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Monthly Report: July 2012

As I warned in my last blog post, my blogging is currently kept at a low pace. I spent last week in sunny Bulgaria, relaxing and having a good time, and now I’m currently in the middle of moving to my new apartment. I hardly find time to watch any movies, let alone write about them. Hell, I haven’t even found the time to check out The Dark Knight Rises yet. Sad face.

Still, I did get to satisfy my cinematic hunger earlier in July. The yearly local fair was in town, and that’s always a good place to pick up cheap DVDs. The selection isn’t excellent and is mostly comprised of newer releases, which is a large part of why I only watched two films the past month that were made earlier than 2009. So much for expanding my horizons. The two older films were among the best I saw this past, funnily enough.

Limitless (Neil Burger, 2011)
An appealing what-if scenario: what if you had a pill that makes you super-smart, highly focused, and gives you flawless memory? The mind spins with thoughts of what one could accomplish with such a thing. Limitless has Bradley Cooper get his hands on a pill like this, and then tells a story that may not be all that clever, but which is certainly not boring. I could have done with less stupidity exhibited by the supposedly hyper-intelligent protagonist, and the narration rears its ugly head a bit too often, but this is a flashy and fun thriller nonetheless. I was entertained.
3/5

Out of Sight (Steven Soderbergh, 1998)
This is my kind of crime movie. Smart, funny, fresh, and peppered with actual characters rather than plot chess pieces. Hell of a cast too, with George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez threatening to immolate the movie with their mad chemistry. Possibly my favorite Soderbergh.
5/5

Welcome to the Rileys (Jake Scott, 2010)
A well-acted grief drama with the occasional funny bits. The main drawback here is a story that, while told well, isn’t particularly interesting. Parents have lost their child, then the guy happens upon a surrogate, and… that’s kind of it. It’s an enjoyable watch, but not very memorable.
3/5

The Hangover Part II (Todd Phillips, 2011)
I will give some credit here for showing that the characters have learned something from their ordeals in the first movie, but this also presents a problem that shows that a sequel to The Hangover is a pretty bad idea. In the first one, the three heroes were trying to find their missing friend. The friend is essentially a MacGuffin, but there’s also a definite fascination present with finding out just what the hell happened during the night, and the hows and the whys. In this second film, however, it’s as though they don’t care to the same extent. “Yeah, crazy shit went down, but whatever. Been there, done that. Let’s just find our buddy.” The film becomes all about the MacGuffin, and most of the plot ends up an irrelevant tangent. Other issues include a way too similar structure to the first one, and the fact that the majority of the jokes fall flat. This is a very lazy sequel to a really funny film.
2/5

Devil (John Erick Dowdle, 2010)
If judged as a horror movie by the amount of scares and atmosphere it provides, this one falls short. As a whodunnit mystery, however, it works well enough. Not that the payoff is necessarily satisfying, but the ride towards it is fun, with enough twists and turns to keep things interesting. Sometimes the chase is better than the catch, after all. Decent film overall.
3/5

Let Me In (Matt Reeves, 2010)
A very cool vampire movie that blends its supernatural horror effectively with a coming-of-age story. Suitably creepy, with some good acting to boot, particularly from young Chloe Moretz. And yet despite all this, it’s hard for me to call this movie worthwhile in a world where the Swedish film Let the Right One In, which is based on the same novel, exists. Mostly everything that Let Me In does well, Let the Right One In does a bit better, and there’s not enough real difference between the two to make Reeves’ film an interesting alternate take on the story. This one gets a good grade, but I’d still recommend you stick to the Swedish movie.
4/5

The Time Traveler’s Wife (Robert Schwentke, 2009)
One thing among many that I liked about this time travel romance was how it plays things different from most time travel flicks. For me, the appeal of many movies in the genre is to discover the cool solutions the film-makers have come up with to deal with the obstacles in the story. In The Time Traveler’s Wife, the really intriguing thing is how much effort have been spent to think of the obstacles themselves, and then resolve them according to the rules of the plot and in as logical a fashion as possible. It’s hard to explain properly, but it makes for a different and fascinating experience. I wish the film would have been a little slower, though. Some breathers here and there to mull over the implications of everything would have been welcome. Still, this is a clever and touching film, and certainly a better time travel romance than, say, Kate & Leopold.
4/5

Gamer (Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor, 2009)
No movie that has as much stuff going on as this one should be this damn boring. Dumb plot, and the worst of quick-cut shaky-cam action. Massively disappointing, considering how much I adore Crank from the same directing duo. To hell with this film.
1/5

