Archive for the ‘Thriller’ 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.
Movie Review #711
Universal Pictures presents…
Kalima Productions GmbH & Co. KG
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.
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.
Introducing…Short Film Smorgasbord
THE BOURNE IDENTITY IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY, DVD, AND VHS.
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 #702
Paramount Pictures presents…
Friday Four Films Inc.
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
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.
“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.
Anatomy of a Psycho
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY, DVD, VHS, AND LASERDISC.
Movie Review #695
This review is dedicated to Casey, who pointed out to me that when German was spoken in Sucker Punch, only the infinitive verbs were used.
Warner Bros. presents…
…in association with Legendary Pictures…
Cruel and Unusual
Lennox House Films
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Country: USA – Canada
Spoken Languages: English – German
Directed by Zack Snyder. Produced by Deborah Snyder and Zack Snyder. Screenplay by Zack Snyder & Steve Shibuya. Story by Zack Snyder.
Rated PG-13 by the MPAA — mature themes, sexual content, violence, profanity (extended cut rated R). Runs 1 hour, 50 minutes (extended cut runs 17 minutes longer). Wide release in the USA and Canada on March 25, 2011.
Starring Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone Vanessa Hudgens, and Jamie Chung. Also starring Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac, Jon Hamm, Scott Glenn, Richard Cetrone, and Gerard Plunkett. Featuring a credited cameo appearance by Eli Snyder; and uncredited cameo appearances by Cara Hrdlitschka and Teya Wild as brothel girls.
“Sucker Punch” is neither a rock-solid movie nor a classifiably bad movie. It’s less than enough to say that at the core, this is an über-fun movie. Zack Snyder is here to make nothing more than a guilty pleasure. (You might say that he always is, but that’s a dispute we’ll save for later.) His movie should be an artifact of plagiarism, with its obvious cross between Tarantino’s revengelore (“Kill Bill”, “Inglourious Basterds”) and every commercial video game from Call of Duty to Mortal Kombat. But it’s not an artifact of plagiarism at all, because Snyder has something to add.
Following his successful compilation that was “Watchmen”, Zack Snyder has brought back great music, recreated specifically for the form of his picture. Actress Emily Browning’s cover of the Eurythmics’s “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” opens the movie like a five-minute prologue, or an establishing music video. A cover of the Pixies’s “Where Is My Mind?” (widely associated with “Fight Club”) marks the excitement, leading up to a cover of the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Dies” in the climax. I’m positive there would be no movie if no soundtrack. Every song fits, is perfectly timed, and makes the movie that much more fun.
But with all the precise music cues and CGI in this film, and with all the extensive action sequences, you’d never guess there’s a story. It’s a pretty interesting story if I’m to be honest. Seconds before being lobotomized, a young woman relives her recent memory one last time: a impossible nightmare in which she fights a few powerful, sexist pigs in an effort to free both her and a handful of other female mental patients. What makes the approach work is it has our attention the whole time. I was so engrossed, I didn’t notice some of the most ridiculous “what” factors of the film. Thanks to an anonymous friend, having revisited “Sucker Punch” for his fourth time, who pointed out to me that these characters were temporarily in a medieval setting with machine guns.
Outside of action sequences, or that terrific opening, the movie’s power tends to lack. I’m fine with the logiclessness of the movie. I love the logiclessness of the movie. But things are only good to a point. Here and there, things went unexplained and I was left confused. Why are these girls in a mental asylum when they seem perfectly sane? Is this to say that the men who sent them there were just sexists, and that it wasn’t just the boss they worked for, a more brooding reimagination of Dr. Frank-N-Furter? This whole movie was made on the grounds that these are beautiful women; you can’t have just anybody in these roles for a reason, and it certainly isn’t acting ability. But what sexist could resist them, particularly to the idea of a mental asylum? Did they get there the R. P. McMurphy way, and expect it to be all fun and games?
