Posts tagged ‘revues’

Falling Down

This is one of the movies that I snuck into at 12 years of age when I was supposed to be seeing whatever PG-rated movie happened to be starting around the same time at that theater on that day. At this this age, though I had been exposed to a significant amount of violence in other movies I also wasn’t supposed to have watched, I was not mature enough to fully grasp the story of this film and, though there were parts I had liked, I left the theater somewhat bored by the whole experience. This was not an uncommon experience for me. All regular moviegoers have their hits and misses and, from the time I was first allowed to attend a movie by myself, I was as regular a moviegoer as humanly possible.

Probably 15 years passed before I saw this movie again on television. And, though obviously edited for broadcast, I had one of those moments you get to have once in a while with a movie you didn’t “get” the first time around. Once I’d finished watching it, I was taken aback by the intelligence and depth I hadn’t seen before, and it has continued to get better with each successive viewing. On the surface, this appears to be an action / revenge movie with a somewhat weak and/or obscure plot that doesn’t really take off. That’s what you’ll see if you go into this looking for an action movie. You will be disappointed.

But if you change your perspective and expectation, you see something else emerge entirely. Something crafted with such a simple brilliance that it is a joy to watch. A joy from an intellectual perspective, not from gratification for some kind of revenge fantasy film. This is not the story of a man getting even with some of the more annoying parts of life we weather regularly. It is the story of a regular guy, a guy you might see anywhere. Maybe even sitting next to you in traffic. A working stiff who has done everything he’s been told he should do, made the compromises most of us have come to except as part of life and his life has still fallen apart.

He doesn’t see his part in the procession of negative actions that brought him here, so he is desperately looking for anyone to blame, at least in part, for how he has been wronged. In doing this we see a parade of different symbolic characters representing some of the more frustrating, infuriating and terrifying parts of life that your average person either is or could potentially be subjected to just by the fact that they are part of the society in which we live. However, none of these potential scapegoats, though it is hard to feel bad for some of them, are the actual cause of our lead character’s problems.

We come to learn that his problems began long ago and they began within him, not by being wronged by outside sources. And today just happened to be the day that this seemingly average guy, sitting next to the rest of these average people in traffic, just snapped. This movie is about a journey that is physical, mental and emotional. As William “D-Fens” Foster (Michael Douglas) makes his way, on foot, across the city to see his daughter on her birthday, we also watch his sanity, compassion and self-control slowly start to unravel. This is NOT an action movie. It is psychological, suspenseful at times, intelligent and challenging. There are times you are pulling for Douglas’ character, and there are times you’re against him. It really is quite a ride with an absolutely pitch-perfect ending that will not leave you the least bit disappointed.

Rating: 5 Stars


Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter

How can you see a title like “Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter” and NOT have a slight urge to watch it out of simple morbid curiosity? Especially when it’s available for instant viewing on Netflix and it won’t cost you a dime, which is good because I wouldn’t have paid that dime. This is an incredibly stupid movie. The writing, acting, production work and everything else is all done very badly. I also had a passing urge to watch something else about half a dozen times over the 85 minute duration of the film. However, it is NOT “The Underground Comedy Movie”. It isn’t trying to be offensive or push the envelope, though I guess if you are VERY conservative and religious you might find it blasphemous.

This is one of those movies that knows how bad it is and revels in it. It looks likes something that a group of friends with a couple of cameras and little to no film-making skills threw together in a weekend. It can basically be summed up as Jesus serving as the protagonist of a really bad action movie, fighting vampires (who apparently aren’t bothered by sunlight) that prey on lesbians. Yes, that’s right. Jesus saves the lesbians. Don’t pay money for this, but if you’ve got about and hour and a half to kill and occasionally like movies that are proud of how bad they are, this one has got you covered. The best scene was Jesus fighting the atheists.

Rating: 2 Stars

The Case For Christ

I’ll lead with the best I have to say about this film. I believe this is one of the best and strongest representations of the modern Christian argument for legitimacy. If you find the proof or justification in this that you were hoping for, I congratulate you. You can also take solace in the fact that many others have and will feel the same as you do about this production. That said…

The film-making: A classic cliched amateur documentary that anyone can pull off these days with a couple cameras, a green screen, iMovie, willing participants and a love of “Unsolved Mysteries” reruns. Topped off by the classic feel-good ending as the symbolic cherry on top. Move over, Scorsese.

The content: Everything presented in this film is contingent on the idea, which they try to establish first thing out of the box, that the biblical authors, and particularly the authors of the biblical gospels, were unbiased and diligent historians. You have to buy in to this claim for the rest of the conclusions drawn in this film to have any credibility. For me, a My Cousin Vinny scene about bricks and playing cards comes to mind. The word “evidence” is thrown around pretty loosely here once they get rolling. Your belief is also further solicited by the idea that your being led through this by not only a former skeptic but a former atheist. At its core, this is the classic idea that the bible proves everything in the bible and work backward from that. Tie God inseparably to the Bible. If you can prove Jesus existed and that people believed he was the messiah, son of God, etc then he WAS the messiah, son of God, etc. And above all… trust us… really.

Conclusion: Please. I genuinely invite you to draw your own and I send you on your way with my sincere blessing.

If you want mine, it is this. That religion, in my opinion, often has more do do with love and trust for the people from which you acquire it or the fact that it may have filled the role of the philosophy used to guide you back from the brink of a potentially more destructive life than it does with belief or God. Either that or the assumption that in a genuine search for God, or a higher power of some sort, that religion truly speaks for him or it. I don’t believe it does and this film did not convince me otherwise, whish I believe was the goal. But this is my opinion and, again, please draw your own.

