Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category
You may or may not have noticed, but I have been doing a Reverse Bondathon. I’ve done this before, yes, but what can I say? It brings the family together. And the first Bondathon ended a matter of days before the creation of my beautiful blog, plus it wasn’t in reverse order, just randomized. Anyway, my goal is to watch and review every single Bond movie (EON-produced, though I’ll probably watch the two unofficial releases, “Never Say Never Again” and 1967’s “Casino Royale” just for the halibut). I started with “Skyfall”, and although I’d considered it, I didn’t bother reviewing it again, since I’d already reviewed its theatrical release. I’ve also skipped over “Tomorrow Never Dies”, unfortunately. I underestimated how tired I was the night I watched that one, and I ultimately fell asleep about forty-five minutes through. I did fill about half a page of notes, but I never thought to save them. If you were looking forward to my review of that film, as I assume you do for my reviews on any film, all I can say is that my notes were mixed-to-positive, so I might’ve recommended it, had I finished the movie.
Movie Review No. 719
Made by Eon Productions
Distributor: MGM/UA Distribution Company – United Artists – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Country: UK – USA
Spoken Languages: English – Russian – Spanish
Directed by Martin Campbell. Produced by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. Characters by Ian Fleming. Story by Michael France. Screenplay by Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein.
Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – frequent violence; infrequent sexual material. Runs 2 hours, 10 minutes. Premiered in New York City, New York on November 13, 1995. Wide release in the USA on November 17, 1995; and in the UK on November 24, 1995.
Featuring Pierce Brosnan as James Bond (007), Sean Bean as Alec Trevelyan (Bond villain), and Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp (Bond girl). Starring Izabella Scorupco, Joe Don Baker, Judi Dench, Robbie Coltrane, Gottfried John, Alan Cumming, Tcheky Karyo, Desmond Llewelyn, and Samantha Bond. Also starring Michael Kitchen, Serena Gordon, Billy J. Mitchell, Minnie Driver, and Michelle Arthur. Featuring credited cameo appearances by Simon Kunz, Pavel Douglas, Cmdt. Olivier Lajous, Constantine Gregory, Ravil Isyanov, Vladimir Milanovich, Trevor Byfield, and Peter Majer; and uncredited cameo appearances by Martin Campbell, Bhasker Patel, Michael G. Wilson, Simon Crane, Derek Lyons, Paul Bannon, Terrance Denville, Max Faulkner, Juliet Forester, Jo Anna Lee, Wayne Michaels, and Paul Sacks.
Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. The sounds of “GoldenEye” setting up, progressing, peaking, and signing off. And there’s so much energy exerted in doing so that it can’t spare a moment to reload at the very end. Everything is a step further into excitement. Aerial shots bookmark the opening scenes. Loud, fun action throughout the rest. It’s almost incredible, but then again, it’s not.
This addition into the Bondology is directed by Martin Campbell. Obviously the director that should be doing all the directing in this series, after “GoldenEye” and “Casino Royale”. But this isn’t “Casino Royale”. That was a good movie made even better by his command. “GoldenEye” is a movie that could have greatly suffered without the right director. Yes, it’s fun, but that’s Mr. Campbell’s invisible appearance. Where it falters heavily is in the script, especially after the midway point. We could really do without Alan Cumming cheering, “I am invincible!”, especially when it loses any comic relief it might’ve had initially. And are we supposed to use this line to explain the fact that he survived a catastrophic event, at one point in the movie, that everybody thought he died in? That’s not irony. That’s cheating.
By the time we reach the last fifteen minutes of utter repetition, the only thing to give this movie solidity is the action. Yes, Mr. Chris Corbould, Mr. Derek Meddings, and Mr. Brian Smithies, you may stand and take a bow for your work on the special effects. And you too, Mr. Campbell, though I guess it’s too late to suggest cutting out and adding in for the sake of living up to potential.
GOLDENEYE IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY, DVD, VHS, AND LASERDISC.
Movie Review #717
Presentation: Alcon Entertainment
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Spoken Languages: English
Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Produced by Kira Davis, Broderick Johnson, Adam Kolbrenner, and Andrew A. Kosove. Written by Aaron Guzikowski.