I’ve gotta say, for a movie with zero character development, “Sucker Punch” has a mighty nice fist to gaze at. Let me slightly overanalyze the title. It doesn’t suck, but it does deliver an exuberant, well-rounded punch.
SUCKER PUNCH IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD.
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.
Hit the jump for an announcement regarding the 2nd Annual Cinemaniac Awards:
Movie Review #690
Albert R. Broccoli’s Eon Productions Limited presents…
Studio: Danjaq LLC – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) – United Artists
Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corporation (MGM)
Country: UK – USA
Spoken Languages: English – Russian
Directed by Michael Apted. Produced by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. Story by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade. Screenplay by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Bruce Feirstein. Characters by Ian Fleming (uncredited).
Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – violence, infrequent sexual content. Runs 2 hours, 8 minutes. Premiered in the USA on November 8, 1999; in Singapore on November 12, 1999; in Malaysia on November 16, 1999; in Iceland on November 19, 1999; and in the UK on November 22, 1999. Wide release in the USA on November 19, 1999; and in the UK on November 26, 1999.
I’ve mentioned it now and then, but I’ve never exactly clarified that my reviews do indeed come from my taking notes on movies. Sometimes I’ll end up taking two whole pages of notes, front and back. Others, I’ll finish with six or seven notes in total. It appears that my notes on “The World Is Not Enough” filled the whole front side of legal paper. I suddenly feel like I’ve killed trees, because I could have narrowed all but one or two of my comments on the film down to one word: silly.
In fact, that one word is so prominent throughout this nineteenth episode of the James Bond saga that I’d have to watermark the sheet with a giant, boldly lettered “SILLY.”
But for the sake of not sounding like a total imbecile, I’ll avoid using the word “silly” to excess.
The prologue was a mess. Everything from the gun barrel opener–in which Pierce Brosnan could have posed much better–up to the moment James Bond drops off a hot air balloon to save his head from catching on fire with the rest of the hot air balloon, it’s all just a cluster of unexplained, unexplainable, and completely random bits of action. They seem to flow into each other as if they were one action sequence, but truth be told, if it weren’t for those fancy, über-cool gadgets of Bond’s, his villains would have already a) outsmarted him beyond any possibility of a plot, or b) killed him. Lucky for him, he not only has all the right gadgets, he has them with him at the opportune times. Which means he’s either a lot smarter than he seems to be, or Q (his quartermaster in charge of the high-tech stuff) has him prepared for absolutely anything that might occur.
That’s the first fifteen minutes of the movie. What follows, thankfully, is a lot more enjoyable. The title sequence is a lot of fun, with the mesh of psychedelic imagery and a song (as you might guess, called “The World Is Not Enough”) from the Wisconsin grunge band Garbage. Contrast with the remixed Bond theme, which actually is garbage.
Nothing is really as much fun as the title sequences after this. The plot is highly unusual for a Bond movie, so it puzzles as much as it excites. Why would MI6 assigning Bond this mission to keep Elektra King (Sophie Marceau) safe, when clearly, Bond would’ve taken this up as a personal vendetta anyway? Am I wrong to say that basically, they’re promoting a personal vendetta, all of a sudden? Why is M (Judi Dench) only concerned that Bond will end up sharing a bed with Elektra? How does nobody at MI6 have the slightest clue that Elektra’s dangerous? Why is M behind bars?
The movie seems to rush its action sequences in without even thinking. Moments of this movie are exciting, especially when Sophie Marceau and Denise Richards take the stage, but many action scenes can really hurt the film. Things blow up when Bond goes skiing with Elektra. I mean, they come from the sky, pummel to the ground, and blow up if they don’t land safely, if that makes more sense. Still, skiing? I mean, I don’t have a problem with skiing, but come on, we need an explanation, especially when things just suddenly start exploding. This was the first collaborative “Bond” screenplay from Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. They’re still working on writing the hero’s adventures, as of “Skyfall”. I’d have to guess that there’s one reason they weren’t immediately fired after writing a completely goofy debacle like “The World Is Not Enough”: the innuendoes. Conversation is solid here, but innuendoes are really the icing on the cake. If you’ve been wondering why this doesn’t garner any lower a grade, there you have it.
THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY, DVD, VHS, AND LASERDISC.
Hit the jump for an announcement regarding the 2nd Annual Cinemaniac Awards:
Movie Review #689
This review is dedicated to anybody who likes the phrase “between a rock and a hard place.” I use the idiom a lot, but I never thought that it would mean “in a situation that requires drinking my own waste product, using a video camera to lower my self-esteem, and amputating my arm.” Losing sleep, all right.
Fox Searchlight Pictures presents…
…in association with Everest Entertainment…
Made in Association with: Dune Entertainment
Studio: Pathé – Cloud Eight – Decibel Films – Darlow Smithson – Big Screen Productions
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation – Fox Searchlight Pictures
Country: USA – UK
Spoken Languages: English
Directed by Danny Boyle. Produced by Danny Boyle, Christian Colson, and John Smithson. Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy. Based on the book “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” by Aron Ralston.
Rated R by the MPAA – profanity, infrequent disturbing content, infrequent violence. Runs 1 hour, 34 minutes. TIFF premiere on September 12, 2010. Premiered at Telluride Film Festival on September 4, 2010; at Mill Valley Film Festival on October 16, 2010; at Austin Film Festival on October 26, 2010; at London Film Festival on October 28, 2010; and at Denver International Film Festival on November 5, 2010. Limited release in Los Angeles, California and New York City, New York on November 5, 2010. Limited release in the USA on November 12, 2010. Wide release in the UK on January 7, 2011; and in the USA on January 28, 2011.
“127 Hours” is a realistic adaptation of Aron Ralston’s memoir Between a Rock and a Hard Place. The latter title is perfect as a seven-word descriptor of the story. Ralston is hiking for fun one day, when he slips at a canyon, falls through, and finds his dominant arm caught between a boulder and the canyon wall. Not much really happens in the story, but it truly is a gripping drama, harrowing, perilously depicted, with all 127 hours (that’s five days, plus an extra seven hours) of this predicament encapsulated neatly into ninety minutes.
The gears behind this movie is James Franco’s performance. His depiction of the hero makes for an amazing true story and a rather poignant tale. He’s downright transformative and sincere in his portrayal, and he depicts the increasing lack of self-esteem most painfully. Okay I guess that’s not exactly painful to watch, once you get to three minutes of Ralston sawing off his arm with a pocketknife.
This is Danny Boyle’s movie. I didn’t enjoy his “Trainspotting” nearly as much as “Slumdog Millionaire”, which just goes to show that even in his weakest efforts, Boyle is a master of style. “127 Hours” is as stylish as most independent dramas might get. Not only are titles well designed, the entire title sequence is oustandingly designed, shot, and edited. The use of split-screen is incredible. The set design looks a bit like a set, though I could very well be dead wrong; no harm, no foul. The cinematography, conducted by Enrique Chediak and Anthony Dod Mantle, is entirely convincing. Documentary look, jump cuts to impressively explicate the passing time. What really stands out, despite all of this, is A. R. Rahman’s musical score. Simply put, this is what makes the movie so much tenser.
The story earns points on an emotional level for its believable display of cabin fever. Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle wrote the screenplay as the perfect adaptation of Ralston’s memoir. My one problem with the book was that it didn’t feel like a series of plans to get out of the situation; it felt like a mess of flashbacks, with a couple of interludes in which we found escape plans. The flashbacks (and sometimes just visions) will be seen as hallucinations in “127 Hours”. They grow into more depressed, tragic visions as the story progresses, but what makes them so saddening to begin with is the reality that these are nothing more than visions in Ralston’s head. They’re one of few things that can distract Ralston from the fact that he could, potentially, die before escaping the canyon. We’re given ninety minutes to ponder and sympathize with his character. Apparently, and ever so surprisingly, that’s long enough.
The World Is Not Enough
127 HOURS IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD.