Archive for the ‘Thriller’ Category

100 Years of Suspenseful, Tragic Stories

Movie Review #732

The Tragic Story of Nling

Directed by Jeffrey St. Jules. Written by Jeffrey St. Jules. Produced by Larissa Giroux for Intrepid Film Arts. Starring Tom Barnett, Steven McCarthy, Kate Campbell, and the voice of John Neville. Premiered at Toronto International Film Festival in September 2006; and at Sundance Film Festival in January 2007. Not rated by the MPAA. Runs 14 minutes.

“The Tragic Story of Nling” was a Canadian short film created in 2006, but it’s very stylistically convincing as a 1940’s movie. That’s a high point, or might I say, the high point. Everything else runs from confusing to blah. Yeah, the use of stop-animation is neat, but this could have been so much better as a live-action short. And as far as substance, it’s about a desolate island named Nling where a guy who’s suffering an alcohol shortage with his donkey friend. Or maybe that’s just a human being with a donkey head. Whichever it was, I was reminded so thoroughly of Bottom in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This is a grueling, abstract film that really gives the alcoholic’s frame of mind. But I struggle with something huge. Is it even a tragedy? Or is it actually a comedy? Whichever one it truly is, this is a really silly short film.

100 Years at the Movies

Directed by Chuck Workman. Produced by Chuck Workman for TCM. Archive footage: Clara Bow, Rin Tin Tin, Eugen Sandow. Distributed in 1994. Not rated by the MPAA. Runs 9 minutes.

Turner Classic Movies’s centennial celebration of cinematic evolution is just as good as any of the movies it spotlights. (I must be honest: it’s also a whole hell of a lot better than some of them). This may be “just” a short film, but yes, it’s absolutely riveting for anybody who cherishes the movies half as much as I do. We do tend to take for granted how much movies have changed over the years and even if this short is two decades old now, it’s still completely relevant and thoroughly moving. The single most amazing aspect “100 Years at the Movies” has to offer is the art of brilliant choice of music and triumphant movie clips, and absolutely no dialogue. It’s quite remarkable, just watching how we came from one heavyweight epic (“The Birth of a Nation”) to another (“Schindler’s List”)—with films of all shapes, sizes, and colors in between. It’s remarkable, and too fascinating to believe it’s only nine minutes.

Suspense

Directed by Phillips Smalley and Lois Weber. Scenario by Lois Weber. Produced for Rex Motion Picture Company. Starring Lois Weber, Val Paul, Douglas Gerrard, and Sam Kaufman. Uncredited, unconfirmed cameo: Lon Chaney. Distributed by Universal Film Manufacturing Company in wide release on July 6, 1913. Not rated by the MPAA. Runs 10 minutes.

As old as it is, “Suspense” is actually very suspenseful. This is a 1913 short from Lois Weber, often referred to as cinema’s first female director. However, the directing credit jumped around a number of male directors (including D. W. Griffith and Phillips Smalley, who is still co-credited) for decades. The story concerns four key characters: The Wife (Lois Weber), The Husband (Valentine Paul), The Pursuer (Douglas Gerrard), and The Tramp (Sam Kaufman). Incidentally, the ten minutes that those four account for could very well be—and, I don’t doubt, has already been—elongated to a feature-length story. The fact that so much happens in this little film feels fast-paced and exciting. A woman and her infant alone in their isolated house. A tramp discovers how to break in, but not before the woman sees him lurking about her house. When she calls for help, complications begin to unfold. Maybe that’s a story we could find today without trying too hard, but the absolute apex of what “Suspense” offers is its cinematography. This film was released over a century ago, and many filmmakers today fail to match the creative camerawork we see here.

“Short Film Smorgasbord” is Cinemaniac Reviews’s spotlight for the movies we most pitifully tend to overlook. Independent filmmakers, don’t hesitate to submit! Contact cinemaniacreviews@gmail.com and we’ll feature your short film.

ALL TITLES ARE AVAILABLE IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.

