Sunday, January 9, 2011

Weekend Movie Update

This is probably the first movie update I'm doing where the movies aren't adaptations. I said last month that I'd be doing these, though I'm as good at reviewing movies as I am at books. So in no particular order, here are the movies I've seen so far:

Black Swan
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis & Vincent Cassel
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Release Date: 17 December 2010
DVD Release Date: N/A
Approx Time: 108mins 
Genre: Drama/Thriller
Rated: R

Not since his adaptation of Requiem for a Dream has Darren Aronosfsky made a film worth my time. Some might argue his 2009 film, The Wrestler, was worthy, but those people aren't me. 

Maybe it's just me, but it seems that most - if not all - of Aronofsky's films have one common theme: Obsession.  Black Swan is no exception. Nina Sayers (Portman) strives for perfection, hoping that director Thomas Leroy (Cassel) casts her as the lead in their dance production company's performance of Swan Lake. When veteran dancer Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder) is forced into retirement due to her age, Thomas gives Nina the lead. But strange things start to happen in Nina's life as she strives to perfect her performance of the Black Swan. From her overbearing mother to the beautiful Lily (Kunis), Nina starts to see tiny plots to take the lead away from her - a role she's willing to kill to keep.

Much like the "moral" of Requiem for a Dream - which was more Hubert Selby, Jr's moral than Aronofsky's - Nina's obsession to see her dream through comes with a price. And if she doesn't learn how to let go, she'll only see her self destruction after it's too late. 

While I could've lived without the a lot of the special effects presented in the movie - which are used, I suppose, to highlight the transformation of Nina as White Swan to Nina as Black Swan (metaphorically, anyway) - they seemed a little over the top and cheapen the movie experience. Nevertheless, the direction and performances save the movie from becoming a flop. It's highly worthy of anyone's time, especially those who love the psychology of films such as this. 

Over all rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Other products mentioned in this post:

Starring: Mel Gibson & Joaquin Phoenix
Director: M. Night Shyamalan 
Release Date: 2 August 2002
DVD Release Date: 7 January 2003
Approx Time: 106mins
Genre: Sci-fi/Horror/Thriller
Rated: PG-13

Not only was Signs Abigail Breslin's (Little Miss Sunshine, Zombieland) first film and foretold Mel Gibson's (Lethal Weapon franchise, The Edge of Darkness) grim, if not comical, future, it's also the last notable film by M. Nigh Shyamalan in my book. Unlike The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable or The Village - which just sucked - Signs is the only film by Shyamalan I couldn't guess the twist before the ending. In other words, it was the only movie by him that gave me any challenge.

When mysterious crop circles are discovered on his land, Graham Hess (Gibson) - a pastor or reverend who lost his faith after his wife was killed, six months prior to the film's opening - is put to a test that will bring to question his ongoing descent from God. Along with brother Merrill (Phoenix) and children, Morgan (Rory Culkin) and Bo (Breslin), Graham has to make sense of the events taking place around the world, while feigning off memories of the night his wife died. 

Like so many movies that I love, each time I pop Signs in the DVD player, I find something new that I hadn't seen before. Knowing the ending, however, doesn't diminish the edge-of-your-seat feeling. While Signs might not be the best movie of its genre, it is one of the best on my shelf. Over all rating, 4 out of 5 stars.

Starring: Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green & Jenny O'Hara
Director: John Erick Dowdle 
Release Date: 17 September 2010
DVD Release Date: 21 December 2010
Approx Time: 80mins
Genre: Horror
Rated: PG-13

It's an old form of storytelling - think of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None - that makes this movie so great. While it's based on a story by M. Night Shyamalan, the film wasn't written or directed by him. 

Much like Graham Hess from Signs, Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) is still holding onto his wife's brutal death in a hit and run accident that also took the life of their child. Rather than finding person responsible, he instead is left with a pathetic apologetic letter written on the back of a car wash coupon. Attempting to get his life back on track, he's called in one morning to a suicide case which leads him to a building where five people are trapped within an elevator. Bowden witnesses the brutal slaying of each passenger - one at a time - via elevator cam. Can Bowden save them before it's too late, or is there something much darker playing here? 

Much like Signs, the theme here is coincidence and whether or not it really exists. Instead of believing the ramblings of one of the security guards about the work of the Devil being at play, Bowden tries to see this through a logical standpoint. Only when logic fails him, he starts to give in to the possibility that someone else is here. The film keeps you guessing up until the end who the Devil in the elevator is. Much like Signs, it was nearly impossible for me to figure out the twist - because there is a twist. Thankfully, I'm a big fan of conventions and while this movie seems to stray from them, it very much follows them. The only thing that put me off in the movie is the security guard/narrator portrayed by Jacob Vargas. I mean, why is always Hispanics that have to play into the stereotype of superstition believers? Overall rating: 5 stars.

