rapidly until you get a glimpse of what appears to be out galaxy and then we hit the credits. I would venture to guess that the brutal and painful scenes and the odd camera work will turn most people off to this film. So viewer beware.

I cannot stress enough that this is a film that should be watched only if you can handle images of absolutely savagery and brutality. There are certainly moments of casual friendship, love and intimacy in the film but the brutality in several of the scenes will stand out and grab you. It is an interesting film and I do suggest watching it if you think you can handle the film's brutality and unconventional storytelling method. I tend to think this film is a microcosm of humanity as we experience events in this quest for vengeance that seem to represent the story of life on earth. Love, friendship, anger and savagery. Of course I must say I didn't really appreciate the whirling and twirling cameras and I can't figure out why they were even used.

3/5



Valhalla Rising


This movie takes place around 1000 AD in what is obviously Scotland but is suppose to be a Scandinavian country, probably Norway. Either way the visuals of the bleak mountains in the first parts of the movie are breathtaking. In fact the visuals in this movie are spectacular during every single scene. The movie is very much a journey into the heart of darkness and much like the story by Joesph Conrad (you have probably seen the story adapted as Apocalypse Now) this movie batters you into submission with imagery and symbolism. This film will also not be what you are expecting. If you are like me you are most likely expecting some high paced action-adventure filled with buckets of blood and death. You will get plenty of that but this film is paced fairly slowly and is very cerebral.

The movie centers around a Viking of unknown origin or name that is called One Eye because, well he only has one eye. Anyone with even a thimble of knowledge about Vikings and Norse mythology knows who this person is suppose to represent. Odin perhaps? Anyway following One Eye we have a boy who is called Are. One Eye never utters a single line of dialogue during the entire film. This makes him even more imposing and mysterious as the boy, Are, does all the speaking for him. The other people involved in the story are a pagan Viking that owns One Eye as a slave and uses him as a pit fighter and finally a troop of Christian Vikings that are on their way to the Holy Land to fight to retake Jerusalem and have God absolve them of all their sins. They also mention the amazing amount of plunder and loot they expect to run off with when they sack the cities in the Holy Land. You be the informed viewer and decide what their primary motivation.

The movie also offers up some questions about the nature of religion. Especially the competition between the old 'pagan' religions and Christianity. There is a transformation of values throughout this film that demands you pay close attention to what is happening and why things are happening.

I would also like to point out that the director, Nicolas Winding Refn, of this fine film is releasing what should be an excellent film starring Ryan Gosling next week called “Drive” You should try and see that movie if you can't see this movie or one of his other movies. To be honest you should watch any film by Nicolas Winding Refn based on that fact that his name is amazing and awesome.

4/5 Stars



Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Reef



If you have ever seen the movie “Open Water” and came away bored and tired then this movie will be refreshing. The premise of the movie is very similar. People stranded in the ocean, decide they can swim 12 miles to an island and wait for rescue. Of course the waters are apparently shark infested, a fact that is foreshadowed many times during the film. Of course if you are watching “The Reef” it is because you are expecting people to get eaten by sharks so you will ignore all the dumb moves the people make that help facilitate getting eaten by sharks.

There isn't much to tell about this movie other than the plot is very predictable, but you already knew that. The movie keeps the tension level high and at times attempts to give you the impression that everything is safe, but the viewer knows better. All in all it doesn't drag out the events of the film to the point where it becomes tedious like “Open Water” and if you are interested in sharks eating people than this film is for you.


3/5 Stars


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Expendables 2


The Expendables was everything I had been missing from 1980s action movies. A part of my soul died when comic book movies took the place of the action movie in the 2000s. This poster was just released and I for one am very excited.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Thor


Not the normal type of movie I would review here but I think I should start review movies I go to see in the theaters as well as the movies I watch at home (and that 98% of the general populace has never heard of or seen :P ) Anyway to the review!

This is a comic book movie and the main character, as you might have guessed, is Thor. Thor is an Asgardian warrior that pretty much likes to kick ass and take lots of names. He is reckless, fearless and arrogant, but who wouldn't be all of those things if you could fly around with a hammer and deal out stupid amounts of pain and call down thunderous storms of lightning and doom? Of course the astute reader will have gathered by now that these personality traits are going to get Thor into trouble with some pretty important people. I am not going to bore you with the details because this is a comic book superhero movie and the story arcs are pretty much vanilla so I bet you can guess what happens.

Obviously the vanilla comic book superhero movie plot is one of the major reasons I tend to groan and make funny faces when I decide to torture myself by buying a ticket, popcorn and a soda and attempt to 'enjoy' one of these movies. Enter Kenneth Branagh and some stupidly awesome special effects.

Special effects first. I did not see this movie in 'Three Dimensions!' mainly because it makes my head dizzy, gives me a headache and costs more money. The theaters make money off of concession sales and I would rather shell out money for overpriced food items than some special effect that makes me nauseous. Of course since there have been special effects long before the multiple 3D crazes that have swept blockbuster movie productions I can still discuss the basic and rather cool special effects. Here I am with this rather long-winded opening statement about the special effects and all that I really needed to say was this: Asgard looks freaking awesome!

Now enter Branagh. Last time I saw him he was in the movie Valkyrie, you would have a hard time remembering him because a certain Tom Cruise spent the entire movie trying to hog the screen. I could spend the next half hour complaining about Tom Cruise but that isn't why I am here, or is it? Anyway Kenneth Branagh to me is Shakespeare and he should be Shakespeare to everyone else that is reading this damn blog. He was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and then decided that Shakespeare needed to be brought to the masses who had largely groaned and grumbled while reading Shakespeare in High School English classes. And he did just that with some really good film adaptations of Shakespeare. I have now spent about 80% of this blog post talking about things other than the movie I am reviewing. Must focus! Branagh knows his stuff is what I am trying to say. He likes the Bard and he directs and acts very well in those plays and on the silver screen. He brings with him this sense of direction and acting that can be seen throughout the film and really makes this film something better and different than your standard comic book movie. The actors are all stellar and they have pretty decent chemistry. The lines are delivered very nicely and the dialog is witty and funny. The dialog also makes some jokes at the expense of itself but does so without delving into self-parody and never descends into total camp. Well done since you are making a movie about a dude with a hammer.

Chris Hemsworth plays Thor and does marvelous job portraying Thor as this arrogant but charismatic badass. Natalie Portman a human scientist named Jane Foster that happens to get involved with Thor while he is on Midgar, or Earth if you want to nitpick, by virtue of basically running Thor over with her science vehicle. Natalie Portman does a good job as always and the rest of the cast is able to keep pace.

I have noticed a slight debate over what parts of the movie people liked best. There are two camps. The one camp is braindead and wrong, as you could have guessed, and thinks the action sequences are the best. Let's be honest here, it is a guy with a hammer beating people up. Sure the special effects are cool and that is probably what got you to go to the movie in the first place but that is pretty much something you see in every superhero movie. Although the action sequences in the middle of the movie are pretty good. The part of the movie that focuses on character development and interaction between the characters was the best. It had just enough comedy to keep you smiling and the there was some actual development of the characters over the course of the movie that was a refreshing. You know not development like Tony Stark who goes from ultra-wealthy playboy to ultra-wealthy playboy with a big suit of armor that fires lasers to ultra-wealthy playboy with big suit of armor that fires lasers and is trying to do some good in the world in between bottles of scotch. Where was I going with this? Oh yes second-tier comic book heroes and there movies. I don't know if these guys are second-tier but it sounds good to say and they aren't Superman, Batman or Spiderman. As I was saying I found Iron Man to be dull and while this movie is built from the same mold, comic book superhero movie, this movie is actually good rather than just some fun action movie with Robert Downey Jr downing scotch and tricking Muslim terrorists into thinking he is making a missile when he is really making a iron suit of sheer awesomeness.

This was suppose to be a short little review but I went off the reservation and began hunting down other movies while engaging in a platonic love-fest with Branagh...so this movie is a must watch if you want to watch a big budget popcorn movie. It won't stir you with emotion like an Oscar winning drama but it will make you glad you went to see the movie.



3/5 stars

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Frygtelig lykkelig



Frygtelig lykkelig, or for the sake of my sanity, Terribly Happy, is a Danish film that has a plot that seems very similar to the plots of many other movies. In fact I think Nic Cage starred in a really crappy remake that had a plot similar to this movie. What is this recycled plot you say? Cop goes to small, close-knit town of people who handle their own problems and don't want some city slicker from Copenhagen coming in and messing with the town by using things like standard police regulations and calling the mythical city of Tonder (there is suppose to be that silly o with a slash through it but to hell with that!) Fine....fine...fine... Tønder. The last thing I need is a horde of Danish vikings chasing me down and and stealing all my stuff because I refused to spell the name of a town that has less that 10,000 inhabitants correctly.

Alright so the plot was rather dull sounding. We have Robert, the cop from Copenhagen, becoming the marshal of this small town in Denmark that is described by one of the residents as nothing but cows, mud and rubber boots. Sounds amazingly exciting! And it turns out to be just that. A married woman, Ingerlise, strikes up a relationship with Robert and reveals that he drunkard maniac of a husband, (grrrrr) Jørgen, beats her up regularly. Of course she refuses to file a report. While all this is going on the film continually gives us this sense of eeriness. Not like supernatural stuff, like the town if full of Satan worshipers that want to put Robert into a giant straw man and burn him alive in some crazy ceremony, no just a sense that this town is hiding some other kind of secret. They keep making references to things the old marshal did and seem annoyed when Robert doesn't want to do things like the old marshal. As you can guess things between Robert and Ingerlise heat up and that can lead to nothing good because Jørgen is the biggest, meanest dude in town. If you want the rest of the story you will have to learn to read subtitles, speak Danish, and watch the movie.



The movie gives off a palpable sense of impending doom and suspense that seems to pervade every single scene and the movie also has a very subtle and evil ending that made up for the cookie-cutter sounding plot. I highly suggest you try and watch the movie if you have time. There is also an epic drinking competition between Robert and Jørgen in this movie as well. They pound back beer after beer after whiskey after whiskey! 4/5 stars.

Red Rock West

A very exciting picture from the movie!


Red Rock West is John Dahl movie that is set in Wyoming and involves some Texans, Michael and Lyle, played by Nic Cage and Dennis Hopper. Right off the bat you are excited! Wyoming?! Exciting! Texans?!? Super exciting!! Alright fine, I sold you on the Nic Cage and Dennis Hopper part didn't I? This movie was made in 1993 so in order to get this much cheesy acting you will have to wait until 1996 for Nic Cage and Sean Connery in The Rock. Good thing we all have time machines in the garage now that it is 2011. Did I mention Lara Flynn Boyle is in the movie? That might not be too exciting I guess, unless you are a Twin Peaks or Men in Black II fan. (If you are a MiB II fan you have come to the wrong place and I need you to kindly turn around and walk off the nearest cliff or into an open elevator shaft.) Alright I was suppose to be talking about a movie and I went all Nic Cage and started rambling like a meth head.

Red Rock West seems like a simple movie based off a tried and true film noir plot. Husband wants wife dead. Husband hires person to kill wife. Wife takes exception. Tries to hire same killer to kill husband. The problem is Michael (Nic Cage) wanders into the town of Red Rock West and happens to be driving a Caddy with Texas plates. The husband's hitman is suppose to be from Texas. You can see where I am going with this right? Well normally the 'protagonist' in a film noir plot is desperate in some way, either desperately in love with a femme fatale or just going through a rough patch, and Michael is certainly desperate for a job. He differs from most film noir because normally Michael would slowly sacrifice his morals and principles for the money and the girl except in this case Michael is a damn fine man and doesn't want to do that. Fate, it would seem, had other things in store for him as he slowly gets dragged into this murder plot.

When things seem to be going bad in your classic film noir that is generally the cue for things to get worse. And they do for Michael. The real Texan hitman finally shows up in Red Rock, Wyoming. What is it with this town? You have a husband and wife trying to kill each other and people from Texas just keep pouring into this little town. Anyway Lyle is played by, you guessed it, Dennis Hopper. Now you have Dennis Hopper trying to kill Suzanne (Lara Flynn Boyle), the wife and Michael. At the same time we discover that the husband, Jim (Craig Reay) is also the sheriff of Red Rock. Man Nic Cage has gotten himself into one fine mess, just like Knowing or Season of the Witch, and has to figure out how to allude the insane Lyle and the sheriff of Red Rock. Things have gotten mighty wild in Red Rock.

Anyway to tell you anymore would spoil the movie for you so in order to get you intrigued by this movie I will leave you with an exciting action sequence from the film. I have to do this because I know everyone in the room still cannot figure out how a movie with Dennis Hopper and Nic Cage could ever be good!



By the way, I give this movie 3/5 stars. It was just interesting enough to escape the formulaic plot that haunts all film noir movies.  

Monday, April 11, 2011

Give 'em Hell Malone



Give 'em Hell Malone is a movie that focuses more on style than substance and there are plenty of times when I prefer style over substance in my films. When I watched Give 'em Hell Malone I was really looking for some good, wholesome entertainment. While Give 'em Hell Malone was far from wholesome it was entertaining and it was the kind of bloodbath I was looking for on a Sunday night.

First off the style of this movie is entirely anachronistic. There are cell phones, newer cars, and modern nursing homes, however, the major players all seem to have dropped right out of the 1940's with the way they dress. Even more confusing is Ving Rhames character who dresses like a classic private detective from a late 1940's film but drives around in a 1969 Mustang. Then again the entire world that the characters are operating in seems to be just as confused as to what decade it wants to be in as the characters are. That might be the writer and directors idea of making everything seem a bit more chaotic and decadent, or I am just looking too much into this element.

