MILD- Alright...
SPICY- Awesome

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Shutter Island (2010)

Directed by, Martin Scorsese, Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, & Mark Ruffalo 

Shutter Island, based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, is a psychological thriller about two US. Federal Marshal's Edward Daniels (DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), who are sent to a small island, home to Ashecliffe mental hospital for the criminally insane. Their mission is to investigate the disappearance of a dangerous patient. As the investigation progresses, the marshals soon find that there is more to Shutter Island than meets the eye.

First Off, we all know a movie is never as good as the book it is based off of, right? That said, even though I am a huge fan of the novel, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It does the novel justice for the most part, accurately portraying the characters and setting, and although the plot is a bit more complex in the novel than in the film, the mystery and the twists of the novel, are still produced effectively in the film.

This, is easily accomplished due to the fact that the story was handed over to one of the greatest director's to date, my personal favorite, Martin Scorsese. Thank you Mr. Scorsese. The stylistic form of the film was set up perfectly for a story set in a dangerous mental asylum. The score, was an eerie nails on a chalkboard kind of tune, that adds an extra dose of insanity and madness to every scene, making for quiet a menacing mood. The cinematography only added to this effect, the camera is quick and jolty, yet steady, jumping with pinpoint accuracy from one shot to another. All these components put together with dense and contrasted colors set the perfect tone for the story, brilliant.

As always, DiCaprio and Kingsley were excellent, and so was the entire ensemble cast. From the cool charisma portrayed by Ruffalo as Chuck Aule, to the creepy thoughts and motions of a lunatic characterized by Jack Earle Haley in his small role as George Noyce. This is not shocking though, because when you entrust a story full of unique and round characters to a fantastic director, great acting is inevitable side effect.

All in all, Martin Scorsese, Dennis Lehane, Leonardo Dicaprio, Ben Kingsley, Mental Asylums, Mystery. Is it a "good" movie? really, is that a necessary question?

My Rating: FLAMIN'

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

Directed by, Terry Gilliam, Starring: Johnny Depp & Benicio Del Toro

"We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold"

Possibly the most popular of all the movies made that are inspired by famous journalist Hunter S. Thompson (Gonzo), "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," is a hysterically surreal film. Alongside his Samoan attorney Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro), Journalist Raol Duke (Johnny Depp) narrates the chronicles of their drug induced and idiosyncratic odyssey through Las Vegas. (although the attorney is called "Gonzo" in the film, Raol Duke is the character who is based off of the real Dr. Gonzo). The journey is seemingly ambition-less and extremely clouded with freakish and dream-like adventures into the extraordinary depths of the subconscious mind that only hard narcotics can guide you to. There are numerous cameos made thoughout the film, including Cameron Diaz and Tobey Maguire, which makes for superb and interesting interactions between our protagonist and those he runs into. Bring along your thinking caps, but still be prepared for confusion, because this film is omnipresent all at once.

Though many would disagree, I would classify this as Johnny Depp's best performance. The way he narrates the story and captures the quirkiness of the character is what makes the movie so fun and bizarre! With Benicio Del Toro at his side as the attorney, the mixture of their kooky and crazy personalities makes the story come to life in a bugged out sort of way.

All in All, if your looking for a serious movie about drug abuse and the trials and troubles it brings to the lost souls who have let it take over their now wretched and abhorred lives...Then run as fast as you can away from this film, for it makes dangerous and mind melting narcotics look like a thrill ride through a dreamland of large reptiles, flocks of  bats, Richard Nixon and Acapulco shirts!

My Rating: Spicy

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Goodbye Solo (2008)

Directed By, Ramin Bahrani.

"Goodbye Solo," is a story about two men, living in two considerably different stages of life, and their remarkable friendship. One man, Solo, is a young goodhearted African immigrant who supports his family by driving a cab, but dreams of traveling the world as a flight attendant. Unaccustomed to the common apathetic nature of American society, Solo strongly believes that people should take care of, and look out for one-another. So, when he encounters William, an elderly man who many would consider to be vile and mean, he reaches out, seeing that there is more to him then meets the eye. Solo sees that William is a man who is hurting, a man who is lonely, a man who is in need of a friend.

This independent film by Ramin Bahrani was released in 2008 at the London Film Festival in the United Kingdom. But more recently it was re released to larger audiences in august of 2009, which makes it a prime candidate for this years Academy Awards. Believe me, it was worthy.

It's actually quite a sad story, because it accurately portrays the apathetic nature of our society, the fact that a character, like Solo is so rare, is dismal in itself . Souleymane Sy Savane, the actor who plays Solo, did a wonderful job in creating a character that anyone, no matter who you are, would love to be around purely because of his good nature. And when he clashes with his foil, William, who is portrayed by actor, Red West, it makes for a brilliant and touching development.

Also the cinematography was done quite well. When a film has great photography and riveting dialouge (portrayed by talented actors), there is no need for anything else, and that is brilliant film, plain and simple. When you can create a riveting and entertaining film without an overwhelming amount of visual effects or mind blowing action sequences, then you might just have a truly great film on your hands. (not to say that films with action or visual effects cannot be great as well).

All in all, inspiring and touching film. Very, very well done. Bravo.

My Rating: FLAMIN'

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

City of God (2002)

Directed by, Fernando Meirelles &Katia Lund

"Cidade de Deus," as it is originally titled, is a Brazilian film about growing up in the slums in Brazil, and the violence and crime that surrounds it. The true events that take place are shocking, raw, and brutal. 

The story primarily focuses on two young men who are growing up in, "The City Of God," which is the name that has been given to the crime ridden slums in Brazil. One boy, Lil Ze', follows the all too open road towards Crime, with a mind set on becoming the most powerful kingpin to ever run the City of God. He sets the pace for the new generation of young criminals, by killing anyone that gets in his way. The other boy, Rocket, is the narrator of the film. He has his dreams set on becoming a photographer, of escaping the City of God.

The film plays in a Tarantino-esque style, shot in chapters, with characters that have a sickening desensitization to  raw violence. We see an all too real side of the world, that many more fortunate people are completely unaware of. Possibly the most shocking aspect of this film, is the loss of innocence and comfortability with violence that the children in the slums develop at such an early age. One scene in particular, shows a group of young boys, aged from 5-10, walking casually down a dusky alley, bearing firearms and discussing lightheartedly, who their next victims should be. This scene, is just a small example of the disturbing nature of the entire film.

All in all,  City of God, is a heartbreaking film. To assist the viewer in fully understanding the brutality and violent nature of this hell, it holds nothing back, it is a raw and disturbing film, but it is also necessary. If this film doesn't make you grateful of the life you are living, then nothing will. Go rent it, go buy it, go borrow it, whatever it takes see it, this film ranks up top as one of the best of this decade, don't miss out.

My Rating: FLAMIN'

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Avatar (2009)

Directed by, James Cameron__Starring, Sam Worthington & Sigourney Weaver

If you haven't at least heard of Avatar yet, you must be living on another planet. Avatar is director James Cameron's (Titanic, Alien, Terminator etc.) latest film, about a crippled marine who embarks on a journey to study a foreign planet, and it's indigenous people. Avatar follows the trend of Cameron's past films, in that it doesn't aim for anything less than EPIC. 

Visually, this film is immensely creative and surreal, but, other than that, unoriginal. Now, not to say that the outstanding special effects were not enough to make the film enjoyable, but the plot was nothing to drool over. The film played out exactly how i hypothesized it would before i even saw it.

All in all, this is as long as the review needs to be. It's simply a fun film, that is being blown out of proportion due to its visual effects. If your looking for an escape from reality into an exciting dreamworld, go see Avatar, but if your looking for a film that is original and revolutionary, this isn't the one for you.

My Rating: Spicy

Monday, December 14, 2009

Brothers (2009)

Directed by, Jim Sheridan__Starring, Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman, & Jake Gyllenhaal.

"Brothers," is a portrait of the powerful affliction and anguish war can have on a soldier and his/her loved ones. It tells the story of a man who comforts the family of his brother, who is feared to have been killed in action while serving in Afghanistan. Brothers, is an all around compelling drama that is emotionally draining, and heart wrenching.

Surprising, is the first thing that must be said of this film. Both the story, and the acting took me off guard, and I walked out of the theater a respectfully shocked critic. When I first saw the pitch for this film, it came across  as a sleazy, cheap idea for a drama. I'm so glad I gave it a chance though, because that is not the case at all. This film is heavy. Tobey Maguire (who plays Lt. Sam Cahill) delivers his absolute finest performance to date, as he characterizes a soldier, eradicated and clouded by the tortures of war. He bears a performance I never thought he had in him with such raw intensity, it is truly spell bounding. This film will make a name for him in drama, and resurrect him from his doom as a teen superhero icon.

The intense performance of Maguire is complimented by the other actors involved. A special ovation must be given to Taylor Geare and Bailee Madison, who played "Cahills" young daughters. It is often acceptable and understandable when a child's performance in a film is sub par, but these two talented little girls broke my heart with their bewildering presentations. The list of great performances goes on and on, both Gyllenhaal and Portman delivered astonishing portrayals of suffering and anguish at the near loss of a brother/husband, who was withering away both physically and mentally. All these great performances add up to create a film that is both emotionally/ psychologically phenomenal and complex.

All in all, really powerful dramas like this are the kind you see once, and only once. Not because you did not like it, but because it achieves its purpose at being emotionally draining and psychologically disturbing. It's a good story, that was made great by marvelous acting. Kudos to all the actors involved, this was an intense, heartbreaking, and heavy film. Bravo.

My Rating: SPICY

Invictus (2009)

Directed by, Clint Eastwood__ Starring, Matt Damon & Morgan Freeman

Invictus is the inspiring and true story about former South African president Nelson Mandela, and his struggle to unite the republic of South Africa after years of bitterness and hate between the native Africans and the white "Africanas." Mandela finds that the solution lies simply within a game. Rugby, which for years has served as a channel for manifesting bitterness in this aparthied-torn country, is now the only hope of uniting it.

The only thing that got me into the theater initially was the fact that Clint Eastwood was directing it, which is an automatic selling point for me. I have never been a huge fan of sport movies, "Invictus," however is more than just a sports movie, it is the story of one of the most devoted and beneficent political leaders of all time. Mandela's love for his people was awe-inspiring, it is quite stunning to see how he sacrificed and devoted his life to the cause of uniting his country, and it bothered me that this story is not well known. In America, it seems like our media is so contaminated with dregs of Hollywood gossip, that we become ignorant to inspiring or tragic events that are taking place outside our borders, events that we can learn an immense amount  from. I find that films like Invictus, are necessary for the purpose of drawing our attention to more important current issues, and prominent historical events.

Now, this film wouldn't be what it was without the outstanding performances of everyone involved. I would say, that next to his role in, "The Departed,"(2006), this was the single greatest performance of Matt Damon's Career. Even though this is landmark performance for Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman stole the show. Freeman, who plays Nelson Mandela, demands complete reverence from the viewer. If Nelson Mandela is half the man he is portrayed to be in this film, then he is legendary. Morgan Freeman does him a great respect in this film, characterizing Mandela's Humble, wise, and warm-hearted nature, and his astonishing devotion to his people. I have never felt such respect for a person I knew so little about.

Along with Freeman and Damon's powerful leading performances were the admirable performances of all those involved. Eastwood drew the best out of everyone, and in doing so, was able to duplicate the intensity of the grievousness harbored in each side of the split African Nation.

All in all, it is a great film that tells an exhilarating story. It sends a necessary message about the importance of devotion and unity among a nation, and it does respect to the real life characters who strived to reach this unity.

My Rating: SPICY