6.30.2010

182: The Silence of the Lambs


The Silence of the Lambs (R) - 1991 - Runtime: 118 minutes
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Jodi Foster
Director: Jonathan Demme

The only thing I remember about this movie - and it's not really a memory about the movie, but a reference from another one. In the Cable Guy, Jim Carrey and Matthew Brokerick are at the Medieval place and Carrey puts chicken skin over his face and says in a very bad impression of Hannibal Lecter, "Silence....of the Laambs." Ahh, I love that movie, but I never understood the reference until now. I can't believe I missed out on this movie because it's just so good. I don't particularly seek out serial killer thrillers, but this one is almost perfect.

Clarice Starling is an up and coming star FBI agent who's been assigned to find the serial killer known as Buffalo Bill - a man who kills and then skins the women he abducts. The best lead on the case is locked up in glass chamber, deep underground. A known serial killer, cannibal and once renowned psychologist, Hannibal Lecter might be the only link to stopping Buffalo Bill. I was not expecting this movie to be good, but it's better than that. This movie gets under you skin. And I'm not talking about Hannibal Lecter. For some reason, I thought he was mildly humorous and definitely not threatening. Well, at least throughout most of the movie. But he's a villain you're almost glad he's out and about running around, eating people up (with fava beans!). Like he said in the movie, the world's more interesting with him in it. At least, that world, certainly not my own! Not to say that he didn't deserve the Oscar for this role, he most definitely does, but he's not the most horrifying person in the movie. In my opinion, that goes to Buffalo Bill. Namely because he's out in the real world throughout the movie and you don't really see him for most of it, either. Which is terrifying because when you can't put a face to the killer, that makes him more menacing.

Jodi Foster is great, too. She plays the rookie agent well and she has her own horrors to deal with that Lecter exposes. The movie is a great thrill ride and I thought Lecter and Starling's scenes were show-stealing. There is such a tension in the air during those scenes, but they are working together. It's very complex relationship and I think the movie nailed it. I'm glad there wasn't any twists at the end of the movie - it would have been too distracting. Instead, you get completely immersed into Starling's terror.

A great movie and a most perfect thriller. The performances are great and the horror is frighteningly real. I loved the movie and it never got dull or slow. But as a last note, this has to win the award for most bizarre title. It makes sense after you see the movie, but who knew that people would actually go to see this in theaters with such an effed up title? Seriously!

Rating: Rent It!

182: Bull Durham

Bull Durham (R) - 1988 - Runtime: 108 minutes
Starring: Kevin Costner, Susan Surandon, Tim Robbins
Director: Ron Shelton

Maggie and I had went down to Durham for her sister's wedding and we were told by our now brother-in-law that we should see this movie. He said it was a good romance, but not just a chick flick. So of course we had to see this movie and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. I wouldn't say it's a great movie, but it's a fun little flick that works as a good date movie.

Crash Davis comes back to Durham to catch for the Bulls, Durham's own minor league team. But that's not all he's there to do - he's supposed to mentor the hot shot ace pitcher, Ebby LaLoosh (played by the very young and affable Tim Robbins). They soon take the team from the dumps to number one. But there's a love triangle going on between Crash, Ebby and the local superfan, Annie Savoy. Although the story isn't exactly the greatest, the humor and characters are the best part of the movie. I don't really like Surandon in this role. She's all sexed up and I just don't find her attractive at all. I just didn't really "get" her at all - she's obsessed with baseball, but she's also a loose women. She takes it upon herself to sleep with a new player every year - helping them become a better player (or so she says). I definitely enjoyed the relationship between Crash and LaLoosh more than anything else in the movie.

I wasn't expecting the movie to be so funny and rated R. There's some great jokes and I thought Costner was pretty good as Crash. Even better was Robbins as the rookie. He was like a baby duck throughout - all wide-eyed and wondering. It was pretty comical and you do get drawn into their budding relationship and the team's success. But there was definitely a few too many sex scenes involving Surandon that I couldn't stomach.

But Bull Durham has a lot of heart and it's not really a baseball movie, but it's not really a romantic comedy, either. I can't really explain it. I had a lot of fun watching the movie with Maggie, but at times we both thought the movie dragged on a bit. Maggie asked me at the end of the movie "Why is it called Bull Durham?" I had no answer for it - I had always thought that was the actual nick name of Costner's character, but not so! Oh well, maybe that's a question for my brother-in-law to answer.

Rating: Rent It!

182: Green Zone

Green Zone (R) - 2010 - Runtime: 115 minutes
Starring: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan
Director: Paul GreengraSS

I had been really excited to see this movie when I first heard about it. I really have enjoyed Greengrass's work. I think the last two Bourne movies are just fun action flicks that keep you on the edge of your seat. But I'm glad this isn't just "Bourne in Iraq" because that's what the trailer was pushing. In fact, it's more of a drama than an action movie and it's a good movie that focuses on the beginning of the war in Iraq.

Matt Damon plays Officer Miller, a man charged with finding WMDs in Iraq, but keeps coming up empty handed in his search. Instead of following orders, he decides to figure out on his own, with a little help from the locals, what the hell is going on. What he finds is, of course, a massive conspiracy. I remember a customer coming up to me and asking me if the movie was any good and I said, yeah.

The customer starts to raise his voice, "Well, it's not about that Democrat bullshit that the war was bad, right? I mean, what's with movie makers and their desire to take down Republicans any chance they get? They're so full of it!" That, at least, was the gist of it.

I replied, "Well, the movie does take the viewpoint of the truth that there was no WMDs in Iraq and that the President and his staff all lied about the war." I was so mad I could have said much, much more but sometimes these people are just looking for an argument and are too stubborn to see another point of view. And what's with painting the Republicans as victims in this whole scenario? I was baffled. I don't think anyone in their right mind would say the Republicans are victims of anything. Same goes for the democrats, too. It's just idiotic to think that.

Any who, aside from the rant, I really found this movie to be quite good. It's worth a rental, if you can swallow the massive conspiracy involving the imaginary WMDs. Matt Damon is awesome because he's playing a man on a mission and damn anyone who gets in the way. The movie reminded me a lot of Body of Lies, another decent war movie, but Green Zone is much more simple and straightforward. There aren't that many twists in the plot and it has a very linear structure. The action, when it happens, is fast and satisfying and at the end, the movie gives you a good sense of the frustration and futility involved in the war.

Rating: Rent It!

182: The Lives of Others

The Lives of Others (R) - 2006 - Runtime: 137 minutes
Starring: Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck


I had always wanted to see this movie, but never found the time to check it out when it finally came out on DVD. The plot intrigued me and I'm always up for some Cold War-themed suspense movies. Luckily, this movie is as good as everyone says - the cast is perfect and the plot is full of suspense and romance. It's just a great movie that deserves more than one viewing.


The setting is 1984, East Berlin. An agent of the secret police, Wiesler, has been ordered to spy on Georg Dreyman, a playwright who is in full support of the communist state. But Wiesler discovers that his orders are not necessarily for security reasons and his bosses are abusing their power. It's a tangled web of power and greed and I got completely lost in it. The movie focuses on Wiesler's surveillance and it is through his perspective that the camera is focused, but we also get to see Dreyman's personal life and what he has lost in spite of his great success. Needless to say, there's a build up to the final chapter of the movie where Wiesler has to decide what to do - to follow orders or defy them in order to help a traitor to the state.


The acting, as I've said, is perfect! Ulrich Muhe plays his part wonderfully and it's too bad he passed away shortly after this movie because he is such a strong actor. I loved the rest of the cast, too and they play their parts so genuine. You connect with these people and their tragic lives. I've always found struggles of this nature (censorship, falsely accused, etc.) to be such a great source of suspense and lots of drama. To see how their lives unfold under such enormous pressure, it's astounding. And although I don't think the movie is based on any particular event, it's safe to assume that stuff like this happened all the time during the Cold War.  It's a movie that I think will live on long after the Cold War is but a distant memory (it almost is - I certainly don't remember it, much less anyone thirty or under) but the fear of global terror is still very much real.


I highly recommend this one. Don't let the foreign label persuade you, it's a great story and even though it's about two and a half hours long, it flew by because of the performances and the pacing of the wonderfully plotted film!


Rating: Own It!

182: The African Queen

The African Queen (PG) - 1951 - Runtime: 105 minutes
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn
Director: John Huston

This one took forever to come out on DVD, even though it's considered in the top 50 of AFI's Top 100! Who knew? But it finally came out a few months ago and I had to watch because I love adventures, especially in Africa or South America, they're so mysterious and foreign to me that I'm always quite fascinated. So it was with great pleasure that I sat down to watch The African Queen, hoping for a great adventure. Unfortunately, the movie is not so adventurous, more like a slow death march (quite literally) to the end.

The African Queen is a boat owned by Charlie Allnut, who  trades supplies up and down the river in Africa. He provides local provisions to a missionary run by the Sayers, a brother and sister team who have decided to stay in the village despite the oncoming threat of World War I. Of course, the village is invaded and subsequently burned and Samuel is struck with fever and dies. Rose Sayer enlists the help of Charlie and they embark down the river. But she has plans to attack the Germans rather than just escape. Of course, hijinks ensue and the river hides many dangers. Needless to say, the movie plods along and I really couldn't follow half of it. At one point they were going to make torpedoes and attack a gunboat, but they instead get shot upon by a German outpost along the river and miraculously survive. Other stuff happens, but it's too dull to recount here. And all along the way, the ruff and rugged Charlie begins to shed his cold exterior and falls for the prissy and uptight Rose. I just didn't get it - it all seemed too fragmented. Nothing really flowed or gelled to me. It seemed that they fell in love because that's what people do when they're left alone, fighting for their survival on a boat. Duh! I think the acting was great, just the fun and excitement was not there!

I really don't understand how this movie has earned such accolades. I think there's been better movies that have expanded upon this idea and have perfected it (Indiana Jones comes to mind, where the action is awesome and the romance is more tangible). I don't think this deserves a recommendation, even though the movie seems to have much love from all the critics!

Rating: Not Worth Paying For!

6.27.2010

182: The Shining

The Shining (R) - 1980 - Runtime: 142 minutes
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelly Duvall
Director: Stanley Kubrick

It's amazing how little I've seen of such iconic movies as this one. I guess this is one of the main reasons I struck up this project. I've had people shake their heads in bafflement when I tell them I haven't seen this particular movie. But now I have! And while not the greatest horror movie ever made, I did enjoy, even though it has its share of flaws and god damn it is a long movie!

Jack Nicholson stars as Jack Torrence, a writer who recently got hired to look after a hotel/resort in Colorado. The hotel shuts down during the winter months because of its remote location and inaccessibility. Of course, there's more sinister machinations at work that subsequently drives him bonkers enough to go after his family. I have to admit that the slow build up was quite maddening itself. I appreciate the setting up of tensions and slow scares, but I just wanted to get to the insane parts because that's where the fun really is. And it doesn't disappoint! Nicholson is perfect as a maniac, but he's so iconic in this role that it's hard to disattach the movie star from the character. I really don't see Jack Torrence, but just Nicholson himself. It's still very much a powerful performance, but his celebrity status overshadows this role after so many years.

I'm also beginning to appreciate Kubrick as a filmmaker. I truly loved how this movie was shot. From the start of the movie with those beautiful tracking shots alongside the mountains where a minuscule car is seen winding around on the road to the vast openness of the hotel at the beginning and to the last scenes in the claustrophobic hedge maze. One can write a lengthy essay on the visuals in this movie - they're quite powerful and probably the best thing about it. I really loved how Kubrick thought of the space in the movie and the simple geometry of the set. There's a lot of ninety degree angles and corners in the movie. I don't exactly know what it might all mean, but it's a movie worth seeing over again to think about. The tracking shots behind the kid on his tricycle are simple awesome and I loved those parts. There's a lot of tracking shots, in fact, as you follow him around the maze, too.

Aside from Nicholson, Duvall holds her own, although she doesn't quite have the material to really perform. She's simply the straight foil to Jack. But she delivers her own sense of dread quite well, especially as she's climbing backwards up the stairs away from Jack. It's a funny and scary scene all at the same time. I loved it.

My main complaint about the movie, (and with most Stephen King movies and books, really) is that there's never a really solid explanation of how and why things happen. I can get behind supernatural elements at play, but it seemed like in this story particularly that it's too ambiguous at the end to really understand what went wrong. Is it the hotel itself? Or the evil that seems to linger on from the past? Is Jack a reincarnation of a lost soul? These questions never really get answered and I don't mind that, but it's just that there's so many questions, especially because the movie tries to explain a little bit at the end, but it ended up adding more questions than answering them. It was a bit frustrating to have all these ideas in my head floating around, but I wouldn't say I hated the movie for it.

I really would love to see this movie again, but the running time is so long, so it's hard to put yourself in the mood to watch this one. I did really like this one and I think it's something that's worth watching a few times!

Rating: Rent It!

182: Happy Feet

Happy Feet (PG) - 2006 - Runtime: 108 minutes
Voiced by: Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Brittany Murphy, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman
Director: George Miller, Warren Coleman


I was suggested this movie by one of my old co-workers who absolutely thought this was a must see. I can unequivocally state that this is by far a must avoid. I understand that penguins are cute and dancing penguins are even cuter. But this movie is just plain awful! I can't imagine torturing my eyeballs and ears again if I ever come across this movie again!

The movie starts out insanely weird - that the great mother of the universe has a song to sing and the penguins need to sing their love song or some such nonsense. It's all just an excuse to put in as much music as possible. I don't mind that - I think music and movies go hand in hand, but this movie seemed to reach levels of exploitation of the music. There's at least a new song every five minutes and they start a new one before the last one is even finished. But I digress! Mumble is born with a defect: he can't sing. And that's important in the penguin world because the only way you can get a soul mate is by singing. It's just how it is, so deal, Mumbles! And so Mumbles has to find out about living your way is the best way and in the mean time, he has to save his village from starvation! The plot itself reaches insanity levels when Mumbles gets captured by humans. I was at a loss for words as to why the movie went where it did, but you can't have a movie without conflict and apparently Mumble's own struggles weren't enough.

It's a terrible movie and one that I can't believe people love. The main plot boils down to sex. I mean the first lyrics of the movie open up like this: "You don't have to be beautiful, to turn me on. I just need your body, baby, from dusk 'til dawn. You don't need experience, to turn me on. You just leave it all up to me..." Seriously! I feel like a prude by taking a stand against these lyrics, but it seriously is all about sex. And the movie keeps hammering this theme throughout. I guess I wouldn't have minded if the movie had been fun and entertaining, but it's just not exciting or great. Even the music that they do use is pretty lame - there's a few solid numbers (I Wish), but nothing too exciting or memorable.

The message of the movie is nice and all - staying true to one's self - but it just seems such a half-assed attempt to provide the kids with a lesson. I say if you have to see penguins, you might be better off watching them surf in the movie Surf's Up. Or March of the Penguins, that's a good one. But dear god, stay away from this one, it's toxic!





Rating: Avoid Like the Plague!

182: The Book of Eli

The Book of Eli (R) - 2010 - Runtime: 118 minutes
Starring: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis
Director: Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes

I had heard good things about this movie and I am a sucker for these kind of movies, as evidenced by my other reviews. But after a co-worker of mine absolutely hated this movie, I was more hesitant to check it out. Thankfully, I gave it a shot and this was a wonderfully executed, great sci-fi action movie. It's a great set up and the action is swift and satisfying.

Washington plays a man on a mission from God: to deliver a bible, one of the only of its kind in existence after the world went to hell due to wars, etc. to the west. The movie doesn't delve too much into what happened, which is a good thing. Of course, the bible is seen by Gary Oldman, the evil dude who controls a small town, who thinks he can control more and more people if he has the Word of God by his side. It's a bit heavy handed with all the religious allegories and motifs, but it really isn't distracting to what's really important: the action. I have to say the action here is shot brilliantly and really is fun. There's some slow motion effects, but it's not unrelenting and awful. In fact, after seeing the whole movie, it all kind of fits together. I don't want to spoil anything, but I thought the ending was perfect and fitting for the story they were telling. It's very satisfying and worth a second viewing to catch all the subtext.

It's a great sci-fi movie and if you love post-apocalyptic-themed movies, you cannot go wrong with this one!

Rating: Rent It!

6.26.2010

182: The Wolfman

The Wolfman (R) - 2010 - Runtime: 103 minutes
Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt
Director: Joe Johnston

I really was super psyched to catch this movie because I love movies like this - period pieces that deal with the supernatural (Sleepy Hollow, Sherlock Holmes, etc.). They're just entertaining and The Wolfman is no exception. It's a fun movie and I think I was won over because I didn't expect this to be so good. But it was!

Del Toro plays Lawrence Talbot an actor who reluctantly comes back to London from America after hearing news about his brother's death. But his death isn't normal - there's a beast on the prowl who seems to be taking out all their aggression on the local townsfolk. Talbot suspects something afoul and he eventually encounters the werewolf himself, getting bitten in the process. There's a big reveal that's supposedly a twist but you see this coming from the beginning of the movie. So it's really not about the plot, but the relationships in the movie and the HOLY HELL DECAPITATION! I guess I should have realized this before I popped in the movie but it's rated R. And there's a good reason for that - the violence is utterly astounding and awesome! I guess it took me by surprise because I was expecting a mild PG-13 level of violence, but this movie went to the next level in my opinion and for the better.

Del Toro obviously was meant all his life to play this role and he does it well. Anthony Hopkins is suitable, but he lays on such a thick air of entitlement and serious acting that it ends up being a bit silly. Emily Blunt is okay, but she's more just hey we need a chick in this movie to please the ladies that will be forcibly dragged to go see this! But despite that, I really liked the father-son relationship that evolves throughout the movie and the weird, pseudo-romantic entanglement Del Toro has with Blunt is not great, but sufficient. Like I said, the movie is fun and well worth a rental!

Rating: Rent It!

182: Tremors

Tremors (PG-13) - 1990 - Runtime: 96 minutes
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter
Director: Ron Underwood

Ahh, Kevin Bacon, you seem to never disappoint. Tremors is a fantastically awful B-movie. It's not a bad movie, but it's not great - it holds its head up high and knows that it's just full of cheese and zaniness. I mean, giant man-eating worms attacking small town America? How more 50s-centric sci-fi referencing can you get?

Bacon Bacon's it up in this one, along with Fred Ward as they play two country boys looking to get outta dodge while they can. But of course an out of towner hottie (well, hot by B-movie and 80s standards) college girl has mess things up by discovering giant ass worms. So Bacon and Ward to the rescue to help the rest of the town's population survive and fight back! The plot's barely important in this one - it's all about those giant worms and the hell they unleash. They're pretty fantastic, but they're blind, hence they only hunt through sound. After what seems like a long time in discovering these creatures (it's like half an hour before they really start to attack!), they decide to get on the rooftops to avoid the ground. The movie's barely scary and not really suspenseful at all. And I think that's why I really can't recommend this one - it's just a little too dull and there's not enough action to keep this thing chugging along at a decent pace!

The best part about this movie is the married couple who have been preparing for the apocolypse since they exchanged vows. That's the best part of the movie is when they're trapped in the basement trying to fend a worm off. I just wish the rest of the movie was like this. Except there's too much ho-humming and "Shucks, what do we do now?" dialogging. More action, please!!

So as much as I regret this rating, I feel like I'd being doing a disservice if I recommended this one. As much cheese and cornball this movie is, it's just not a great movie!

Rating: Not Worth Paying For!

