Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I'm So Excited! (2013) Film Review

One of the unfortunate things about living in the States is that at times it can very hard to go see international films at the theater. While every once in a while a cinema will decide to pick up a few from the Academy Awards nominations list, even some of the biggest international films of the year rarely come to the states. Even then you can only catch them if you live in one of the few major cities around the United States. Still thankfully for Netflix and the Internet I am able to catch some great international films even if it may be months or years after their initial release. That said Pedro Almodóvar is one of my all time favorite directors. Ever since I was introduced to him at film school, I have been fascinated and in awe of the man's use of color, wonderfully written characters, and engaging worlds that get better by each film. Plus his range of is quite impressive being able to do both hardcore dramas and knee slapping comedies to an exceptional level. My two personal favorites being Talk To Her and The Skin I Live In, I cannot suggest enough to spend some time watching his films and enjoying watching a mastermind work behind the camera. His most recent film, I'm So Excited!, had me hooked from the first trailer. It had been a while since we had seen a true comedy from Alomodóvar tackle a comedy and I was hoping to see more over the top creations from this man's mind. While I wish that theaters near me would pick up Almodóvar's films, something is always better than nothing.

I'm So Excited! is written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar starring Javier Cámara, Pepa Charro, Cecilia Roth, and many more. The film follows the crew and passengers of an airliner that has had a malfunction and must make an emergency landing. It is up to the attendants to entertain the passengers and keep them distracted from the danger of the situation. After many drinks, soon we start learning secrets about all the passengers and the crew as well. We learn about a girl who believe is a psychic and wants to lose her virginity on the flight, an alcoholic steward who swears he's off alcohol that also loves doing musical numbers, a famous actor trying to reconnect with his suicidal ex over the phone, and an old dominatrix that wants to make a written complaint about the service. There is more but these are just a few examples of some of the over the top and hilarious characters in the film. We follow them all as they go through the turmoil of finding a way to land and hopefully survive this flight that's unlike any other.

Mysterious Skin (2004) Film Review

I like what Steve McQueen, the filmmaker not the actor, said about his film Shame. "Shame is my response to being lost." I feel like a lot of my favorite movies explore the topic of being lost, following characters who are trying to find their way in life either through good or bad decisions. My all time favorite film Requiem For A Dream and a recent favorite of mine Happiness are similar in that they bring us into the worlds of these people that we would never try to understand otherwise. The reason these films intrigue me is because they are trying to explore and understand the why behind these people. Why does someone fall into drug addiction? Why does someone have countless sex with prostitutes and girls but then can't actually get it up with someone who is interested in him? Even if the movie doesn't exactly answer all the questions it brings up, its creating that discussion with yourself and your friends and helps us realize that there is always more to people than what they present at the surface. That is where Mysterious Skin comes in as another example of a film trying to explore the why behind it's two main protagonists. Being a Joseph Gordon-Levitt fan I wanted to see him in an indie project before he hit it big and hopefully watch a compelling, honest film at the same time.

Mysterious Skin is a film, written and directed by Gregg Araki, that follows Neil McCormick (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Brian Lackey (Brady Corbet) from the young ages of 8 years old and then to when they are young adults. Both boys played on a little league baseball team and were unfortunately sexually abused by their baseball coach. Neil remembers everything about his coach and grows up to be a homosexual prostitute, hanging out on playgrounds to find old men looking for young guys. Brian on the other hand cannot remember anything about his coach and suffers from amnesia because of the trauma he received. Instead he believes he was abducted by aliens and experimented on leading to a minor obsession with UFOs and extraterrestrials. Throughout the film we follow Neil as he dives deeper and deeper into the world of gay prostitution and Brian who tries to find out what happened to himself when he was 8 years old and why he can't remember it.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Happiness (1998) Film Review