Rated R by the MPAA – frequent profanity; disturbing content; infrequent, graphic violence. Runs 2 hours, 33 minutes. Premiered at Belgrade on September 18, 2013. Wide relase in the USA on September 20, 2013.
Starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano, Dylan Minnette, and Erin Gerasimovich. With a credited cameo appearance by Michelle Keller.
Time to make a pretty personal confession, if only to make this review a bit easier to write. I can sit through movies about the most depraved people. I often say I’m “immune” to movies, because you can make a movie about a guy who commits this and that crime time and again. I’ll willingly watch it. I might even enjoy the movie. But involve that character in child molestation, child murder, child abduction, and that’s when I’m done for. I still wonder why it’s only this topic that gets me, but anything that specifically involves putting children’s lives in danger is, by its own nature, just too disturbing for me.
Ergo two things. One, I face great trouble in saying that I “enjoyed” “Prisoners”. But I won’t deny that it’s a good movie. Two, the movie is, in my book, effective without having to do more than show up; it could be the most offensively awful movie ever made, and I’d still find it effective for the subject matter.
But “Prisoners” is a good movie, and there’s better ways of saying that. Several. If TV crime procedurals actually worried about more than name-dropping, being sponsored, making money, etc., they’d have a script with drama. I’d say that even the best of those scripts could only be half as good as “Prisoners”. Most of this is due to strong character development. Its way of identifying its ensemble cast is clever and well conceived: we’re not concerned with the happenings between characters during one crime, because once one crime has led to a few more (all involving prisoners, not so surprisingly), the whole thing’s about what Character X is hiding from Character Y. And how to slap a label on Character Z–the encompassing “whodunit.”
Now and then, the plot actually thins a little. Now and then. As in, not that often, but it’s easy to tell just why this movie is an inspired one. In the very first scene, a man shoots a deer. Not sure why, but that’s the most common opening scene I’ve noticed. Later on, “Psycho” and “The Silence of the Lambs” are paid homage. Not that you have to look for it, so long as you can automatically recall the Buffalo Bill manhunt when you see an identical basement.
On the plus side, the movie is impressively faithful to classical film-noir. Jake Gyllenhaal looks, sounds, acts like a 1950′s flick detective, but it’s really (drum roll) the camera that so definitively establishes style here. The camerawork practices the inventive effect that has been on the “wanted” list since John Carpenter’s “Halloween”. The cinematography (from that very first shot of the deer, moving back toward the gun) is incredible. Maybe I’m not the voice of reason, but I’d wager that it’s haunting all on its own, complemented by the use of simplistic music. The sound mixing, I might additionally note, adds to the intensity of this thriller.
“Prisoners” is a David Fincher movie from a director who doesn’t answer to that name. I say this having Fincher in my top ten: very little could he have added to the outcome. And if anything, he’s already done it, maybe even on a lesser level. “Prisoners” is much of the same mosaic full of red herrings that was “Zodiac” in 2007. Except “Zodiac” isn’t set in a neighborhood, and it doesn’t deliver its narrative so personally.
PRISONERS IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD.
Hello all! Today, I introduce a new feature entitled Short Film Smorgasbord. Each time one of these posts goes up, it’s three short film reviews for three short films.
The entire smorgasbord will count as one (1) review, and this time, they also happen to be (especially important) silents.
Oh and I’ll have a witty title for each smorgasbord (thanks a bunch to Committed to Celluloid for that inspiration).
Sherlock Holmes, Baffled that the Kelly Gang Made It into the Sealed Room
Movie Review #712
“Sherlock Holmes, Baffled”
American Mutoscope & Biograph. Distributor: American Mutoscope & Biograph. Country: USA. Directed by Arthur Marvin. Character by Arthur Conan Doyle. Runs 1 minute. Wide release in the USA in May 1900. Starring Anonymous as Sherlock Holmes.
“Sherlock Holmes Baffled” is a simple but clever little short. The premise: Sherlock walks into a room to find a burglar. There seems to be a fantasy element to this movie—a humorous surprise that I dare not spoil—and as far as special effects, this 1900 motion picture is waaay ahead of its time. An effort that cracked a smile on my face, a reaction many modern comedies can only wish for. For the first movie to actually feature Holmes, this is quite a nice effort.
“The Sealed Room”
Biograph Company. Distributor: Biograph Company – Reel Media International – American Mutoscope & Biograph. Country: USA. Languages: English intertitles. Directed by D.W. Griffith. Writer: Frank E. Woods. Based on the novel “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe and the story “La Grande Breteche” by Honoré de Balzac. Runs 11 minutes. Wide release in the USA on September 2, 1909. Starring Arthur V. Johnson as the Count, Marion Leonard as the Countess, and Henry B. Walthall as the Minstrel. Also starring Linda Arvidson, William J. Butler, Verner Clarges, Owen Moore, George Nichols, Anthony O’Sullivan, Mary Pickford, Gertrude, Mack Sennett, and George Siegmann.
It’s interesting to think that while epics of the last half-century emphasize hope in their respective stories, the epic film actually began with overwhelming tragedy. At eleven minutes, “The Sealed Room” isn’t long enough to stand as a part of this genre, but elongate it and it most certainly is. This isn’t as good as D.W. Griffith can get, but it feels like a considerable (and adequately gripping) precursor to his two best-known epics: “The Birth of a Nation” (1915) and “Intolerance” (1916).
“The Story of the Kelly Gang”
J. & N. Tait. Johnson and Gibson. Country: Australia. Directed by Charles Tait. Produced by W.A. Gibson, Millard Johnson, John Tait, and Nevin Tait. Writer: Charles Tait. Runs 70 minutes (remaining footage runs 21 minutes). Wide release in Australia on December 26, 1906. Starring Elizabeth Tait and John Tait. Also starring Frank Mills, Norman Campbell, Will Coyne, Sam Crewes, Jack Ennis, John Forde, Mr. Marshall, Mr. McKenzie, Bella Cola, Vera Linden, and Ollie Wilson. With uncredited cameo appearances from E.J. Tait and Frank Tait.
Fun fact: 70% of all silent footage that was ever produced, has been lost. Technically, “The Story of the Kelly Gang” was the first feature film. Reports vacillate between time lengths of 60 and 70 minutes; the established minimum for a feature film is 40 minutes. 21 minutes of the movie remain, and not a bit of story can be discerned from it. It’s just violence, violence, and more violence. None of it’s graphic, morbid, or off-putting in anyway other than that it’s pointless. If I had to guess, I’d say this is a “Bonnie and Clyde” precursor, but what good does guessing do? What good is it when the movie forces you to guess? Perhaps there was an actual plot when this film (which ironically has “Story” in its title) was issued at feature length. But if I were to watch any random 21 minutes of a decent movie, I’m sure I would be able to make out at least half the plot.
The English Patient
ALL TITLES AVAILABLE IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.
Movie Review #709
Les Films Impéria
Les Productions Georges de Beauregard
Société Nouvelle de Cinématographie
Distributor: Films Around the World (subtitled 1961 release) – The Criterion Collection (2007 & 2014) – Rialto Pictures (2010 re-release) – Janus Films
Spoken Languages: French – English
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Produced by Georges de Beauregard. Screenplay: Jean-Luc Godard (uncredited). Story: François Truffaut.
Released unrated by the MPAA. Runs 1 hour, 30 minutes. Wide release in France on March 16, 1960; and in the USA on February 7, 1961. Re-release in the USA on April 21, 2000. Restored version premiered at TCM Classic Film Festival on April 23, 2010. Same version earned limited release on May 28, 2010. Same version earned wide release in France on June 23, 2010.
Starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg. Also starring Daniel Boulanger, Henri-Jacques Huet, Roger Hanin, Van Doude, Claude Mansard, Liliane David, Michel Fabre, Jean-Pierre Melville, Richard Balducci, André S. Labarthe, François Moreuil, and Liliane Robin. Also featuring a cameo appearance by Jean-Luc Godard as the Snitch.