Black Swan

Movie Review #731

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Directed by Darren Aronofsky. Screenplay by Mark Heyman and Andrés Heinz and John McLaughlin. (Story: Andrés Heinz.) Produced by Scott Franklin, Mike Medavoy, Arnold W. Messer, and Brian Oliver for Protozoa Pictures and Phoenix Pictures, presented by Fox Searchlight Pictures, made in association with Cross Creek Pictures and Dune Entertainment. Starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder, Benjamin Millepied, Ksenia Solo, Kristina Anapau, Janet Montgomery, Sergio Torrado, Mark Margolis, Tina Sloan, and Stanley B. Herman. Premiered at Venice Film Festival on September 1, 2010; and in New York City, New York on November 30, 2010. Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Fox Searchlight Pictures in limited release in the USA on December 3, 2010; and in wide release on December 17, 2010. Rated R: strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug use. Runs 108 minutes.

Cinemaniac Reviews four stars

“Perfection is not just about control. It’s also about letting go.”

“Black Swan” is twistedly, heart-stoppingly original. It’s a tale of desire, power, obsession, and any combination between the three. For every time we take the involuntary chance to blink during the film, director Darren Aronofsky takes two seemingly natural chances to delve further into his psychosis of the protagonist. I can’t put the film any other way than to say it’s brilliant.

I’ll say it again: its approach and accomplishment are both sublimely original. And yet I struggle with the paradox, that it’s also retelling the classic Swan Lake. Nina (Natalie Portman) is anything but happy that she has received the role of the Swan Queen in Chaykovsky’s ballet; she’s more worried about winning, succeeding, attaining perfection in the role. She can’t lose, and making sure she doesn’t involves frequent paranoia, devastation, and ultimately, self-destruction. It’s no accident that the story’s journey through the mind, in fact, parallels the tale of Swan Lake.

The ballet Swan Lake ends with the White Swan leaping off a cliff to her death, and it is no spoiler to say that the protagonist in “Black Swan” meets her end the same way. Darren Aronofsky has made self-destruction a staple to his catalog of directed films. He’s also made character a staple, but never like this. We’re really put into Nina’s head in “Black Swan”.  Natalie Portman delivers an absolute tour de force performance here. Between her performance and the masterful cinematography of Matthew Libatique, the film’s most engaging game is in letting us guess what’s real and what’s just in the mind. Where this opus most succeeds, though, is in its distance from reality.

“Black Swan” is a lurid, bizarre, and hypnotic experience. Its dark, demented psychodrama vastly outweighs “The Wrestler”, Aronofsky’s 2008 film to which it is a companion piece. Indeed both films look at all the dangers that surround human nature’s greatest fantasy (perfection), but in comparison, “The Wrestler” only glanced at the concept.

BLACK SWAN IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD.

Need for Speed

Movie Review #726

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Directed by Scott Waugh. Screenplay by George Gatins. (Story: George Gatins & John Gatins.) Produced by John Gatins, Patrick O’Brien, and Mark Sourian for Electronic Arts and Bandito Brothers, presented by DreamWorks Pictures and Reliance Entertainment. Starring Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, and Imogen Poots. Uncredited cameo: Mary Ellen Itson. Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and Touchstone Pictures in wide release on March 14, 2014. Rated PG-13: sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language. Runs 130 minutes.

Cinemaniac Reviews one star

Apparently Aaron Paul isn’t quite done breaking bad. He’s done with the hit AMC series, and now he’s broken bad as the starring actor in “Need for Speed”. What I mean by this is “Need for Speed” is bad. It’s downright and outrageously bad. It’s awful. Terrible. Insultingly, childishly written, and I bet you all a million–no, make that a billion dollars that a nine-year-old wrote the screenplay. Even if you discount the eye-roller scenes where a co-racer strips nude in his office building just to ensure he’s lost his job for good, or when Paul and his girlfriend-to-be are pretty much fighting to the death over whose eyes are bluer, the movie is juvenile, formulaic, and excruciating to watch.

“Need for Speed” is one of those movies that has two purposes: to show off those cars and to show off them women. It’s rather jaw-dropping that it actually fails in both these aspects. I mean, come on, failing under that sort of ambition is akin to a couch potato aiming to take a walk halfway down the street and back, and consequentially not being able to get off the couch. The “Are you kidding me?” reaction is pretty much the same here. The cars, first and foremost, are CGI. C. G. I. Computer generated imagery. Yeah, um, okay…see, I kind of thought I was going to the movies and watch some street racing, you know, as in actual, realistic-looking motor vehicles, in competition to see which one can go fastest. It’s even worse that when these guys are going 234 mph, it hardly looks like 117. When they’re going 53, it looks suspiciously like 106. And all this is muddled by dizzying camerawork, which is so bad that I almost doubt it was meant to excite.