One of the biggest complaints about Marvel's impressive line up of films is that you don't see much variation in plot. We are introduced to our hero, they make mistakes that put them in life threatening situations, they learn from their mistakes, then finally pull themselves together just in time to defeat the big bad guy trying to destroy the world. While I can understand how this predictable plot and story beats throughout the film can make the films somewhat boring for some viewers I still find it to be a fun joy ride. Plus Marvel does this structure better than anyone else in the industry. Now that said, it still gets a little disappointing when you notice big Hollywood films follow the same story structure time after time, it feels like when you watch the trailers that you can already tell everything that is going to happen. It's this that make independent movies that are not held down by the constraints of the Studio system so fun, entertaining, interesting, and refreshing to watch. It is nice to see someone's original vision brought to screen without someone telling them to change things for the sake of making money. That's what make Happiness so refreshing to watch, a film that has characters that you would never ever see on the Hollywood big screen and asks its audience to look into a dark part of humanity without sugarcoating it. Its a daring and brave piece of cinema and the most bizarre movie I have seen in a long time.

Happiness is written and directed by Todd Solondz starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jane Adams, Dylan Baker, and Jon Lovitz. The film centers around a unique group of individuals ranging from a psychiatrist, to a woman jumping between jobs in her 30s, an author, and many more as they try to find what they really want in life. Unlike most people, these people find happiness in the some of the darkest corners of society like calling up random people on the phone book to tell them they are worthless or being a pedofile. The film explores these characters, how they impact the people around them, why they do the things they do, and the consequences they must face for it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Snowpiercer Film Review

If you have never seen a film by Bong Joon-ho then you are missing out on one of the most unique voices out in the world of cinema today. My first taste of his work came in the form of The Host which completely caught me by surprise for being original, darkly funny, and having social commentary all while being a great monster film! The film was so good that I put Bong Joon-ho on my watch list and started going through his filmography. Then we come to present day where it feels like I have been waiting forever to finally see his newest film Snowpiercer. It has been tough waiting after hearing so much about the film, the reviews and then the controversy over the Weinstein's trying to re-edit the film, but luckily the time had finally come where this film was in theaters and we go to see the edit that Bong Joon-ho wanted to release. What also makes Snowpiercer exciting is that this is Bong Joon-ho's first English speaking film and first big budget feature. While more money and a bigger release might seem like a good thing, that isn't always an equation for success. Sometimes when a filmmaker tries to cross over to bigger films, they lose what made them such great filmmakers in the first place. Just look at what happened with German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and 2010's The Tourist. So I was hopeful for two things to come out of Snowpiercer, that Bong Joon-ho would be able to keep his voice and style that made his previous films memorable and fascinating and also that we could see another wonderful original film in a summer filled with sequels and rebranded old known products. Read on to see my thoughts on Snowpiercer

The year is 2014 where an experiment to end global warming causes a new ice age across the Earth, freezing everything insight to deadly below freezing temperatures. Fast forward 17 years and the last known humans alive left on the planet Earth are left to survive on the Snowpiercer, a 20 car train that runs on a self sustaining engine that travels around the world all year round. At the back of the train lives the lower class, where the leaders and high class of the train have stuffed most of the population in cramped living conditions. The lower class survives on protein blocks and nothing else but it seems that the back of the train has had enough. Led by Curtis (Chris Evans), a protege of Gilliam (John Hurt), the lower class rises up and starts to slowly head their way up the train hoping to reach the engine room and take the upper hand. As the upper class fights back, Curtis and the rest of the back of the train must fight their way forward before their are forced to the back of the train or even worse killed.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Signal Film Review

Being born in the 1990s, I feel like I missed out on a time where people would go to a movie theater with little to no knowledge about a film before they saw it. For example you would go in seeing a movie called Casablanca and then have your mind blown by how brilliant the movie is! I always wish I could go back in time and watch the first Star Wars film without any knowledge to have that feeling of discovery and wonder at the incredible film. As I started become a big time cinephile, I would constantly read up on movie news, rumors, watch trailers and clips, and do everything I could to learn everything about a movie before it came out. About a year ago I realized this took a lot out of the viewing experience as a lot of the film would be ruined before I even saw it. So I have pulled back and like to go into movies with little knowledge, and while that is almost impossible for some movies I was surprised this weekend to have such an experience. With nothing else to see at the theater, my best friend and I went to see The Signal without any prior knowledge and found it to be a refreshing and fun experience. Read on to see my thoughts on William Eubank's The Signal...