“À bout de souffle” is all we need to know that director Jean-Luc Godard is nothing less than an artist. His movie is spectacular. Extraordinary. You truly can’t find another ‘60s movie with such style. Inventive cinematography, jump cuts galore. Music cues—one of several irresistible elements. Hither and thither, it’s hard to tell what’s going on. The film is much like a David Lynch film, if that’s your cup of tea. The acting is here and there, but their efforts, as well, make for an offbeat delight. An excellent movie…with an unforgettable finale.
À BOUT DE SOUFFLE IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD FROM THE CRITERION COLLECTION. OTHER FORMATS INCLUDE VHS AND LASERDISC.
Movie Review #709
Les Films Impéria
Les Productions Georges de Beauregard
Société Nouvelle de Cinématographie
Distributeur: Films Around the World (1961 distribution avec des sous-titres) – The Criterion Collection (2007 et 2014) – Rialto Pictures (2010 distribution encore) – Janus Films
Pays d’origine: France
Langues: français – anglais
Réalisé par Jean-Luc Godard. Produit par Georges de Beauregard. Scénario: Jean-Luc Godard (non crédité). Histoire: François Truffaut.
Distribué non raté par l’MPAA. Court 1 heure, 30 minutes. Grande distribution au France le 16 mars 1960; et aux États-Unis le 7 février 1961. Distribution encore aux États-Unis le 21 avril 2000. Distribution très limitée de la version revisité à TCM Classic Film Festival le 23 avril 2010. Même version en distribution limitée aux États-Unis le 28 mai 2010. Même version en grande distribution au France le 23 juin 2010.
Avec le casting Jean-Paul Belmondo et Jean Seberg. Aussi avec le casting Daniel Boulanger, Henri-Jacques Huet, Roger Hanin, Van Doude, Claude Mansard, Liliane David, Michel Fabre, Jean-Pierre Melville, Richard Balducci, André S. Labarthe, François Moreuil, et Liliane Robin. Aussi avec un performance bref de Jean-Luc Godard en rôle du Snitch.
«À bout de souffle» est tout que on a besoin de savoir que de réalisateur Jean-Luc Godard est simplement une artiste. Ce film est spectaculaire. Extraordinaire. On vraiment ne peut pas trouver un autre film avec tels façons en 1960s. De la cinématographie inventive, beaucoup des coupes sèches. Des signals de la musique—un de beaucoup des éléments irrésistibles. De temps en temps, c’est difficile décider ce qui se passe. C’est comme beaucoup un film de David Lynch, si ça c’est ta tasse de thé. Les performances des acteurs sont ici et là-bas, mais leurs efforts, aussi, construit un délice décalé. Un très bon film…avec une scène finale inoubliable.
À bout de souffle [English-language review]
The Armstrong Lie
The Bourne Identity
The English Patient
Short Film Smorgasbord Vol. 1
À BOUT DE SOUFFLE IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD FROM THE CRITERION COLLECTION. OTHER FORMATS INCLUDE VHS AND LASERDISC.
Movie Review #707
BBC Films & Thema Production SA present…
…in association with Kudo Films Limited…
…a Jada Production…
Distributor: DreamWorks Distribution
Country: UK – Luxembourg
Spoken Languages: English
Directed by Woody Allen. Produced by Letty Aronson, Lucy Darwin, and Gareth Wiley. Written by Woody Allen.
Rated R by the MPAA – infrequent sexual material. Runs 2 hours 4 minutes (Turkish TV version runs 9 minutes shorter; Finnish theatrical version runs 2 minutes longer). Premiered at Cannes Film Festival on May 12, 2005; at San Sebastián Film Festival on September 24, 2005; at Vienna International Film Festival on October 14, 2005; at Savannah Film and Video Festival on November 2, 2005; at DaKino International Film Festival on November 22, 2005; and at Film by the Sea Film Festival on December 13, 2005. Limited release in Los Angeles, California and New York City, New York on December 28, 2005; and in San Francisco, California on January 4, 2006. Wide release in the UK on January 6, 2006; and in the USA on January 20, 2006.
Starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Matthew Goode, Brian Cox, Penelope Wilton, Emily Mortimer, and Scarlett Johansson. Also starring Mary Hegarty, Miranda Raison, Margaret Tyzack, Ewen Bremner, and James Nesbitt. Featuring uncredited cameo appearances by Alex Argenti, Morne Botes, Michelle Lima, Dawn Murphy, and Leonard Silver.
I’ve seen quite a lot of Woody Allen. Almost every year for the past forty-eight years, he’s made a movie. To keep it simple, I’ll just say I’ve seen his 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th films; his 9th through 16th films; his 18th, 20th, 36th, 37th, 39th, and every film from his 41st through his 44th (his most recent). I’ve always considered Mr. Allen to be a comedian. Sure, I’ve seen him lean away from the wry humor, but the results seemed to be lacking the pleasant they would have had with humor. That was “Another Woman”, his 18th. Double that number. Now we’re at his 36th: “Match Point”, which is where I have to think again. Of course, I still consider him a comedian, especially when what makes a drama even this serious a winner is the wry humor peppered throughout dialogue. But just that would make “Match Point” a plainly unusual Woody Allen movie. It’s unusual, and, let’s not forget, surprising.
“Match Point” is a grave, dark drama. The plot could be seen is soapy, if it were only dealt with that way. The tone is easily more noirish, making for a more cinematic, flavorful and artful approach to the tale than any other addition to the director’s soapology. In ways that “Hannah and Her Sisters” was similar to “Crimes and Misdemeanors”, and “Midnight in Paris” to “To Rome with Love”, “Match Point” feels like a companion piece to Woody’s next project, “Scoop”. Especially being that “Scoop” was one of the worst I’ve seen from the director, and “Match Point” one of the best, this one beats its followup sixty, love.
“Match Point” is a dark movie. An extremely gripping, but nonetheless dark one. Woody Allen has claimed this his favorite of any film he’s made, and it’s understandable. Of any semi-autobiographical account, this one’s the most honest. Allen’s reliance on character development connects us with the characters, if not always in the best of ways. The protagonist is a brutal hate target from the very beginning; we just don’t know it until he grows to a macroscopic size, until he has an ongoing affair, until that affair becomes impossible to balance with his marriage.
Scarlett Johansson plays the femme fatale in this urban moral conquest. I don’t want to go with this being her role of a lifetime until I see more of her, but she’s cast perfectly. Her conversations with Jonathan Rhys Meyers echoes those of Mariel Hemingway and Woody Allen in “Manhattan”. Again, that movie just wasn’t such a dramatic height. “Match Point” is quite a tense drama. This is suspenseful and mysterious. Not quite the expectations of the director, especially while he’s still keeping his love for the arts omnipresent. What more can I say? It’s thoroughly and dynamically unpredictable.
MATCH POINT IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD.
Movie Review #706
Distributor: Unitel – Reel Media International
Spoken Languages: English
Directed by Brooke L. Peters. Produced by Brooke L. Peters. Original story: Jane Mann. Screenplay: Jane Mann & Don Devlin.
No MPAA rating information. Runs 1 hour, 15 minutes. Limited release in Los Angeles, California on June 14, 1961.
Starring Ronnie Burns, Pamela Lincoln, Darrell Howe, Judy Howard, Michael Grainger, Frank Killmond, Russell Bender, Don Devlin, and William Salzwedel. Also starring Robert Stabler and John B. Lee. Featuring an uncredited cameo appearance by Pat McMahon as Arthur.
This one really is…bad. The dialogue, for starters, is terrible. Just awful. If anybody talks this way to each other, in real life, there’s probably some sort of Martian Mafia starin’ down from way up high, laughin’ their asses off. (That’s me thinking along the Ed Wood wavelength.) Cinematography? What a load of bollocks. Back to the written aspect of it, though. It’s so poorly acted. Wait that’s not a written aspect. Oops. Anyway…
“Anatomy of a Psycho” delivers a halfway interesting plot that manages to go itself in all different crazy directions. Really bizarre directions, and I’ll have you know that there’s quite a confusing shift toward romance less than halfway through. Let me reiterate: this is called “Anatomy of a Psycho”, not Anatomy of Marlon Brando. Not so sure why there’s a love story in a movie that constantly wants to express that at the most random times, this guy can go nuts.
And really, “Anatomy of a Psycho” (with emphasis on “anatomy”)? You just don’t knock of the title of a Jimmy Stewart classic like that. Especially when there’s nothing to do with “anatomy” in this movie. Except for whenever the main guy gets bloodied up. We get to see a minor piece of anatomy from a long shot of his body, through which his open veins are muddily visible, but that’s about it.
Maybe the one good thing in this classified Z-movie is that the protagonist could twin Anthony Perkins. It’s almost a corny joke. (‘Cause this is “Anatomy of a Psycho”, and Perkins was in “Psycho” a year earlier–get it?) This movie is pretty much one of those “so bad, it’s good” movies, except it’s just too bad. It has been reported that on top of the usage of the music from “Plan 9 from Outer Space”, Ed Wood contributed to the screenplay using the pseudonym “Larry Lee.” As far as I’m concerned, he did the whole shebang, and to say that Wood was writing whatever words just happened to pop into his mind, as random as they might be, is a deplorable understatement for the development of this script. I enjoyed the movie for the obviously self-unaware execution, but if this deceptively long strand of 75 minutes doesn’t offer the most infernal pacing I’ve ever sat through, I’m not sure what is.
ANATOMY OF A PSYCHO IS AVAILABLE IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.
Movie Review #700
New Line Cinema presents…
Slap Happy Productions
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Spoken Languages: English – Spanish
Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. Produced by Chris Bender, Vincent Newman, Tucker Tooley, and Happy Walters. Screenplay by Bob Fisher & Steve Faber and Sean Anders & John Morris. Story by Bob Fisher & Steve Faber.
Rated R by the MPAA — frequent profanity, sexual content, drug material, brief/graphic nudity (extended cut also rated R). Runs 1 hour, 50 minutes (extended cut runs 8 minutes longer). Premiered at Traverse City Film Festival on August 3, 2013. Wide release in the USA on August 7, 2013.
Starring Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts, and Will Poulter. Also starring Ed Helms, Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn, Molly Quinn, Tomer Sisley, Matthew Willig, Luis Guzmán, and Brendan Hunt. Featuring uncredited cameo appearances by Andrea Alcorn, James Alcorn, Laura Avery, Rachel Brewer, Christian Daniels, Amanda Fresquez, Rebecca Harran, Cathy Mattson, Monica Molina, Joe Montanti, Robb Moon, Kathy Walton Pulley, Ed Ricker, Ellie Rodriguez, Nick Thies, and Steven Ray Byrd.
“We’re the Millers” is a horrible, horrible movie, yet I feel neither shame nor hesitance in excusing it as entertaining. The humor was so consistent that I didn’t have to worry about pitying any failed attempts at comedy; I was guffawing instead.
I do pity the film, though: I’ve slapped it with two “horrible”s and its aim is the exact opposite. Clearly, the intent was to make the numero uno of dysfunctional family movies. It’s the establishment of character and story that ventures further than needed. Really, a ridiculous story doesn’t guarantee as many laughs as some filmmakers tend to believe. Spanning from the American Southwest into Mexico, the tale covers a grab bag of four neighboring people who have to act as a cheery, happy-go-lucky family.
This is the plan concocted by the “father” (Jason Sudeikis), so that he can smuggle drugs out of Mexico and keep his business running. But it’s not just him. All four of the “family” members have a screw loose. He’s a drug dealer in desperation. His “wife” (Jennifer Aniston) is a stripper who takes her job way too seriously. Their “daughter,” rescued from the projects, has no respect for authority, as if the drama queen in her isn’t too unnerving for them. And they can be sure that their “son” was dropped on his head as a young’n without checking with a doctor.
That. That story is a joke in and of itself. As the premise for “We’re the Millers”, it happens to fuel countless jokes. But still, given that ludicrous story, how in pluperfect hell are we supposed to believe the inevitable ending: that these people will get used to posing as a family, and they’ll eventually start to naturally interact like a family? Should I reiterate who these four are?