Jennifer's Body
Starring: Megan Fox & Amanda Seyfried
Director: Karyn Kusama
Release Date: 18 September 2009
DVD Release Date: 29 December 2009
Approx Time: 102mins
Genre: Horror/Comedy
Rated: R

It's one of those movies I should've put off indefinitely. Written by Juno writer Diablo Cody, the film tries too hard to create catch phrases and attempts to make itself into a cult classic, which it probably never will. Bad writing coupled with bad acting (delivered by, who else, Megan Fox), the movie should probably have never been made in the first place. 

Jennifer Check (Fox) is the It-Girl in the small town of Devil's Kettle - or was it Devil's Creek? - who is friends with Needy Lesnicky (Seyfried), for some odd reason. Jennifer is a bitch to the core, though attempts to hide it. She drags her pushover friend to a Low Shoulder concert, which ends in a comical version of a real life incident, which wasn't only tasteless but completely unnecessary in the film's plot. After being led away in some rape-me trance by the band's lead singer (Adam Brody), Jennifer is then sacrificed. Only when performing a virgin sacrifice, make sure the girl you're killing is actually a virgin. Otherwise, you'll have a boy hungry demon on your hands.

I can't even fathom what the fuck was going on Diablo Cody's mind when she thought of making fun of the Station nightclub fire, where a 100 people burned to death, is beyond me. Maybe she thought dark comedy is her thing, but it's painfully obvious that it's not. Rather than moving on to writing another screenplay, Cody should stick to what she's good at - stripping. And even then, it's only an assumption. Overall rating is that the people responsible for this shitfest film owe me five stars for wasting my time.

Poltergeist II: The Other SideStarring: Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams & Heather O'Rourke
Director: Brian Gibson
Release Date: 23 May 1986
DVD Release Date: 26 August 2003
Approx Time: 91mins
Genre: Horror
Rated: PG-13

Don't get me wrong, I'm a great fan of bad horror movies. Take the sequels to Poltergeist, for instance. I love them.

"They're Back!" she cried. Once again the Freeling family, sans older sister, is thrown back into the midst of the spirit world as they attempt to kidnap youngest daughter, Carol Anne (Williams). Only now, their ghosts' reasons are clear: Carol Anne (O'Rourke) is the only one who can show them the way into the light. But the entities have powers they lacked in the past - they can take human form (one of them, anyway). The truth is also revealed about Carol Anne and her mother, Diane. Not to mention, Diane's mother who appears shortly at the beginning. With the help of an Indian spirit healer, Taylor (Will Sampson), and old friend Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein), the Freelings battle the evil spirit of Reverend Kane (Julian Beck).

Cheese special affects earn this film classic a four star rating. Not only does this movie show the power of love, it also teaches that no matter how messed up your daughter is, you should always stand by her side...

Poltergeist IIIStarring: Heather O'Rourke, Tom Skerritt & Nancy Allen
Director: Gary Sherman
Release Date: 10 June 1988
DVD Release Date: 26 August 2003
Approx Time: 98mins
Genre: Horror
Rated: PG-13

...that is until you get tired of her shit and send her to live with your sister and brother-in-law. Probably tired of all the weird happenings from the first two films, Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams don't reprise their roles as the Freeling parents. Instead, the film opens with Carol Anne (O'Rourke) now living with her maternal Aunt Patricia (Allen), Uncle Bruce (Skerritt) and his daughter Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle). Zelda Rubinstein reprises her role as Tangina with Nathan Davis taking on the role as Reverend Kane, replacing Julian Beck who passed away after the previous film.

Living in a high rise building is a wonder to Carol Anne. However, after her psychiatrist Dr. Seaton (Richard Fire) makes her talk about the events of the past, the highrise becomes a living nightmare. "We're back!" declares the evil spirit of Reverend Kane. Now Carol Anne must fend for herself after being left alone in the apartment.

While it's not the best movie in the franchise, it does conclude it. Though it makes you wonder, if the solution were that easy, why wasn't it thought up during the first film? Three stars overall.

There. My first movie review post. I have a few more films in mind of watching, including the adaptation of A Single Man. Until next time, keep on huntin'. Or watching movies. I'll figure out a catch-phrase for these posts later.

And as an added bonus: CD YOU'VE GOT TO HEAR!!!

Skold vs KMFDM by Skold vs KMFDM
Release Date: 24 February 2009
Genre: Industrial
Notable songs: "Error 404," "Gromky," "It's Not What," and "All or Nothing"

A fan of Tim Skold and a fan of KMFDM - yeah, yeah, I know - the album is a collaboration of Tim Skold and Sascha Konietzko of KMFDM. The album is complied of 11 original tracks and their shorter "interlude" versions - a total of 22 tracks in all. A must have for fans of Tim Skold, KMFDM and industrial music. Overall rating: 5 stars.

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