Gerard Butler gives a commanding performance (the best of his career… MoreGerard Butler gives a commanding performance (the best of his career so far) as Spartan King Leonidas in this intense, surreal, epic, and beautifully shot, edited, and directed historical fantasy. Snyder has created a great and unique cinematic experience that, while not being completely historically accurate, is a wonderfully entertaining and stylish take on the Battle of Thermopylae in which a small group of Spartan warriors do battle against a vastly overwhelming number of Persians who wish to conquer them.
Though this film is largely style over substance, it does have some deeper themes and what not going through it, chiefly that of fascism. You root for the Spartans, and you're rooting for fascism. Kinda like Starship Troopers though not quite as brilliant. The slow-mo gets a tad overused, and yeah, the Persians are undeniably portrayed as perhaps too fey and sibilant, but hell, this is fun, not art. I actually prefer this to the graphic novel it's based on because this has much more story and depth.
All in all, a bloody good show.
As far as final films go, is there really a better film that Kubrick… MoreAs far as final films go, is there really a better film that Kubrick could have his career end with (due to his death) than this? I don't really think so.
This is, like basically every Kubrick film, a challenging, beautiful, and haunting work of art. A ridiculous amount of shots are framed quite literally like you'd see done to a painting in a musuem. This sucker just oozes with craft. It would be a surprise if it didn't, really. I lost track of the number of long takes and tracking there were, but I was also absorbed when I tried to imagine how difficult some of them were to set up and execute, especially given Kubrick's perfectionism. For people who think this movie is only about gratituous nudity and sex, you are wrong, will be disappointed if you watch it solely for that reason. This is a long film that is deliberately (read: slowly) paced, with all of the sex and nudity being done in a very tasteful and artistic manner that also serves as an integral part of the plot and themes. And, just like his other films, this is a film loaded with symbolism, metaphors, and is open to a vast number of interpretations. The music was just phenomenal. It kind of surprised me that there would also be some slight similarities to John Carpenter's score for Halloween. The brief (but appropriate) use of a Chris Isaak song just brought a devious smile to my face, and the classical music that is used is just something that is to be expected- and it works flawlessly. The acting is also quite good (yes, even Cruise for those haters and mockers). I feel like anyone who works with Kubrick is capable of giving an excellent performance- no matter who they are.
Is this a perfect film? Well, based on my rating, and for a general audience, I say no. It is long, slow, and rather pretentious. Even though I raved about the music, I'll admit that the repetition of the piano notes can get a bit tedious and overbearing after a while, but at least it's only around in the second half. You need to be in the right frame of mind to watch it, and cannot do so passively. I spent most of the viewing time totally absorbed in it, but then got interrupted and found it hard to get back into, but that's a minor thing. It would probably help to view it at least twice (once again, like other Kubrick films), in order to get the most out of it. There's a lot to ponder over in this film, but the patient viewer will find themself greatly rewarded.
I dig mob movies...as well as Blaxploitation films..and on the… MoreI dig mob movies...as well as Blaxploitation films..and on the occasions that the two would mix, I have been pleased. But that is not quite the case here.
This is a run-of-the-mill effort in both genres.
What we get here is the typical story of a street punk who goes from rags to riches and works his way up the ladder to criminal stardom. There's turf wars, drug trades, and a push to force the Man out of the ghetto.
Even such a basic and well worn premise can still make for a good movie if done right. But here, the results are just basic, cookie cutter formula rehashings. It's not even that engaging or memorable of a movie. It does try a little bit, but not nearly enough. At least the music is decent though. That's probably the best part, really. If not for that, this would be even more forgettable.
Jackie Chan tries his hand at an Indiana Jones style adventure with… MoreJackie Chan tries his hand at an Indiana Jones style adventure with this little action romp that he also directed.
Chan plays a treasure hunter named Jackie who must rescue his ex-girlfriend who gets kidnapped by a group of Satan worshippers seeking pieces of armor said to date back to the Crusades that also have mystical powers and qualities about them. In tow are a goofy sidekick as well as the daughter of the antique collector Jackie does dealings with.
Okay, so right off the bat this film is basically just a fun goofy action romp that's not trying to be art. That's cool with me. It's just a nice little tribute to IJ and adventure yarns of the past, but with Chan's trademark sense of humor, and of course, awesome fights and stunts.
Chan is known for taking risks and often getting hurt, but this is the film that almost took his life. The stunt was a simple, straightforward, and rather tame one for him: jump onto a tree branch. However, during the jump, he slipped, fell 40 feet, and landed on his head, resulting in a skull fracture. He still has a plastic plug in his skull to this day as a result. And for that, I gotta give the man many many kudos.
The plot is silly, but again, that's not what the film is really here for. It just wants to be an action spectacle, and that's what it does, and does well. The stunts are cool, the fights are well choreographed and executed, and the film's got a great sense of humor to boot.
If you want a piece of fluff, albeit a decently well made one, then definitely give this a look.
I like the World War II films that cover the stuff everyone knows, but… MoreI like the World War II films that cover the stuff everyone knows, but I'm stating to get even more appreciative of the ones that bring the lesser known parts to a wider audience.
What we get here is the story of John Rabe who was essentially the Oskar Schindler of China. This film is a look at German Industrialist John Rabe who lived and worked in China, and was one of the key players who established a safety zone for the locals during the occupation of China by the ruthless Japanese Imperial Army. The event is often (unflatteringly) referred to as "The Rape of Nanking".