Then there’s the women. Or, woman. There’s only one woman in the whole movie that had a speaking role, anyway, which is entirely sexist. She’s the leading woman, thank god, but she can’t act at all. Clearly, though, it’s more about beauty than talent for director Scott Waugh. Which makes me wonder, why didn’t he just cast a model?

Speaking of the dying female race that exists in the movie, how is it that this woman has absolutely no idea what the hell Paul could mean by “900 horsepower,” but she can identify the engine in automobile jargon that I completely fail to understand? That’s pretty sad character development, but you know, there isn’t a single character in “Need for Speed” who is remotely compelling. Therefore it’s a pretty boring more-than-two hours, and dear mother of god, do I feel sorry for Aaron Paul, who gives the one half-decent performance in sight.

I’d say that only the feat of a genius could explain why I didn’t totally tune this movie out, but then again, writer George Gatins and Scott Waugh are not geniuses. As their abominable execution of “Need for Speed” has made clear, they’re idiots. (And I intend no offense unto them.) The best of what this schlock offers is questions for the viewer to answer, and I do have several questions about the movie. First of all, how can a movie with such awesome sound mixing be awful, to the point at which we don’t really care how good the sound mixing is? Why does this screenwriter feel the need…the need for stupid, stupid, stupid claps of dialogue (i.e. “I’m here to make peace…and money”)? Why do they think they can remake “Bullitt” and take a video game as source material? Have they even seen “Bullitt”, let alone heard of it? I mean, they are making a car movie. The least they could do is watch a great movie with the greatest car chase ever produced. And who performed those covers of “Back in the Saddle” and “All Along the Watchtower”? ‘Cause whoever they are, they suck. Do we really need product placement in a movie this loathsome? Does a bear [BLEEP] in the woods? Why do movies insist on wasting valuable 3-D technology on showing us trash bags flying way the hell up in the air toward the camera, rather than giving us some impressive shots of, I don’t know, that Ford Mustang? Why was this aspect so obvious when I watched “Need for Speed” in 2-D?

And why did I watch it in 2-D? Why did I put myself through “Need for Speed” at all? The movie has very little to offer in terms of, well, a movie. It’s a video game, except the controller, much alike our interest, is disconnected.

Tomorrow’s Review

TBD

NEED FOR SPEED IS IN THEATERS.

The Bodyguard

Movie Review #725

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Directed by Mick Jackson. Written by Lawrence Kasdan. Produced by Kevin Costner, Lawrence Kasdan, and Jim Wilson for Kasdan Pictures, Tig Productions, and Warner Bros. Starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. Cameo: Debbie Reynolds. Distributed by Warner Bros. in wide release on November 25, 1992. Rated R: language. Runs 129 minutes.

Cinemaniac Reviews two and a half stars

“I Will Always Love You” is at the heart of this movie. It’s first performed by John Doe (the stage name of John Duchac), while Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston are seen discussing it. Whitney’s character refers to it as a “cowboy song” and points out the melancholia in the lyrics. Something written for her character to be an interesting analysis, but I can’t quite call it an agreeable one. As you might guess, the song is also performed at the very close of the film, by Whitney herself. And that finale feels so unforgettably powerful, but only for one reason. It’s not really the scene itself that has any power. It’s just that song. Whitney’s earth-shattering voice makes a better movie out of “The Bodyguard”, and while it’s all a pretty likable flick, it’s hard not to feel that a song sung with such passion and conviction, not to mention a cover version that vastly exceeds the original artist’s recording, deserved a more poignant movie.

“The Bodyguard” had so much room for potential, but in all, it really isn’t a bad movie. It’s utter trash, which is why it’s so much fun to watch. And again, it’s nothing special at all without Whitney’s music. A good rule of thumb is, if you don’t really like the soundtrack (because there isn’t a human being that creepeth upon the land who hath not heard it yet), then don’t watch the movie. Your enjoyment of R&B music is pretty much what weighs the film as trash or treasure. The story plays out like a two-hour special edition episode of a television crime procedural. We learn that the victim is Rachel Marron (Whitney) and her bodyguard is Frank Farmer (Kevin Costner). Marron famous, to put it in simplest terms. Farmer is apparently great at the job, since he worked as a Secret Service agent for a number of years, though he made his sudden retirement and went to live in the mountains after Reagan was shot. Farmer wasn’t there, he was just afraid his reputation would be ruined. Anyway, Marron isn’t told as immediately as she wishes, but she’s being stalked by one of her fans. So “The Bodyguard” is mostly about that. It’s also about Marron’s inability to to adequately respect the bodyguard without having sex with him. It makes for a really entertaining but eventually really cheesy story, especially when you know from the moment they look at each other that they’re going to fall in love.