6.25.2010

182: Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland (PG) - 2010 - Runtime: 108 minutes
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover
Director: Tim Burton

When I first heard about this movie, I was intrigued. The more I heard, too, the more I wanted to see it. It wasn't just a re-imagining of the old tale, but something built upon the first book. I found the idea of Alice going back to Wonderland a more refreshing take and I thought Burton would make it magical (I know, corny, right? What can I say, he's a great director!). But once it came out and the mixed reaction it received I was more hesitant and it wasn't only until it came out a few weeks ago that I finally sat down to watch. Boy, am I glad I did not pay money to see this stinker!

Alice in Wonderland has been so ingrained into our pop culture that it would be hard to find somebody who doesn't know the story. And the new movie has that figured out, at least. Alice is all grown up and finds herself at a crossroads in her life - she is about to be forced to marry a dimwitted douche bag and she's all but an outcast among her peers. Fortunately, she wanders off through the forest and falls into Wonderland where things have gone horribly wrong. This is the set up for what Burton has in store. But it's a rather dull story and it doesn't get going until half an hour in and you're thinking the whole time, haven't I seen this movie before? The story gets a bit better after that, but it's too late. I had already lost interest and was just waiting the movie out. It's like the movie didn't have a purpose. I feel like the movie was more to show off its visuals and the craziness of Tim Burton, rather than tell a proper story. Johnny Depp dials it up as the Mad Hatter, but I would have rather seen a more demented and darker sadistic Hatter that the earlier books and movies only hinted at. Wonderland should be a scary place for an eighteen-year-old girl, but this movie treats it like some theme park.

Sigh. And the movie just rolls along not actually caring to stop and take a breath. There's just this inevitable climactic battle scene that it wants to get to at the end and damn if anything is going to be interesting along the way. The acting is okay, but I felt the movie was too big for its own good. That's to say, I only saw Helena Bonham Carter, not the Red Queen. Johnny Depp was his usual self and like one of my co-workers has said, I just wish him and Burton would have sex already (they're teaming up again for another movie called Dark Shadows, sheesh!).

So I would most definitely avoid this movie. It might be a dull distraction, though on a very dull day indeed, but you can find much better entertainment than this movie. In fact, I think this will be Tim Burton's least memorable movie. I'm sure in five to ten years most people will forget about this one. It's DOA in my book.

Rating: Not Worth Paying For!

182: City of God

City of God (R) - 2002 - Runtime: 130 minutes
Starring: Alexandre Rodrigues, Douglas Silva, Leandro Firmino, Phellipe Haagensen
Director: Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund




I've always been told this was a great movie and I can't understand why I never picked this one up because not only is it a great movie, but it's one of the best foreign movies I've ever seen. In fact, I'd compare it closely to The Godfather. And while I like The Godfather, I love City of God. It's just such a good rags-to-riches tale about life in the street in South America and the cast of characters is awesome.

The story follows Buscapé, a teen living in the ghetto of Rio de Janeiro who aspires to be a great photographer. His life intersects with several others, pretty much all gang members who rise and fall over and over again. It's such a big tale and the cast is so large that it's hard to go into details about everything. Suffice to say, it's epic but has enough heart and character to make you feel like you're a part of Buscapé's life. He does narrate most of the movie and it works well because without it, you would get lost. But I never found myself checking Wikipedia to find out information about the story - it flows really well and even though it's over two hours, I was enthralled during the whole movie. I was captivated by the poverty that Buscapé came from and how he managed to pull himself out of the ghetto.

Like I said earlier, it's a great tale and the acting is phenomenal for pretty much a cast of new actors. Even the kid actors are great at portraying street kids who have no sense as to what's right and wrong. Like all good epic movies of the sort, there's some tragic moments that will make you tear up, while the triumphant scenes are just as moving. To say I loved this movie is an understatement. I'd like to see what the sequel has in store for these characters, but I'm sure it won't top this one, because what can?

Rating: Own It!

182: The Road

The Road (R) - 2009 - Runtime: 111 minutes
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Robert Duvall, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce
Director: John Hillcoat

I absolutely loved the book this movie was based on. I'm a sucker for any movie dealing with post-apocalyptic themes (Children of Men, 12 Monkeys are among my favorite movies!). And Cormac McCarthy's book is strangely intoxicating. I read it in one sit through when I picked it up at the library. It's a short read and I recommend it to anyone who loves sci-fi. Suffice to say, The Road had a lot of high expectations to live up to. And it delivers - it's got the desolate tone the book has and I found myself just as riveted to it as I did that one night I read through the book.

The plot is simple - something has happened to the world where it's now desolate and abandoned. Only gangs survive and here we find a man and his son travelling through the country to find safety? Shelter? We don't know and it's pretty apparent that they don't know either. They have no names but  the movie flashes back to better times before the boy was born. It's here we get a sense of purpose for the dad - he will do anything to protect his only son. It's a great story - and the movie is pretty faithful to the book. What I got from the book (and the movie) was the utter sense of dread. You just don't know how long these two can last. It's a credit to the author and the director to create that sense of foreboding.

The acting is pretty solid and at times the kid can get a little bit annoying. He's a bit too whiny and high pitched compared to how I read him in the book, but that's a minor gripe into what's really a good movie. If you have any interest in the subject, read the book first by all means (it's only 200 pages or so and so thoroughly engrossing that it's easy to finish as soon as you start) and then watch the movie. It's too bad that this got shoved to the wayside because I think it's a great story and a solid movie all around!

Rating: Rent It!

182: The Bicycle Thief

The Bicycle Thief (PG) - 1948 - 93 minutes
Starring: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola
Director: Vittorio De Sica

The Bicycle Thief is considered one of the greatest movies of all time. I don't think I could argue with that - but I don't necessarily agree with it either. It's a great movie, no doubt, but I feel like its reputation precedes it with modern critics more than the actual movie. And although the movie sounds quite dull, I was caught up in the whole story and enjoyed every minute.

Antonio Ricci is struggling to find a job in a post-WWII Italy. He finally gets some luck in finding a job putting up movie posters, but only if he has a bike. Unfortunately, he just sold his bike to a pawn shop and has to trade his family's bed sheets in order to get it back. Of course, early on in the job, some man snatches his bike up and the movie follows Antonio and his son, Bruno around Italy, trying to find their bike. It's quite a depressing tale - but the images and scenes evoked throughout are powerful and they never really let go. And although the movie seems to be nothing but a series of let downs, there's still some hope, if small at all. Antonio still has his family and friends and him and his son do enjoy a nice meal. It's these quiet moments that I saw this small bit of hope and I thought to myself, I really do feel for these characters. At that point I realized how much this movie got to me.

I can understand why some would call this movie the greatest - its themes of struggling to get by and loneliness in the city are still relevant today as they were in a post-war Italy. No doubt it's a wonderful movie that would make even the toughest tear up just a little, it still isn't my personal favorite - I still like to laugh and be entertained, and The Bicycle Thief is more of a quiet, slow movie that makes you sit and contemplate after the final credit has rolled through.

