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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Three is One: Women going crazy

“Three is One” is a new feature here on the blog. The idea is to examine three different movies that have something in common and see in which ways they differ from one another.

This first installment will be about three psychological thrillers in which women lose their minds, or perhaps have lost them already: Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, Robert Altman’s Images and Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. All three films put an emphasis on female sexuality in various ways, and they all feature plenty of ambiguity about what is actually really and what is merely hallucinations.

REPULSION (Polanski, 1965)

Catherine Deneuve plays Carole, a young woman who lives in a London apartment with her sister and works as a manicurist. Carole has a big problem with men. She’s noticeably uncomfortable around them, which creates conflict with her sexual urges (the source of this aversion of hers is never revealed, making her case the most mysterious of the three films). When her sister goes on a holiday, Carole is left alone in their home. It’s around this time her sanity starts slipping. She spends more and more time at home, never leaving except to go to work. Strange noises are heard, threatening shadows loom outside her bedroom door and the entire apartment seems to be decaying.

Repulsion is the first part of Polanski’s Apartment trilogy. It’s followed by Rosemary’s Baby and The Tenant, two other movies that deal with themes similar to Repulsion’s, albeit with different slants. Rosemary’s Baby has Rosemary feeling paranoid about whether the child she’s carrying might be the spawn of the devil, and The Tenant deals with social anxieties as a man tries to fit in with his new neighbors. They’re both really good films and naturally make for interesting comparing and contrasting with Repulsion. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 30 June, 2011 in Three is One

 

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50DMC Day 34 – Favorite series

More info on The 50 Day Movie Challenge here and here.

Rare are the instances where a good movie gets two more good sequels. Even rarer are the times where the people behind it know when to stop. Many franchises that start out fine eventually get dilluted and take a sharp downturn quality-wise in pursuit of the almighty dollar. But there are the rare exceptions.

After some careful consideration, I’d have to go with Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy as my favorite series. The timing of it couldn’t have been better for me. I had discovered the books a few years prior and had them kickstart my fascination with the fantasy genre, one that lasted throughout my teens and onwards. The interest in Lord of the Rings was at its peak among me and my friends when Fellowship of the Ring arrived in theaters, and it lived up to all the expectations we had of it. The way the world and the characters were brought to life on the screen felt so very right, with mostly everything coming off just as I had imagined it when reading the novels

With the films all being shot together, it’s no wonder that the Lord of the Rings movies maintain a stable level of quality throughout. While Fellowship remains my favorite of the three, both The Two Towers and The Return of the King provide their fair share of memorable moments, feature the same impressive degree of art direction and craftsmanship and progress and close off the story in a satisfying manner.

Maybe it’s “unfair” to rank Lord of the Rings above other film series. Since the movies were made at the same time, they automatically avoid a lot of problems that have thwarted other franchises. Change of director and cast, public opinion swaying, adjustments to cater to fans, etcetera. But fact remains: I can think of no series of films that have stayed as good from first to last part as Lord of the Rings.

 
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Posted by on 30 June, 2011 in 50 Day Movie Challenge

 

50DMC Day 33 – Favorite remake

More info on The 50 Day Movie Challenge here and here.

Jandy over at Jandy’s Meanderings has also started on the Challenge now. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what she picks, and so should you. Head on over there and have a look.

Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky sounds about right for my pick today. A remake of the Spanish movie Open Your Eyes (Abre los ojos), it’s a very fun mystery thriller that kept me guessing all the way through. It also features a great cast of actors all operating at the top of their game, including Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz and most notably Penelope Cruz who reprises her role from the original (and who completely slipped my mind when I did the Biggest movie character crush thing a while ago).

Sadly, I haven’t had the opportunity to check out the original yet. I’ve been wanting to ever since I saw Vanilla Sky, but it has proven hard to find on DVD around these parts. People who have seen both seem to prefer Open Your Eyes, so maybe I will find the remake lacking when I finally do come across the original. Time will tell. For now, it’s a great film.

 
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Posted by on 29 June, 2011 in 50 Day Movie Challenge

 

50DMC Day 32 – Favorite sequel

More info on The 50 Day Movie Challenge here and here.

Another blogger has joined the fray! Hannah M over at Unpublished For a Reason has started her own journey through The 50 Day Movie Challenge. Head on over there to see what she’s picking.

So. Favorite sequel. I’m trying to avoid picking the same movie multiple times during this project. This spot really belongs to Before Sunset, a film that is everything a sequel should be and more. But I already used it for Best Ending, so that’s a no-go. Luckily, there’s another movie that isn’t far behind when discussing great sequels.

There does seem to be a lot of debate on whether The Terminator or Terminator 2: Judgment Day is the better movie, though. Some prefer the original’s darker and unrelentingly tension-filled tone. I’ve always favored the sequel, however. Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator was always too cool a character to really root against, so he works better as a good guy than as the antagonist. Terminator 2 is also very well-paced, knowing exactly when to push the action and when to take a breather. It’s not afraid to lighten up the mood a bit with some humor, but is smart enough to stay away from it when the action intensifies, so the sense of danger is always there when called for. Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor also provides a more nuanced and multifaceted performance this time around, taking the chance to add depth and transformation to her character. And the action is all ramped up, of course, with the chase scene through the canal being particularly awe-inspiring and memorable.

The end result is one of the very best action films ever made. While the original is a great movie in its own right, I’ll take the sequel over it any day of the week.

 
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Posted by on 28 June, 2011 in 50 Day Movie Challenge

 

50DMC Day 31: The worst movie you’ve ever seen

More info on The 50 Day Movie Challenge here and here.

Remember a while ago when I said that National Lampoon still manages to get it right every now and then? That was very much the exception to the rule, and there is no better proof of how far they’ve fallen than Pledge This.

Please understand that I take no pleasure in going for easy targets. This is a 2006 National Lampoon film starring Paris Hilton. Lord knows it’s easy to assume it’s going to be bad, and Paris Hilton has certainly gotten her fair share of vitriol thrown against her over the years. I’m not trying to bandwagon on the hate train or anything, and I went into the movie with an open mind, thinking it probably wouldn’t be that terrible. The film’s 1.6 IMDB score was most likely just a byproduct of the public’s negative opinion towards her, I figured. Little did I know that the good folks who visit IMDB were actually overrating it.

I can’t think of anything that went right with this film. The humor is brainless and centers mostly around sex, bodily functions and bullying. This isn’t automatically a bad thing, but when the movie fails to ever be funny, the crudeness of it makes it all the more painful. None of the people involved seem to have any grasp of comedic timing. The plot, as it were, isn’t presented in any coherent fashion. It’s brainless, it’s nasty, it’s mean-spirited and it’s incompetently put together. There are no redeeming factors about this movie. It is hell, and hell is a bad place.

This scene perfectly examplifies the levels this movie inhabits. It contains poop-water spraying everywhere. If that sort of thing offends you, don’t watch the video.

 
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Posted by on 27 June, 2011 in 50 Day Movie Challenge

 

50DMC Day 30 – The last movie you saw in theatres

More info on The 50 Day Movie Challenge here and here.

That would have to be Super 8, which I saw just the other week. I quite liked it, even more the more I think about it. It’s a nice throwback to the old Spielberg sci-fi movies. It’s rare nowadays to see children take center stage in a film like this without everything being sugar-coated and neutered, so this was a nice change of pace. It helps that the young actors all do a very fine job here, with the way they interact with one another ringing true to my own memories of childhood. The story itself isn’t anything special, but it’s told earnestly and with just the right amount of humor. It’s also a gorgeous movie to just look at, both in regard to the state-of-the-art visual effects and the art direction, the latter which really brings the 1979 setting to life. All in all, it’s a very enjoyable film. I’m happy I went out to see it.

Here’s the superb teaser trailer. This was all I ever needed to see of or know about the film to make me want to check it out.

 
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Posted by on 26 June, 2011 in 50 Day Movie Challenge

 

50DMC Day 29 – The one movie you think everyone should see

More info on The 50 Day Movie Challenge here and here.

I try to make it a habit not to recommend a movie to people unless I think they will like it. Today’s challenge involves recommending one movie to everyone, so it requires a film that holds some kind of universal appeal. But it should also be a film that I myself think is really great. If not, why would I care if people saw it or not?

I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say they didn’t like Groundhog Day, and it also happens to be one of my favorite movies. And the “universal appeal” aspect is certainly in effect if director/writer Harold Ramis is to be believed. In the DVD commentary track, he mentions how he has gotten lots of mail from people from all parts of the world and various religious and spiritual groups, all saying how the film rings true to their specfic philosophies. It’s not a stretch to imagine that Bill Murray’s journey from being a jerk to more altruistic values can fit in well with lots of different beliefs.

It’s also a very funny movie, with Murray at his comedic best as the snarky weatherman who finds himself forced to relive February 2 over and over again. First he’s annoyed, then he starts abusing his new “power”, gets fed up with it and tries to kill himself, and eventually learns to care for the people around him and starts bettering himself. Every leg of his transformative arc is a delight to behold.

Actually, now I’m curious: Do you know anyone who dislikes Groundhog Day? If so, please let me know by leaving a comment below.

 
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Posted by on 26 June, 2011 in 50 Day Movie Challenge