Not much in the screenplay gives the remotest face of reality. I mean, this basic setup technically could happen, once in seven or eight blue moons. All four familial asses are saved time and again by something that could probably happen when pigs fly. Character development and situational approach are often as realistic as some of the short films I would produce and direct in the fifth grade. Even the dialogue is unrealistic. I found the profanity excessive, more than likely because it was there just because. “The Wolf of Wall Street” was the record-breaker at over 500 F-bombs, and I didn’t mind. I minded the reported 97 in “We’re the Millers”.
(I might as well mention that pacing is horrendous, too.)
But there’s a saving grace to all of that. Not one of the four writers of “We’re the Millers” know how to write a convincing film. They do have jokes, and that’s what makes this entertaining at all costs. “We’re the Millers” unravels with side-splitting hilarity. The production is anemic in anything but its humor. The performances do save it in part, which is a given for the humor’s own success. Emma Roberts, especially, is an enthusiastic standout as the homeless “daughter.” It’s worth the warning that the humor does falter once, near the end. An extended scene that is the grossest thing in a hard-R comedy since that one scene in “Borat”. Remember how much you laughed in that movie? Every rose does indeed have its thorn.
WE’RE THE MILLERS IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD.
Movie Review #697
This review is dedicated to Fernando Quintero, who considers this to be one of Pedro Almodóvar’s weaker efforts. Though as he’s seen everything from the director that I can only hope to have the time for, he has a better say than myself.
El Deseo S.A.
Distributor: Miramax Films
Spoken Languages: Spanish
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar. Produced by Enrique Posner. Screenplay by Pedro Almodóvar. Story by Pedro Almodóvar.
Rated NC-17 by the MPAA — infrequent and strong sexual content, infrequent nudity (originally rated X). 1 hour, 51 minutes. Premiered at Berlin International Film Festival in February 1990. Limited release in Madrid on January 22, 1990; in Barcelona on February 9, 1990; and in Los Angeles, California and New York City, New York on May 4, 1990.
Starring Victoria Abril and Antonio Banderas. Also starring Loles León, Julieta Serrano, and Francisco Rabal. Featuring a credited cameo appearance by Agustín Almodóvar as un farmacéutico (a pharmacist).
If it was anyone but Pedro Almodóvar acting as the driving force behind “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!”, the movie simply wouldn’t work. With anyone less able to combine the elements of drama, comedy, and thriller–something that Almodóvar does so adeptly–we wouldn’t have a remotely watchable movie. At best, the results would be sick and twisted.
This is an unusual but likeable story. Ricki (Antonio Banderas) is released from a mental institution, and his one reason to live thereon is to pursue a pornographic actress with whom he’s desperately in love: Marina Orsorio (Victoria Abril). She doesn’t recognize him, but he knows he’s met her before, and the exact circumstances. She resists him, but he ties her to the bed in an effort to convince her that they love each other and he can’t let her escape while he’s out buying her painkillers off the street. Mind you, he’s just re-entering society for the first time in a long time, and that’s part of what makes this movie such a peculiar, but hysterical one.
It’s rather difficult to describe the movie in the light Almodóvar approaches it. To reiterate, it’s his film. No one else could get away with a movie this offbeat. It’s not a movie about a sick and twisted rapist who viciously kidnaps an innocent woman, though for the sake of humor, Almodóvar pokes fun at that by showing parts of the story that way, as Miss Marina sees it all. We’re led to believe this tale through the eyes and the depthy heart of Ricki, who really isn’t a bad guy at all. He’s actually a sweet guy, trying to help out the woman who, he fears, could be emotionless.
You’d be surprised how little you have to read into the story to figure all that out, and chances are, there’s no requirement of reading into it in order to dig that up. What’s best about Almodóvar as a director is his cinematic logic and the stories’ deeper meanings are always there without a doubt; he just doesn’t focus on these facets of filmmaking. He’s just focused on making the movie, and that’s where all these knots are cleanly tied in “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!”. The movie gets as graphic as it ever wishes to be, but it does have heart. And soul. A lot of both those things.
This Film Is Not Yet Rated
TIE ME UP! TIE ME DOWN! IS AVAILABLE ON DVD AND FREE TO STREAM ON NETFLIX.