Rating: Rent It!

182: All About Eve

All About Eve (PG) - 1950 - Runtime: 138 minutes
Starring: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Marilyn Monroe
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

I really wanted to check this one out after I heard that this picture beat out Sunset Blvd., a movie that deals with very similar topics. I really loved that movie and I thought this one would be good, if not better. Well, I was right for the most part. I'm still debating as to which one is the better movie, but All About Eve is a fantastic movie about Hollywood and fame and the desperate road some take to get there.

During an award ceremony for the theater, Margo Channing (Bette Davis) narrates most bitterly about the event's biggest winner: Eve Harrington. Thus, a flashback occurs a year before that shows us how we got to that point. Eve starts out as a simple, inspired, but ambitious fan of Margo and becomes her new assistant. But there's more to her desires than just playing secretary to the most beloved stage actress of her time and it soon becomes apparent to Margo that Eve plans to upstage her. It's a great story about a rising and fading star and the turmoil it brings about. Bette Davis is pitch perfect as Margo and her sardonic attitude towards Eve is hilarious and somewhat tragic. Anne Baxter does well - she's every bit as deceiving throughout. The movie deserves all the accolades and it's a great story that has such a perfect ending that I won't spoil here.

It's a great movie and worth checking out. I don't really love movies about this subject, but when they're done well, they really are perfect. And All About Eve is no exception!

Rating: Rent It!

6.24.2010

182: They Live

They Live (R) - 1988 - Runtime: 98 minutes
Starring: Roddy Piper, Keith David
Director: John Carpenter

Holy cow this movie was pretty fantastic! I was recommended this by one of my old co-workers. It's very much a B-movie, but it has a lot of heart and isn't afraid to lay on the cheese. I thought I would end up rolling my eyes, but I was laughing all along and enjoying Carpenter's diatribe on censorship, conformity and consumerism.

Roddy Piper (yes "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, the wrestler!) plays George Nada, a down on his luck drifter who travels to LA to look for some work. Luckily, he meets Frank Armitage (played by the always reliable Keith David. Seriously, if you need a villain? Keith David's got it. If you need somebody for a comedy? You got it. Veteran video game voice over man? Oh, David's got it. This man is one of the hardest working actors in Hollywood. He has 11 movies in production right now! Maggie said he's the obscure Samuel L. Jackson. Very apt). But Nada starts to wonder about what's happening around him - the police seem to break up any group activity and he finally figures out what's happening when he stumbles upon a pair of sunglasses that reveal the truth. Most of the elite, upper class white citizens are really aliens who are controlling every single facet of human life. It's all done through subliminal advertising and every single product has some sort of OBEY message. This is all done to great effect - when he puts on the sunglasses, the movie turns to black and white and every thing is so sterile and plain with simple messages like "Marry and Reproduce" and money says "This is Your God." And of course the aliens look as hideous as they do on the poster.

Of course this an action B-movie starring a wrestler, so Nada takes it upon himself to right what is wrong the only way he can: with his fists. There is a somewhat unintentionally hilarious fight scene where Piper fights Keith David in order so he can force the glasses on him. It's like a ten minute fight scene, no joke! They keep falling down and then getting up - it's exactly like a wrestling match, but the end result is the dude has to put the glasses on. It's great! That one scene sums up the rest of the movie - it does take itself seriously when it comes to the message of consumerism and censorship, but it's all portrayed by this everyman drifter who only knows how to fight. I have to say, Carpenter mixes it up pretty well for a very entertaining movie. It does start out awful slow - it's takes about a half hour before Nada realizes what's happening around him. But it's a minor quibble to an otherwise great sci-fi B-movie!

Rating: Rent It!

6.23.2010

182: Edge of Darkness

Edge of Darkness (R) - 2010 - Runtime: 117 minutes
Starring: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone
Director: Martin Campbell

When I first saw the trailer I scoffed. "Is this Mel Gibson's version of Taken? This will be a fun trainwreck, then!" But the more I saw of it, the more I really did want to see it and when it got here on DVD, I couldn't resist checking it out. To my disappointment this was a trainwreck of a movie and fairly disappointing. I've talked to quite a few people who loved it and they say it's a thinker of an action/suspense movie. But I have to disagree: the movie is dead in the eyes and seems to wander around aimlessly, looking for some signs of life.

Mel Gibson plays Thomas Craven who is picking up his daughter for the holidays. Not soon after, as she's vomiting up blood and rushing out the door to the hospital, she's brutally shot and killed by what seems to be a random burglar. This was probably the coolest part of the movie - I think his daughter gets shot with a sawed-off shotgun and it's a gruesome as you think it is. It's great and I thought, hell yeah, let's get this mother started! But no! God no! There's lots of meandering around the next day by Thomas, who seems to be at a loss at what to do. Slowly, and very slowly, he starts to find clues as to who murdered his daughter. Surprise! It has to do with her shady work at some big corporate fat cat place that has ties to the government. It's really not a complicated plot - you pretty much figure out what's going on half way through. But the problem is: there's this other guy (Ray Winstone) who's been hired by the government and/or the big wig corporation to stop Craven from finding out the truth. But he doesn't, instead he kind of helps him along the way. What the hell is that all about? I don't know because this guy has no background, he just comes and goes as he pleases in this movie.

And that's the big deal: there's just not enough character in this movie. I just didn't see Thomas Craven as a man hell-bent on getting revenge, even at the end when he's tying up loose ends with his gun. And I would have liked a little more plot twists - it was all too easy and nicely wrapped up in the end to justify a whole movie with all of these supposedly conspiracy-laden big wigs (or fat cats, I'm still deciding). And Gibson was laying that god-awful Boston accent on pretty thick, too. Yeah, this movie takes place in Boston. And with most movies that take place around this area, it's full of itself. I hate that - they reference all of these places as if everyone in the world knows about Cambridge and Somerville and Brockton (why do I know the names of these cities? I looked it up on Wikipedia specifically for this article). It's too self-indulgent for me and I was getting more and more frustrated as Craven plodded along, contemplating what he should do next and supposedly mourning his daughter at the same time. I just didn't buy any of what this movie was selling.

So please skip this one for the love of all that is holy and good! At least with Taken there was a fantastic pace and you really had the sense of revenge on Neeson's mind. It may not have been as logical, but it was way more fun than this dull movie.

Rating: Avoid Like the Plague!

182: Footloose

Footloose (PG) - 1984 - Runtime: 107 minutes
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, Dianne Wiest, John Lithgow, Sarah Jessica Parker
Director: Herbert Ross

Another iconic movie that's more known for its parodies and epic dance foolishness, Footloose is most certainly a relic of its time. Although what do I know? They are remaking this movie that seems to have a curse finding the next Kevin Bacon (Zac Efron and Chace Crawford both have backed out, but it's still moving forward!). And although the movie is quite enjoyable, I think I had more fun watching this with Maggie and gently poking fun at the absurdity of it all. We'll see what comes of the new movie, but I just can't possibly imagine audiences believing a whole town has banned dancing. But if The Karate Kid can still kick butt, why can't another beloved 80s movie?

For those that haven't heard the ridiculous, Ren McCormack has moved from big time Chicago to a small, western town. There he finds out that the town has banned dancing. You see, the town suffered a tragic accident where some local teens partied too hard and wound up being dead. It's the devil's music, of course, that's the real culprit - so music and dancing are both banned so that the kids can be safe. At this point, we're already treading on thin ice. But what makes this movie so over the top is Bacon's dancing acrobatics. There's not just one or two, but several long dance numbers where Bacon and crew get to show off all of their whiteness by gyrating around like they're in the Nutcracker on speed. It's all very embarrassing to watch, so I can only imagine what the participants must have felt like. The movie plays one note throughout and it's all about expression and censorship - can the feeble-minded adults come to terms with their own impotence regarding dancing (because that's really the case - they're just jealous!) and can Ren and his band of renegade Hep Cats break free from their shackles of suppression and bust a nut at the prom? Well, I won't spoil anything, but shit does go down, along with people's groove things.

Obviously I think this movie isn't to be taken so seriously - it's more about having fun and showing off Kevin Bacon's dance moves. In fact, it's so over the top there's a game of chicken played with tractors. The suspense is so killer in that scene, too - I can't imagine seeing your life flash before your eyes in those thirty minutes you have before deciding whether to veer off course and be a chicken or finish the job. Like I said earlier, I just don't know how they're going to sell a new Footloose to modern audiences. Maybe it will involve Twitter or Facebook. "A town that's banned social networking - kids have to resort to talking to each other in the hallways. It's up to Ren McCormack and his new friends to find a way to add more trees to their Farm in Farmville." I think I'm on to something here...

Rating: Rent It! (It's so bad it's good!)

182: Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 (PG-13) - 2010 - Runtime: 124 minutes
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell
Director: Jon Favreau

No movie can withstand the amount of hype that Iron Man 2 had surrounding it. That's probably why there's so much disappointment with this movie. Certainly Favreau and company had a lot to live up to - Iron Man was a great movie (maybe not the greatest superhero movie, but most definitely in the Top 10). But I think after all is said and done, the best parts of this movie outshine some of the more mediocre parts. In fact, I think when The Avengers comes out and whatever the hell else Marvel is doing with their characters, I think Iron Man 2 will be fun to watch as it signals the start of a massive Marvel-dictated mega-universe encompassing several movies.

I may be reaching a bit on that last statement, but this is one of the many reasons I love watching this movie. There is a lot going on, but I never found myself scratching my head. I don't think I need to reiterate the plot, it's pretty much Iron Man to the rescue as he battles his own decaying body and Russian counterpart. Some of the best parts of the movie were not even main plot points. In fact, seeing Samuel L. Jackson (whom I've had enough of already, but he gets a pass this time around) hint around at what's in store for other Marvel franchises only has me hooked into being first in line for their next movie. Some may argue that it's cheap advertising or what have you, but I think it's smart and I'm super excited. Another part of the movie I liked? Sam Rockwell. I'll admit I have a thing for this guy - he's yet to disappoint me in a movie and I just thought his over the top portrayal of an impotent rival of Tony Stark was perfect. He never got too annoying and I can't wait to see what they do with his character in a future movie. Mickey Rourke was wonderful, too but sometimes I didn't think he was as menacing as he could be. But his character is super cool and thought all of the action scenes were just plain awesome. As, of course, the dialogue. Which only gets better because Downey has this character nailed down. He's so good and Cheadle actually plays a better Rhodes than Terrence Howard.

The movie is a little bit louder and more raucous than the first, but generally, there's not much difference between the two. Which is why I think most people thought it would be way bigger and more badass than the first. But it's not. Most everyone has probably seen it, but I think it's definitely worth a second or third viewing!

Rating: See It!

182: The Exorcist

The Exorcist (PG) - 1975 - Runtime: 132 minutes
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair
Director: William Friedkin

Ah, The Exorcist. Considered by many to be the best horror movie ever, I just had to see it. Most of the movie's famous scenes have been parodied over and over to such an extent that I feel like I know the movie quite well. But there's a lot more to this fantastically plotted and acted thriller other than Linda Blair's portrayal of demonic possession.

The movie's plot centers on an actress and her daughter. After some disturbing changes, Chris starts to realize that her daughter, Regan, must need some form of divine intervention, because nothing else will do. Enter Father Karras, a man struggling to come to terms with his mother's death and battling his own doubts about his faith. He's there to help perform an exorcism, along with Father Merrin (played by the always awesome Max von Sydow) on Regan to rid her of her demon. The movie builds upon the tension until the final scenes of the exorcism itself. This is the one flaw I found in the movie and I did find myself straying a bit. The movie slowly builds up the tension, and I mean slowly. But what kept it interesting was the absolute obscenity of Regan and her possession. There's some crazy shit happening in this movie and every time something crazy happened, I was immediately hooked back in. But that exorcism sure took forever to get there (the movie's over two hours long!).

Like I said earlier, the movie's well acted and I bought every minute of Jason Miller's (who?) performance as the doubtful priest. The movie ends in such a profound way that it stayed with me long after I was done watching it. I thought Blair was truly unique and even though some of her character was not all Blair's acting, I found it nevertheless chilling.

As for a horror movie? I don't know - it's intense and scary in a more subtle way. There's no "gotcha!" moments in the movie - rather it's all about playing on people's fears with demons and religion. And I think that's why it hits home with most people - this movie doesn't seem too far out of the ordinary and that's scary to some. And while I did find myself thinking about this movie afterwards, it wasn't dreadful. I did not have awful nightmares like I did when I watched Nightmare on Elm Street when I was a kid (that still takes top honors to me as the scariest movie I've ever seen). But that doesn't stop me from recommending this one - it's a great movie and fun to watch. It will get under your skin and perhaps even scare the hell out of you and that's probably the best compliment you can give to this kind of movie!

Rating: Rent It!

6.21.2010

182: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (R) - 1974 - Runtime: 83 minutes
Starring: Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hansen
Director: Tobe Hooper

This movie still gives me chills thinking about it. I actually was hesitant to watch this knowing full well that it might seep into my brain and stay there until I have awful nightmares. But I boldly stepped up and decided to watch this, albeit on a sunny afternoon before I went to work so that I could be distracted afterwards. To my surprise, this was one of the scariest, deeply scarring horror movies that I've seen in a long time.