What this docudrama depicts is how Rabe goes from Nazi Party member to savior due to his efforts to provide sanctuary for the oppressed locals. Joining him in his efforts were other Westerners, with the highlight being American Dr. Robert Wilson- a very dedicated and compassionate doctor not afraid to speak his mind and call out Rabe for his flaws and motivations.
In this film Wilson is played by Steve Buscemi, and, while I think Ulrich Tukur was fine as Rabe, I think Buscemi gives a better performance, and that the film should have been more about him. That's not just because Buscemi is my favorite actor. His character is just more interesting, developed, and compelling. But Rabe is still a fascinating person, even if the film doesn't do with him what it should, especially since he is the lead here.
The period details are great, the film has a nice balance with showing the atrocities without going overboard or sugar coating it, and, more importantly, it brings to life an important part of history that more people need to know about.
Yeah the script could be better written, the pacing and structure a little tighter, and the importance of the story made more apparent, but overall, the film does just enough right to merit a slightly more than meager recommendation.
All college student Lewis wants to do for his summer break is travel… MoreAll college student Lewis wants to do for his summer break is travel cross country to pick up his girlfriend Venna. In tow is his recently paroled practical joke pulling brother Fuller. Their trip goes from banal to scary when a prank of Fuller's using a CB radio on a lonely trucker known as Rusty Nail goes horribly awry in this tense thriller heavily inspired by Spielberg's masterpiece Duel.
Admittedly, Fuller's prank is cruel, but when it turns out that Rusty is a psychopath that can't take a joke, the boys find themselves in a real world of trouble. You kinda pity them, and feel for them, even if Fuller does deserve to get some sort of comeuppance.
One of the best parts of the film, arguably, is the use of Ted Levine as the voice of Rusty Nail. His delivery and demeanor are creepy and really make your skin crawl, and really help elevate this basic, semi-derivative material into a pretty solid and intense thriller.
Paul Walker is decent as Lewis, and Steve Zahn is fine as Fuller. As Venna, we get Leelee Sobieski, who, to me at least, is a bit of a treat, even if she probably looks at this movie as just a paycheck. But as decent as they are, none of them steal the show quite like Levine does, and he's just using his voice, so that says something.
The film is a bit out there, and not the most realistic, but if you want a movie that delivers the thrills (as well as some visceral stuff), then yeah, give this a look. It's a lot better than it seems it should be.
I rather enjoyed Blue Valentine, so when i heard that writer/director… MoreI rather enjoyed Blue Valentine, so when i heard that writer/director Derek Cianfrance and star Ryan Gosling were teaming up again, I got pretty excited, especially after I saw the trailer.
The result is another fine cinematic gem. What we get here is a sprawling, gritty epic drama about fathers, sons, actions, and consequences, and the impact a legacy can have.
The film is divided into three interconnected chapters. Part 1 following a carnival motorcycle daredevil who, upon hearing from an ex that he has a son, decides to turn his life around and acquire a decent amount of money to provide a decent livelihood. He goes about this by using his skill set to perform a series of daring robberies.
These robberies lead into Act II where the action is focused on a decorated but troubled cop who tries to do the right thing, which proves hard due to mounting pressure from his less than ethical colleagues.
The film's final third takes place about 15 years after the events of the first two-thirds, and follows two teenage boys whose growing friendship and individual lives are tested when they learn about their pasts and their fathers.
This is a really ambitious, powerful, and gripping drama. It's also really long, somewhat slow, and has a final act that, while decent, isn't nearly as good or interesting as the rest of it. It ends on a decent note though, so that makes up for it, but still.
On the technical side, this one is clearly an artsy/indie type of deal, but that's fine by me. The cinematography is gorgeous, there's some great lighting, mood, and atmosphere, and you know a film is trying for greatness when it opens up with a killer long take tracking shot. The music by famed musician Mike Patton perfectly fits the vibe of the material, and really highlights the fact that, while the film does have a solid plot and characters, it's primarily about the aforementioned mood, tone, and atmosphere.
As the daredevil, Ryan Gosling is awesome. It's another killer gritty notch in his belt, and if he decides to do more of this type of stuff than mainstream romance fare, that'd be just fine by me. Eva Mendes turns in a stellar performance as Gosling's lady, and it's good seeing her show the world that she does indeed have acting chops. It's just unfortunate that she doesn't display them often enough. Bradley Cooper is a joy to watch as the decent but haunted cop, and it's good to see him expand his horizons acting wise. Rose Byrne is unfortunately underused as Cooper's wife, but even then she lends some credibility to the role. Ray Liotta is fine, though nothing special as one of Cooper's superiors, and, as one of the two boys facing a troubled legacy, Dane DeHaan is pretty stinkin' good.
So yeah, for the most part, I really liked this. It has a few issues here and there (namely pacing and the potency of the final act), but in the end, this is a really good film, but not quite the masterpiece it gets hailed as.
To commemorate their 50th anniversary, all past and present (living)… MoreTo commemorate their 50th anniversary, all past and present (living) members of The Rolling Stones gathered together for audio interviews to talk about the history of the band's first 30 years.
The present day audio is played over a vast array of archival footage from concerts, news broadcasts, etc, and also gives the departed Brian Jones the chance to give in his input about things as they were happening then. For someone who not a whole lot of people had previously heard talk, he proves quite well spoken and intelligent, which makes the footage of him both great as well as bittersweet.
You don't have to be a major fan of the band to appreciate this, but it probably helps. And, while some of the elitist diehards will probably not find a lot of new info here, it's still worthwhile for the sake of completionism.
If you dig The Stones, or are just a fan of brash bluesy rock and roll in general, especially during the 60s and 70s, then definitely give this one a look. It's a pretty interesting and fun ride.