Hit the jump for an announcement regarding the 2nd Annual Cinemaniac Awards:
Movie Review #694
Cecchi Gori Pictures
New Line Cinema
Distributor: New Line Cinema
Spoken Languages: English
Directed by David Fincher. Produced by Phyllis Carlyle and Arnold Kopelson. Written by Andrew Kevin Walker.
Rated R by the MPAA — disturbing content, strong language. Runs 2 hours, 7 minutes. Wide release in the USA on September 22, 1995.
Starring Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Daniel Zacapa, and Gwyneth Paltrow. Also starring R. Lee Ermey, John C. McGinley, Richard Portnow, Leland Orser, and Richard Schiff. Featuring a credited cameo appearance by Andy Walker as a dead man at 1st crime scene; and uncredited cameo appearances by Charles S. Dutton and Grigori.
“What sick ridiculous puppets we are
and what gross little stage we dance on
What fun we have dancing and f__king
Not a care in the world
Not knowing that we are nothing
We are not what was intended.”
There’s no dressing up a movie like “Se7en”, a thriller that–just when you least expect it–is all dressed up and ready to go. “Se7en” may very well be the best neo-noir of the 1990s, and if it’s not, it’s most definitely number two or three. It may be the best neo-noir since Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown”, and if it’s not, it’s sure in the top ten. The only thing really to hold it down from such honor is its one flaw: the title sequence is über-cool, thanks to director David Fincher, Almighty Fontmaster of the Cinema, but it’s also briefly promising of a TV pilot.
But forget two or three, forget ten, and for what little it’s worth, forget one. “Se7en” is seven. If I can clarify that, it is the number that is seven. You can’t get a more accurate title than “Se7en” for a movie like this, and I’m not trying to joke around here. The number seven is what makes this movie interesting. It’s literally at the center of the story.
About that story. Two detectives, Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and Mills (Brad Pitt), are on their most difficult case yet. Pitt exemplifies a rookie perfectly, while Freeman complements him in a role of the pure opposite. His dialogue is pensive, serious, and often philosophical, unlike the fun-loving, carefree Pitt. ”Ernest Hemingway once wrote, ‘The world is a fine place and worth [the] fighting for,’” he tells us eventually. ”I agree with the second part.”
But these two don’t have time or patience to worry about getting along. They’ve got a real psychopath to deal with. A real clever psychopath. This man was raised Southern Baptist. As an adult, he still practices, but he’s taken things a bit far. So far that he’s begun to think about humanity like Travis Bickle. For him, it’s all about killing the undesirables in the world. He’ll play his mind games with these two detectives (and anybody else who’s looking at the case), but in the end, he really doesn’t care whether he’s caught.
The pivotal point of our interest here is who he finds undesirable. Even before Somerset and Mills begin finding clues in library books (The Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost, and more), they’ve found that their guy kills those who are specifically and obviously subject to their own lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, or pride. In other words, he’s obsessed with the Christian belief of the seven deadly sins.
Just that much is enough to say that “Se7en” is an interesting tale. That you’d find in most thrillers, but at times, horror movies fall short of the grim atmosphere here. So you’ll find this not only thought-provoking, but chill-provoking. The movie seems to get tenser as it moves on, and although most of the violence seems to happen offscreen, get ready for gruesome imagery early on. Some of the real chills seem to come from Darius Khondji’s panicky cinematography and the eerie music with which Howard Shore complements it. But I’ve got to be honest, the music works even better when it’s not this memorable leitmotif. That library scene with Bach’s “Suite No. 3 in D Major”. And, of course, David Fincher’s payoff in this movie guarantees Nine Inch Nails’s “Closer”, as if the suspenseful Hollywood score meant nothing.
There’s more, but I’d best not spoil “what’s in the box.” There’s so much suspense offered in “Se7en”, it’s almost difficult to spoil.
POSTSCRIPT: Writer Andrew Kevin Walker hasn’t written anything half decent, except for this, which is outstandingly written. It’s been announced that he’s returning to Fincher for The Girl who Played with Fire. Thoughts?
SE7EN IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY, DVD, VHS, AND LASERDISC.