Don't be fooled by the posters, this movie is not based on any real events. That doesn't detract from the horror that ensues, but makes me feel at little bit better about the human race. Because the movie depicts a whole family dedicated to serial killing and cannibalism. The story is simple, as most horror stories go: a bunch of students in Texas decide to tour some old family haunts. They stumble upon an abandoned house and farmland that one of the students recalls as his family's homestead. Of course, it's not all abandoned, as a family of killers lives there, making sure that any unwanted trespassers get a decidedly gruesome end. I really am at a loss for words at how to describe the utter cover-your-eyes moments in this movie. It's a pretty brutal movie - it's not shy about showing the gore and killing. The main chainsaw-wielding maniac is shocking in his own right - wearing what seems to be a mask made of human skin. But he pales to the true horror of the rest of the family. They're all demented, but have created a pretty solid foundation for what they do, even if it's truly horrific.

While not exactly a great movie, it delivers the scares. There's a few minor quibbles, like the night chase scene where Leatherface is chasing down the lone survivor of the group (the beautiful, but clumsy blonde, who else?). It's just a long scene and is more confusing than tense, because I couldn't exactly tell where they were, nor how far apart they were from each other. But despite that, the movie is short and gets right to the point after a very, very slow start.

I've only watched a few modern horror films and nothing compares to this one. It's just so awful that you have to look away some times. It's not really gory, but the terror kind of seeps out of the TV and into your bones. It truly is bone-chilling and I was surprised by this. If you're at all in the mood for something truly scary, you cannot go wrong watching this one. Especially if you pop this in late at night with all the lights down low. I'm still terrified of that family, hopefully I can get to bed tonight.

Rating: Rent It!

182: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (PG-13) - 2010 - Runtime: 116 minutes
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley
Director: Mike Newell

Hollywood and video games don't necessarily mix and to my knowledge, there has not been a really good movie that's based on video games (I wouldn't consider Resident Evil good. Decent, but not good). Many people have tried, but there seems to be a curse and the notorious director Uwe Boll  has built his reputation off of bad movie adaptations, only adding to this legend. I don't think the curse has been lifted, but Prince of Persia does a very good job at being a movie that invokes the spirit of the video game, rather than adapting it directly.

Gyllenhaal, despite being extremely white, plays Destan, an orphan in Persia who has a lot of street smarts. One day after being chased by some royal guards, the king takes notice of his skills and adopts him as one of his own. Fast forward twenty some years and the kingdom of Persia is about to invade an innocent city that holds an ancient secret - the sands of time, a device that can replay the past. There is a lot going on in the movie, but it's not too hard to follow. There's never a point where I was totally confused as to what's going on. It moves at a brisk pace and there's never a dull moment. I was completely into the world they created. Which is funny, because I was totally expecting this movie to be dead in the eyes and just a bunch of fancy effects.

The movie has a lot of heart, though and Gyllenhaal is charismatic as the lead. Arterton, whom I'm already in love with, plays the princess well, too. Kingsley as the bad guy is good, although he seems kind of shoved to the side as a character. Alfred Molina is the comic relief and fortunately, he's funny for the most part, but more importantly, not annoying like those two "urban" Autobots in the second Transformers movie, or the extremely annoying roommate. And everything just works in the movie, from the action to the reversal of time, to the badassness of the assassins. It's too bad it never really took off at the theaters because I'm clamoring for more of this world. I think Newell (who directed one of the Harry Potter movies) has done a fantastic job of creating this supernatural world.

While I wouldn't say it's an earth-shattering event movie of the summer, it's quite good and delivers the promise of what all good summer action movies have: fun entertainment. I love the Prince of Persia video games and by far, this is the best video game movie I've seen.

Rating: See It!

6.20.2010

182: Nine

Nine (PG-13) - 2009 - Runtime: 118 minutes
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penélope Cruz, Kate Hudson, Marion Cotillard, Judi Dench
Director: Rob Marshall

Despite my misgivings about musicals, I kind of wanted to see this. It has quite the cast and Rob Marshall directed Chicago, which I enjoyed and the music seemed pretty good. Well, this movie is not great, but I wouldn't say I'd like my two hours back, either. There's some great set pieces and musical numbers that seem to overshadow the rest of the movie.

Daniel Day-Lewis plays Contini, a great Italian director in the 1960s who is having a dry spell in his creativity. He's poised to make an ambitious movie about Italy and I couldn't help but think of Baz Luhrmann and his financial bomb that was Australia (a movie which I actually loved). And it's at this juncture he consults all the women in his life to find support: his wife, his mistress, his dead mother, his agent, a infatuated reporter and his first lover. Contini is nothing but a selfish, egotistical womanizer for the most part and that's pretty much all I got out of the movie. There's really nothing important about the characters - I really didn't feel for Contini or his struggle. The movie is more about the music and the lavish designs and costumes. No doubt they're great, but without any substance behind them, they're just lavish scenes.

The cast was great and I thought the movie had potential, but it's just one big spectacle without any emphasis on character. As I watched I was just waiting for the next musical number to happen to see if I would like it. And for the most part, I like the music and dance numbers. But that's not enough for me to recommend this one.

Rating: Not Worth Paying For!

182: Leap Year

Leap Year (PG) - 2010 - Runtime: 100 minutes
Starring: Amy Adams, Matthew Goode
Director: Anand Tucker

I'll admit this didn't look like a bad movie. It seemed like a good premise for a romantic comedy, but could it deliver? And I love Amy Adams - she's adorable in most everything and talented, too. As for Matthew Goode? Oh, you never heard of him? Well, he's quite the versatile actor, he's been in several movies (Match Point, Watchmen, A Single Man, and a favorite hidden gem of mine, The Lookout). Unfortunately, the movie never seems to find any steady ground to get some laughs or cheers - it's quite a mess and all over the place.

Adams plays Anna, a women who has it all - the perfect boyfriend, a great job, etc. etc. Of course, she can't be just a girlfriend forever and her dim-witted, but successful, boyfriend hasn't gotten the clue to marry her. So, being the gung-ho person she is, she takes her father's little anecdote of a story and puts it in practice - she can propose to her boyfriend only on Leap Day, in Ireland. And only then apparently. What this movie seems to avoid is the nagging question of why she just doesn't sit him down and talk about marriage. Any sane person would have done this. But of course, that would ruin the movie. And of course, her trip to Ireland is met with all kinds of disasters, save one man named Declan. Of course, they're destined and the movie seems so long to actually get to that point.

It's a pretty dull movie that I can't even recall what happened in it. Like I said, there's not a whole lot to think about - the movie plods along and the scenes where there's supposed to be a spark are anything but fun or at least watchable. I wouldn't say there wasn't any chemistry between the actors, but it seems that the story was trying to hard to push them together, rather than letting it unfold. The movie was too high concept - a plot conjured up in business meetings without one thought as to how to make it a good movie. If you're looking for a romantic comedy, look elsewhere - this one is DOA.

Rating: Avoid Like the Plague!

182: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (PG) - 1969 - Runtime: 110 minutes
Starring: Paul Newman, Robert Redford
Director: George Roy Hill

I really didn't have too many expectations going into this movie. It's one of those classics that I think doesn't get talked about that much - it's beloved, but maybe not so much as other movies around this time (like Bonnie and Clyde). So it really was a treat to watch Newman and Redford play a couple of western legends whose reputation was more notorious than themselves. The movie is more about the characters rather than their misdeeds. It's a fun movie, no doubt, and I enjoyed almost every minute of it.

Butch Cassidy and Sundance are the leaders of the Hole in the Wall gang and have made a pretty successful living robbing banks and trains. But things change when the law starts to learn of their tricks. After being ruthlessly followed by a a few lawmen, they decide to try their luck in Bolivia. They find lots of success there as well after a few bungled attempts and it soon seems that this is their destined place. But not everything is all sunshine and lollipops, as their reputation seems to catch up with them. I have to say the movie is just fun. It's pure entertainment - Cassidy and Sundance aren't exactly an odd couple, but they're perfect foils for each other. They don't seem to know what they're doing half the time - improvisation and luck are key components to their robberies. It's both funny and entertaining - I really loved Redford as the Sundance Kid. He's got a calm demeanor and cool exterior whereas Newman is the same - but he seems to play it too cool and shallow.

As for the love interest in the movie, it pales in comparison to the main focus of the movie. I really didn't quite get why she followed them around - they were nothing but trouble for her and it seemed like Cassidy didn't quite care whether she was around or not. The only good scene she had was that now famous bike riding scene where "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" plays throughout. Other than that, it was a minor distraction that didn't seem to fit in the movie.

It's a good western but I really wouldn't call it one. It's more a gangster/crime movie about two casual criminals who are more innocent than they appear. It's a fun ride and there's some great scenes, especially the end where they find themselves in an impossible situation. It's a fitting end, too and one that solidifies their legendary status. If you haven't yet seen it - rent it now!

Rating: Rent It!

6.17.2010

182: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (PG) - 1964 - Runtime: 94 minutes
Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott
Director: Stanley Kubrick

I've always wanted to watch this movie mainly because I've only heard great things about it and how funny it is. I was really excited when I got my hands on it and finally sat down to watch it. It certainly lived up to the enormous amount of hype that I've been hearing. It's nothing short of a classic and certainly a movie that's worth watching over and over again.

The movie is a complete satire and staged as a "what if?" scenario in which the U.S. has to figure out a way to stop imminent disaster due to a rogue commander who has seen to it himself to launch a nuclear attack on Russia. It's a great set up for Cold War anxieties to be doused with a great deal of humor and somewhat of a sobering critique of superpowers who hold the key to destroying the world. The movie begins as General Jack D. Ripper becomes paranoid that the Ruskies have contaminated the water supply and orders a lockdown at his base and calls for nuclear retaliation. Bombers are sent out and in the ensuing ninety minutes the President (played so straight and pitch perfect by Sellers) and his counsel have to stop the planes from dropping their payload. The movie is absolutely hilarious. There are moments that are just too good, like the first time that the President has to call the Soviet Union's leader and let him know that we made a mistake and are accidentally going to blow up his country. You know, these things happen, right? It's such a good scene because you only hear one side of the conversation and Sellers delivers it perfectly. In fact, this movie is more of a spotlight for Sellers than anything. He plays three different characters: the President, a captain involuntarily thrust into action at Ripper's base and the enigmatic Dr. Strangelove who seems to have Mein Fuhrer-turrets. The characters are so vastly different that if you didn't know it, you probably wouldn't have guessed they were played by all the same men. Terrific performance and the rest of the cast is equally up to the task.

It's a great movie and one worth revisiting from time to time. Its themes and characters, I think, are still relevant today. In fact, the movie In the Loop is in the same vein. They both treat the government as a bunch of bumbling idiots who either don't know what they're doing or are too caught up in their own schemes to acknowledge how wrong they are. I wouldn't hesitate to say to anyone to see it now! It's funny and certainly a classic!

Rating: Own It!

182: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (PG-13) - 2010 - Runtime: 123 Minutes
Starring: Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Tom Waits, Verne Troyer
Director: Terry Gilliam

Don't let the title fool you, this movie is by far Gilliam's most accessible movie ever, slightly more so than 12 Monkeys (one of my Top 20 movies of all time!). When I first heard about the movie, it sounded completely absurd and something that would be too artsy. But instead, this movie is quite fun and filled with lots of whimsy and of course, imagination, duh! And while I don't think it's a great movie, it's still good and worth checking out, even if you're not a fan of Gilliam. Plus it's Ledger's last movie and he's in it throughout except for three scenes in which Farrell, Depp and Law step in to play his role.

The whole premise of the movie is simple: Doctor Parnassus (played impeccably by Plummer) made a deal with the devil to win over souls and in turn become immortal, in which the good Doctor actually beats the devil. But the devil is shrewd and offers a deal for Parnassus to be young again so he can win over the love of a young lady (isn't it always about some girl?) but in return he must give away the soul of any child when they turn 16. Of course Parnassus has a kid and has kept it secret from her about her impending fate. It's with this backdrop that Ledger's character comes swinging into the story (quite literally) and sets up the final deal with the devil: first to five souls wins. Now you're probably wondering where the whole imaginarium gets thrown in. Well, it's hard to describe but he's a travelling carnival of sorts where you can explore your own imagination. It's a pretty cool set up and every time the movie travels into someone's imagination, it becomes filled with the offbeat characters and sets that Gilliam is known for.

The story is actually pretty good and Ledger is wonderful as the mysterious Tony. I couldn't say the same for his stand-ins: they pale in comparison to Ledger's unique performance. The rest of the cast is just as good, Plummer plays his part brilliantly and Waits as the Devil himself is too good. I thought Troyer might be a out of place, but he fits in nicely as pretty much the straight guy in the group. The movie's a lot of fun and whisks by in no time - it's about two hours and it did not feel that long.

While not exactly an earth-shattering event movie, Imaginarium is a quirky, but surprisingly simple, story that captures Gilliam's creativity at its best. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this one to anyone who is looking for an adventure story. It's wonderfully cast and beautiful to look at, but most of all, it's just a fun movie.

Rating: Rent It!