The execution of the premise is with limited fuel. By the subplot, when Frank and Rachel travel to the mountains, I began to lose interest in the film. Fortunately it picks up by the end, but this is pretty surprising considering how much fun I was having at any moment prior. The character development is rather amusing. Frank does so much to protect Rachel, and yet he’s so assertive and defensive of himself, insisting he only do what’s in his job description. Just help the poor woman out, will ya? Or don’t, and deliver a completely hilarious line like, “I’m here to keep you alive, not help you shop.” The script fails even when trying to deliver the “movie within a movie” technique. Of all movies, Whitney and Costner go and see “Seven Samurai” on their first date. Yes, the 1950′s, black-and-white, Japanese samurai epic that exceeds three hours. I mean, I liked the movie, and apparently so did Whitney’s character, but to think that that was Costner’s character’s sixty-second time seeing the movie!? No offense to Akira Kurosawa, but I’d be sick of the film before I’d seen it seven times!

Kevin Costner might be the only one who suffers from the screenplay. His performance is just so good! Then again, the way he takes his role so seriously makes every “whoops” in Lawrence Kasdan’s (“The Empire Strikes Back”, “Return of the Jedi”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) script stand out even more. Whitney’s character just downright confuses me, and it has nothing to do with her delivery, aside from the fact that she just isn’t convincing in the role of an Oscar winner. But where the logic is most lacking in her character is that I can’t imagine any celebrity has such vast amounts of time on his or her hands, especially if they’re singing on tour. “The Bodyguard” is one of the paramount definitions of the word “cheesy.” Think of the Tejano pop star Selena having James Bond protecting her every second of the day. That’s a pretty accurate image of what you’d find in this flick.

Tomorrow’s Review

Need for Speed

THE BODYGUARD IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY, DVD, VHS, AND LASERDISC.

GoldenEye

PREFACE

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

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Made by Eon Productions

United Artists

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.

Cinemaniac Reviews three stars

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.

Tomorrow’s Review

Nebraska

GOLDENEYE IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY, DVD, VHS, AND LASERDISC.

Prisoners

Movie Review #717

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8:38 Productions
Madhouse Entertainment

Presentation: Alcon Entertainment
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Country: USA
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.

Cinemaniac Reviews three and a half stars

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.

Tomorrow’s Review…

La Strada

PRISONERS IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD.

The Bourne Identity

Movie Review #711

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Universal Pictures presents…

Kennedy/Marshall
Hypnotic
Kalima Productions GmbH & Co. KG
Stillking Films

Distributor: Universal Pictures
Country: USA – Germany – Czech Republic
Spoken Languages: English – French – German – Dutch – Italian

Directed by Doug Liman. Produced by Patrick Crowley, Richard N. Gladstein, and Doug Liman. Screenplay by Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron.  Novel by Robert Ludlum.

Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – violence; infrequent profanity. Runs 1 hour, 59 minutes. Premiered in the USA on June 6, 2002. Wide release in the USA on June 14, 2002; in Germany on September 26, 2002; and in the Czech Republic on October 17, 2002.

Cinemaniac Reviews three stars

Doug Liman has had a history of not just action movies but action movies with creative plots. Results have varied from taut and entertaining (“Mr. & Mrs. Smith”) to dull and self-indulgent (“Jumper”). It’s rather satisfying to be able to say that “The Bourne Identity” places in the former. The excitement in action sequences goes sky-high, but it doesn’t try and boast that with any savvy camerawork or overwhelming special effects. In fact, it seems to humble these sequences in order to make sense of its plot. For good reason, things start out confusing. Before long, they’re interesting.

“The Bourne Identity” details the life of a man who has lost his memory. There’s a sort of inner science to this. He can speak several foreign languages, including but not limited to French and German. He can tell by pure instinct when he’s in danger. He knows how to react to danger, too. But he doesn’t know why he can do all this. He no longer has a clue of his employment status, his marital status, his criminal history. He can’t remember where he lives, his telephone number, his date of birth.

He doesn’t even know his real name.

Perhaps that makes this just as much an action movie as a character drama. Matt Damon isn’t fittest actor for this role, but he doesn’t have to go the distance to make it work. His portrayal of this character is ultimately as enticing as the plot itself. The entire cast is solid, with Chris Cooper seeming to stand on the balcony and look over any other actor. His character was given thoroughly cheesy dialogue, but his delivery of even that is superb. Save for the aforementioned cheese, the movie is well done by writers Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron. A rather loose adaptation of Robert Ludlum’s classic thriller novel, but if you want a different spin on the premise, here it is.

Tomorrow’s Review

Introducing…Short Film Smorgasbord

THE BOURNE IDENTITY IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY, DVD, AND VHS.

Match Point

Movie Review #707

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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.

Cinemaniac Reviews four stars

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.

Tomorrow’s Review

Alice

MATCH POINT IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD.

Anatomy of a Psycho

Movie Review #706

anatomy_of_a_psycho_cropped

UNITEL

Distributor: Unitel – Reel Media International
Country: USA
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.

Cinemaniac Reviews two and a half stars

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.

Tomorrow’s Review

Match Point

ANATOMY OF A PSYCHO IS AVAILABLE IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood

Movie Review #702

friday_the_thirteenth_part_vii

Paramount Pictures presents…

Friday Four Films Inc.

Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Country: USA
Spoken Languages: English

Directed by John Carl Buechler. Produced by Iain Paterson. Written by Daryl Haney and Manuel Fidello.

Rated R by the MPAA — violence, sexual content, nudity, profanity, infrequent drug material. Runs 1 hour, 28 minutes. Wide release in the USA on May 13, 1988.

Opening narration by Walt Gorney (uncredited). Featuring Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees. Starring Lar Park-Lincoln, Susan Jennifer Sullivan, Kevin Blair, and Terry Kiser. Also starring Susan Blu, Heidi Kozak, William Butler, Staci Greason, Larry Cox, Jeff Bennett, Diana Barrows, Elizabeth Kaitan, Jon Renfield, and Michael Schroeder.

Cinemaniac Reviews two stars

“Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood” starts out as if it were recapping a TV series. I’ll narrow it down to: “Previously on Friday the 13th…Jason’s mother killed people, then Jason became of age, and proceed to kill people, get killed by people, come back to life, and repeat the cycle.” There’s one or two major technicalities I could give you, but being that this is a review of “The New Blood”, it really isn’t worth it.

“Part VII” is a maelstrom of weak Friday the 13th apparel. What used to be great fun is now so underwhelming that it poses the question to us about what we would do to better it. I sat through the whole title sequence wondering why the music wasn’t in sync with each title, because guess what y’all, that would sound perfect. Of course, that’s just the earliest example I can offer.

“Part VII” has here-and-there camp, and as a result, moments of pure hilarity. All in all, its newfound assessment of Jason’s sprees is a hopeless and boring TV movie. If you truly want to be entertained, wait for October, when AMC routinely airs this (and anything from the series) with well appropriated commercial breaks How I long for another sequel as fun as the first movie–something arguable for half, if not all, of the sequels that lead up to “The New Blood”.

As you might guess, the characters in “Part VII” are very stupid. Though this is the second find we’ve actually gotten some character development that rises above the usual standard. Unlike “Part 6”, there’s only one character who’s developed, and we could have actually done without a described character. Look at ‘er! She’s a walking cliché! She’s telekinetic and schizophrenic. Both thanks to her father’s death, which she wished upon him at a young age, by the way. She’s still bratty and annoying in her teenage years, and it’s obvious that when she has telekinesis and wants Jason away from her, she’ll get her way in the end.

I feel like I’ve seen this movie before, and it’s not just because I’ve seen six other Friday the 13th movies. Very little fun comes from the director not knowing what the hell he’s doing, or the writers not knowing what the [CENSORED] they’re talking about. This movie was released on May 13, 1988, just three days before trash-diving was legalized in California. That’s the only thing keeping me from accusing the “New Blood” writers of taking their ideas from the Hollywood garbage can.

Coming Reviews

Alice
Anatomy of a Psycho
The Hunt
Match Point
Winter’s Bone
The Wrestler

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY, DVD, VHS, AND LASERDISC.




  • Quick Recommendations

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    MARIO PUZO'S THE GODFATHER: PART III

    MATCH POINT

    PULP FICTION

    REQUIEM FOR A DREAM

    THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED

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