Rating: 2 Stars

The Pianist

I remember wanting to see this movie when it was out in the theater. I also remember making a point to try to see it when I heard about Adrien Brody winning the Academy Award. Both times it simply didn’t pan out. I would get distracted by something, as per usual for me, and the memory of the movie and my desire to see it would fall into the back of my brain. Waiting for something to bring it back to the forefront again.

I had recently seen Adrien Brody for the first time in the movie “Summer of Sam” when the Pianist was in the theater. From that moment on, I have always thought of him as one of those actors with incredible potential to be a phenomenal actor someday. Well that day came when he made this movie, “The Pianist”. Luckily, a conversation with my uncle recently brought this film, and my desire to see it, back to my mind. I’ve been checking out several movies from my local library lately since I am fortunate enough to live right down the street from it. Since it’s free, I made to decision to try to watch as many movies as I can that I’ve wanted to see but have never gotten around to. In fact the credits to this movie are still playing on the television across the room as I type this. And, for the sake of documentation, it is 12:30 AM. I don’t know if I have enough steam to complete this tonight but I’m going to try. I appreciate that some reading this may not find the preceding portions of this review particularly interesting considering I have yet to say very much at all about the movie. I’m afraid that if you plan to read this blog with any frequency that you will have to get used to it as this is the way I write.

This is the incredible true story of Polish-Jew Wladyslaw Szpilman, an incredibly talented and famous pianist from Warsaw, Poland, and his amazing story of surviving the Nazi occupation of that area during World War II. Adrien Brody does a brilliant job in the lead role, many times carrying the story completely by himself with no other actors to play off of, and definitely earns his Oscar. It’s truly remarkable how so often real life stories can be so much more surprising, shocking and rich in depth than anything even the most creative minds can think up. If someone had decided to make up a story that took their audience step by tragic step though the entire process of the deterioration of the quality of life for the Jewish people under the Nazis, they could not have done better than this true story. From average citizen or even well-known well-off citizen to barely hanging on to life while hiding from the Nazis, who could bring death at anytime, and still considering yourself one of the lucky ones by comparison. There is so much more revealed in this story than just the idea of being caught and sent to a concentration camp, though there is that too.

This movie grabs your heart and doesn’t let go. It shows that through abuse, humiliation, tragedy and even death threatening you every moment, that life and hope can still somehow survive. That even when we have lost absolutely everything, that life still goes on. And also that life is not as black & white as we sometimes make it in our minds. That those we think of as evil are not always purely so and vice versa. This is a film that I definitely recommend watching if you have yet to. Even if you’ve seen a great deal of films about WWII, I believe you will find this one very surprising and beautifully done. It is definitely worth your time. It is one of those movies that is so emotionally intense that it actually drains you. So, though I’d definitely have to be in a certain mood to make it through it again, I am very glad I watched it and I gladly give it my highest praise.

Rating: 5 Stars


Originally written on 12-20-2009

By now, you’ve no doubt heard so much about how incredible Avatar is that, even if you were considering it, you might now be having second thoughts about seeing it. I’m here to tell you not to be dissuaded. You may be at the point where you think that this movie couldn’t possibly live up to the hype. I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. I went into to Avatar with very high expectations, and they were not only met. They were exceeded.

Here’s what happened. I didn’t know very much about this movie. I’d heard good things about it. I’d heard that their was a lot of buzz. Which is actually usually cause for me to disregard it. At least initially. I love to go to the movies. But I like to appreciate movies on their own merit, not because everyone is going nuts over it due to heavy promotion. I probably WAS NOT going to see this movie. I’d seen a couple of trailers, but nothing that got me excited. Then I saw this.

That got my attention. One line spoken in the entire trailer. Incredible visuals. Music that builds perfectly from calm to intense. Add that to a pretty interesting plot, I was now probably going to see this movie. If I could scrape together the cash and the opportunity. Then I got a few bucks for Christmas, I had Friday off and AMC theaters have $5 admission for movie showtimes before noon on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So I went. My showtime was 9:50 AM opening day. There were about twenty other people there when the lights went down. For the next 2 and a half hours, I was glued to the screen. When it was done, I was speechless.

Don’t worry, I won’t give any spoilers. There are plenty of places that you can find those. Though I’d advise against it. The story was great and so was the cast. Perfect. That alone would have been enough. But this was a computer animation movie. This usually inspires some eye-rolling if it’s a film trying to be taken seriously at all or going for realism. And rightfully so. Though I enjoy Pixar and Dreamworks, this isn’t anything like that. This is way further down the road. This is new ground in computer animated films.

Lots of people would give you lots of different problems they’ve seen with recent attempts for realism in computer animated films. The two that always jump out at me are facial expressions / mannerisms and the eyes. Facial expressions and general subtle mannerisms tend to lack a lot realism. The eyes also tend to look kind of dead. They’re usually glassy, too dark and just missing realistic movement. Polar Express is a good example of a great effort for it’s time creating computer animated humans, but it still had the same problems in these areas.

Now, obviously, this film did not create realistic computer animated humans. Or any computer animated humans for that matter. But with the new technology innovated for this film, I believe they could. The natives of the alien world in this film appear completely real in a way that has not been achieved to date with animation or creature effects. The filmmakers, in addition to using a brand new type of camera to shoot the film, also came up with a rig that would read the expressions and mannerisms of the actors as they played out their scene. This translated into, from what I could see, completely accurate facial expressions and mannerisms transferred from actor to computerized character. In addition, the eyes are finally ALIVE! Mind you they’re not human eyes, but it’s there. When you watch these characters you get the feeling of watching a real person, not a cartoon or animation. You eventually lose yourself in it.

Between the beautiful landscapes and characters, the wonderful story and the new advancements that tie it all together, this is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. If I can help it, I WILL be seeing it again and purchasing it on DVD.

Rating: 5 Stars