Moving right along with the movie. Thomas Jane is Malone. Malone is a tough guy and a hired gun/detective. A lot of people want Malone dead but a lot of people are scared of Malone. Rumors are he ripped out the heart of the man that killed his family and then ate the heart. Not a guy you want to mess with and to prove that point he kills about 25 people in the first 5 minutes. You have Evelyn as the classic damsel in distress, or is she. Ving Rhames is Malone's rival and goes by the name Boulder, an apt nickname given the physical size of Ving and given his general attitude in many of his characters. Marcellus Wallace, anyone? Then we have a psycho Japanese girl that likes sharp objects and a jittery firebug that carries around a zippo and a can of kerosene. A lovely cast. Behind the scenes of it all is a crime boss named Whitmore. He wants what Malone has and he wants it real bad. Enough to unleash a sadistic girl with lots of knives and swords and a maniac with a can of kerosene onto the city to get Malone.

The real reason you should watch this movie is because it presents itself with all the grit and lack of a hero like a neo-noir film and then combines it with elements of movies like Dick Tracy and other comic book inspired movies and then supercharges it with some kerosene, bullets, scotch and enough horsepower to cause global warming. The film tries to offer a deeper meaning at times but in the end that really isn't what the movie is about. This movie is about Malone, giving them hell.



3.5/5 stars

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

JCVD



JCVD is a movie about Jean-Claude Van Damme and his life as a B-lister. He is struggling with crappy movie gigs, child custody cases and lack of money. He decides to return home to clear his head when everything goes wrong...

He is seen walking into a post office and several minutes later a gunshot comes from the post office and the police see him yelling and pushing a metal cabinet in front of the window. Now the police are besieging the post office and think that Jean-Claude is the robber. Now I know what you are thinking...who the hell robs a post office? Well apparently Belgians.

The movie itself bounces between a tense bank heist movie, a dark comedy and a heartfelt look into the life of a movie star whose career has been a slow spiral downward. I was impressed with this movie and the performances from pretty much all the actors, especially Jean-Claude Van Damme. Who knew he could act?

There were some annoying parts of the movie but they didn't really impact my overall enjoyment. On occasion there was some steady cam shots that are anything buy steady and at times the lighting wasn't the best but how can you make a movie that pokes fun at JCVD's movies without bad lighting?

Anyway because of the total surprising nature of this movie and the enjoyment I got out of watching Jean-Claude actually act for once I am going to give this movie 4 stars.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Le salaire de la peur



The Wages of Fear is a masterpiece of suspense and drama directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot that is set in Latin America and revolves around a group Europeans who have been tramping around the world until they ran out of money in the wrong town. The town remains unnamed, because the town deserves no name, and is a symbol of poverty, despair and lack of opportunity. In this town we are introduced to the principal players of this film, Mario, Jo, Luigi and Bimba, all four Europeans who seem to still be lost following the events of World War II.

The plot is simple enough, an American oil derrick has exploded and the resulting fire is raging out of control. The Southern Oil Company has a plan to stop the oil fire but they need to find a way to transport nitroglycerin over several hundred miles of the roughest roads Nicaragua has to offer and without any safety equipment. Obviously the American labor unions won’t let this plan go forward but the foreman has a plan. Off to pay an exorbitant amount of money to four men to take two trucks loaded with the nitroglycerin and hope that one of the trucks makes it there. Thankfully the town nearby is filled with desperate men from Europe and even the United States that see this job as a way to escape the town they have been stuck in for far too long.

I will assume everyone reading this has seen Hitchcock films before, and if you haven’t well there is something seriously wrong with you and you need to find yourself a copy of a movie like North by Northwest, Vertigo, Foreign Correspondent, etc. and watch those movies right now. Clouzot sets his film up like a classic Hitchcock film and in many ways beats Hitchcock at his own game. The film starts with a slow and deliberate introduction of the setting and the characters so that you can understand their motivations and desperation. The second half of the film is a tense and nerve wracking game of survival. The Wages of Fear takes you on a suspenseful ride and does it so well that you feel like you are in the trucks with the protagonists fighting for survival.

During the film we also get a glimpse at the relationship Mario has with a local girl named Linda. Mario is so obsessed with making money and escaping the town that he fails to see that Linda loves and adores him. The film shows us that we are often so focused some unforeseeable future or some romanticized past that we fail to see the good we have in our life in the present.

Overall excellent film and a must watch for anyone that is a fan of suspenseful films.

5/5 stars.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0046268/
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/wages_of_fear/