The Signal follows a group of three friends Nic (Brenton Thwaites), Haley (Olivia Cooke), and Jonah (Beau Knapp) as they go out on their road trip across the country to help move Haley for college. While Nic and Haley are dealing with relationship problems, Nic and Jonah pursue a hacker that was able to hack into MIT's servers. Impressed by his work, Nic and Jonah track down the hacker's IP address to find out where he lives. Taking a detour on the trip, they arrive at the hacker's location to find the place empty or so they think. The group soon find themselves abducted and waking up in a ominous location, trapped by a group with unknown origins or motives. Nic faces daily evaluations from Damon (Lawrence Fishburne) but must find a way out of the facility and save his friends along the way while figuring out just what exactly happened to them.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Shining - Cause It's Halloween This Month


Film analysis for me has always been a sincere pleasure for me ever since I was introduced to it the freshmen year of my high school year. The teacher told us that we had to write an essay after watching each movie and this was the first time in my life that I had to reflect and put thoughts on paper about how I felt about movies. I wrote about a lot of movies in that class, everything from Singin' In The Rain to Days Of Heaven. This opportunity was the beginning of me starting analyze films, looking for the deeper meanings and appreciating cinema's finest productions ever put on celluloid. I still look for it no matter what movie I'm watching, hell if you didn't see the ideas of rebirth, death, religion, and grief throughout last week's Gravity then I do not know what movie you were watching! So why am I talking about film analysis because today I am writing about the film that has been analyzed more than any other film ever made: The Shining. Now why has this movie been obsessed over and studied like some holy text? Well I will tell you soon so keep reading about a movie impactful on its audience that it still is debated, wrote about, and documentaries made about it to this day.

The Shining is Stanley Kubrick's 11th feature film released in 1980 starring Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall. Nicholson plays a young writer, father, and husband who decides to take up a job to watch over the Overlook Hotel, a large mountain resort, during the winter months while it is closed. While accepting the job he learns that the previous housekeeper had murdered himself and his family during their stay at the hotel. Jack brushes it off as nothing and decides to bring his wife, Wendy, and young son, Danny, up with him to stay in the hotel for the winter as he tries to write his new novel. Then things slowly start getting weird as Danny starts to see things and Jack begins to lose his grip on reality and his sanity. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Gravity

There are lots of reasons I fell in love with movies. It has a lot to do with growing up watching Jurassic Park and being mesmerized by the spectacle of dinosaurs being brought back to life. It also has to do with an Introduction to Film class I took Freshman year of high school thinking it would be easy and then realizing that film was something bigger and better than I could have ever imagined. Still there you can't beat that some movies became a cinematic experience, breaking the fourth wall of the screen and soaking me into a world I had never seen before and actually experiencing it. It has those moments where you forget you are watching a movie and become part of that reality. With this I think about movies like 2001 A Space Odyssey, Jurassic Park, Star Wars, and many more. It becomes awe-inspiring that a film can break through and become something more than moving pictures that they can place us in the middle of these amazing places. Now we have a new kind of experience, one unlike anything I have ever experienced, with a little movie called Gravity. 

Gravity follows the space shuttle Explorer and it's crew as it attempts to update a satellite for medical reasons. Specialist Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a rookie astronaut in space for her first time but luckily she has Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), a veteran astronaut who wants to break the record for most time in space, to help and assist on the mission. As the repairs and updates commence on the satellite the team gets a report of a Russian satellite being destroyed and the debris heading their way. The team must then rush back onto the shuttle before getting hit by the debris. Soon things turn for the worst and Stone and Kowalski must work together in order to have any chance of survival in the bare, scary, empty space that surrounds them.