Get the Gringo (Adrian Grunberg, 2012)
I like the idea of a Mexican prison that’s more like a mall for bums than a correctional facility. The story starts out well enough, but it loses steam early on thanks to predictable plot elements and uninteresting characters. Mel Gibson tries his hardest to salvage things with the kind of Gibson-y performance one might expect from him – think Payback with worse material – but it’s just not enough.
2/5

Lockout (James Mather & Stephen St. Leger, 2012)
The opening scene of Lockout has Guy Pearce‘s character being interrogated. He keeps mouthing off smartass comments, earning himself repeated punches to the face. This is fun, but it’s all downhill once you realize that he’ll keep spewing “wise”cracks the whole film through. Like, every single time he opens his mouth. It gets old really fast. The rest of the characters are equally annoying, the sci-fi prison story is a confoundingly dumb one and takes forever to get going, the action is sparse and lackluster, and the ending is an exercise in contrivance. It’s one thing for an action film to be stupid and insubstantial, but this one is also really dull. Avoid!
1/5

Kill List (Ben Wheatley, 2011)
A harrowing and visceral experience, genuinely unsettling and quite mystefying. Compelling from start to weird ending. I can’t even begin to explain the film, but I certainly found it fascinating. Give this one a go. You might not like it, but it’s worth that risk.
4/5

The Raven (James McTeigue, 2012)
First of all: I know this is John Cusack‘s flesh and blood on the screen, but the whole performance is so Nicolas Cage, in everything from the random shouting to the hair. Now then, the movie. Without looking anything up, I’m going to assume that a certain degree of liberties were taken with the life of Edgar Allen Poe for this one. Maybe he really was some kind of sleuth towards the end of his life and had to deal with the kidnapping of his girlfriend and a serial killer who patterned his murders after Poe’s stories, though I doubt it. This film is a pretty solid yarn. Not great, but it satisfies for the moment.
3/5

Rites of Spring (Padraig Reynolds, 2011)
Weak horror of the slasher variety. The acting is uneven, and the reliance on Dutch tilts gets quite annoying. These problems are especially prominent in the films early goings where the focus is on the dual storyline of an abduction and a kidnapping. I was ready to call this movie terrible at this point, but it does pick up a bit after the halfway mark or so, when the proverbial shit hits the fan and the action ramps up. It doesn’t become great or even particularly good, but it shows a certain focus by the people involved, and it’s clear that they know what they want to do. I still wouldn’t recommend this film, but credit where credit is due.
2/5

Made (Jon Favreau, 2001)
A spiritual sequel to Doug Liman‘s superb Swingers. Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn once again play a set of best buddies, though the dynamic here is different with Favreau in serious taking-care-of-business mode and Vaughn as an obnoxious fuck-up. The realistic tone from Swingers is kept intact, though the plot here is of the crime variety. The true strength of the movie is Vaughn, who so convincingly plays the kind of character you just want to slap in the face to try to lessen the stupidity that flows forth from within him. The story itself doesn’t matter as much as the ways his character messes it up, and it makes for a fresh take on the genre. Made is also worth seeing for Peter Falk‘s teriffic supporting turn as a low-rung gangster boss.
4/5

Detention (Joseph Kahn, 2011)
While not a complete success on all fronts, this rapid-paced parodic blend of both high school films and slasher flicks definitely can’t be faulted for not having its own identity. The jargon employed by the characters get a bit too much at times, and the ridiculous plot contrivances toward the climax serve little purpose, but I applaud the effort of trying to do something different. Kahn’s past experience with making music videos is apparent throughout, but this still feels like a confident piece of filmmaking. Enjoyable.
3/5

Total # of new films seen: 15
Average score: 2.9 / 5
Best film of the month: Out of Sight
Worst film of the month: Lockout

 
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Posted by on 2 August, 2012 in Monthly Report

 

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Monthly Report: March 2012

This is the start of what might turn out to be a recurring feature on this blog. Many of my fellow movie bloggers do something similar. The concept is simple: I talk briefly about all the films I saw for the first time this month. Mini-reviews, if you will.

The Abyss (James Cameron, 1989)
The Special Edition, for the record. Yet another impressive outing for Cameron, with the underwater setting providing most of the film’s memorable moments. The claustrophobic atmosphere is palpable, putting us right down there with the crew of oil-drillers on the ocean floor as they try to determine what caused a submarine to crash. It’s a great action film overall, though the ending feels a tad drawn-out and anticlimactic.
4/5

The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius, 2011)
Considering my extremely limited experience with old silent cinema, I’m probably not the intended demographic for this nostalgia-trip. I’m sure there’s a lot of allusions and homages in this one that I didn’t fully catch. Fortunately, this one can survive regardless based on its charm alone. The story isn’t anything special by itself – though intrensically linked with its style – but it’s a pleasant watch with what should in a fair world be two star-making performances from Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo.
3/5

Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
I was a bit wary of this film when I sat down to watch it. I had heard it could be a bit “difficult” and “strange”, and my previous experience with Bergman (Through a Glass Darkly) hadn’t quite knocked me over. Well, this one did, and with gusto. Wonderfully acted and thematically rich, but more than anything else, this may well be the most beautifully shot black & white film I’ve seen so far. I’m finally starting to see what Ebert is on about when he keeps praising B&W over color. Persona might well turn out to be the most significant movie-watching I do this entire year.
5/5

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Posted by on 2 April, 2012 in Monthly Report

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 1999

Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about the 10 films on this list is the abundance of directing newcomers on it. 7 of the movies were made by people who made their feature film directorial debuts, and while not all of these film-makers would go on to lasting greatness, it still makes for an impressive class of 1999. The other three films are made by two well-established masters and one quickly rising star. There’s also, as usual, a lot of comedy on here. This shouldn’t surprise you with my lists any more.

So far in this series of blog posts, I have chosen to largely abstain from making honorable mentions. This has largely been due to a stubborn adherence to principles; if one sets out to make a list of 10 films, one should not name 20 films. I have now realized that this is counter-productive to the aim of these lists, which is to give people an idea of what movies I like.

With that in mind, here are some 1999 films I really like that didn’t quite make my list. Honorable mentions, if you will. In alphabetical order:

Arlington Road, Beyond the Mat, Bringing Out the Dead, Girl Interrupted, The Green Mile, In China They Eat Dogs, Magnolia, Office Space, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Toy Story 2

Now on to the list proper. As usual, I’m going by IMDB’s year of release.

10 – EYES WIDE SHUT (Stanley Kubrick)

“No dream is ever just a dream.”

Equal parts nightmare sightseeing tour through New York City and meditation on infidelity, Stanley Kubrick finished off his career in great fashion with Eyes Wide Shut. Impeccably designed and shot – as is to be expected from Kubrick – and with one of Tom Cruise‘s best performances in the lead, this film is also helped by having a strong story, one that might seem simple and straight-forward on paper but that reveals more layers with each watch.

9 – THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez)

“I’m afraid to close my eyes, I’m afraid to open them.”

While this movie didn’t invent the found footage genre of film (Cannibal Holocaust from 1980 seems to be the agreed-upon originator), The Blair Witch Project popularised it, paving the way for films like REC, Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity and many others. When I first watched it at home alone one night as a teen, it had me rattled to the core. Even today, it remains a highly effective horror film by making us fear what we can’t see, rather than throwing a monster right in our faces. A picture might say more than a thousand words, but in horror, so does a sound that shouldn’t be there.

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Posted by on 5 March, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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Gazing into the crystal ball for 2012

Now that I’ve done my required looking back at the year that has been, it’s time to look forward to 2012 and make some predictions. Some of these will be bold, while some while fall more into the “well, duh” category. I suspect a lot of these will not come true, but that will solely be blamed on the crystal ball being flawed rather than any perceived incompetence of the fortune teller. These are not thing I necessarily want to see happen, I should add.

The Dark Knight Rises will of course be a juggernaught at the box office and will receive plenty of praise from both critics and movie-goers alike. There will be no massive love for any particular performance a la Heath Ledger, however. General consensus will be that Anne Hathaway‘s Catwoman is vastly inferior to Michelle Pfeiffer‘s in Batman Returns.

The Artist will not win Best Picture at the Oscars.

Despite a strong marketing push, Ridley Scott‘s Prometheus will underperform business-wise. Noomi Rapace‘s Hollywood career will be off to a rocky start, and she’ll return to Sweden before the year is done.

A film premiering at Sundance will be showered with critical acclaim, and by the end of the year, it will be considered one of the leading contenders for the Best Picture Oscar.

The Hunger Games will do respectable numbers at the box office but will not become a mega-hit, because the main character is a girl and it’s not Twilight. Jennifer Lawrence will start heading towards mediocre romcom hell, following in the footsteps of Kate Hudson. Winter’s Bone will seem a lifetime ago.

Ryan Gosling will be able to maintain his fame and prominence from 2011 better than both Michael Fassbender and Jessica Chastain.

The Avengers will be torn to shreds by critics. Words like “bloated” and “overblown” will be thrown around. American cinema audiences will flock to it regardless, but international reception will be lukewarm.

Daniel Day-Lewis‘ performance in Lincoln will be hailed as one of his best ever. The film in general won’t fare as well.

Pixar will bounce back from the critical failure of Cars 2. Brave will be a major hit and restore everyone’s faith in the studio. The Best Animated Feature Oscar will seem imminent.

The surprise hit of the summer: Rock of Ages. “The musical is back!” review quotes will proclaim in ads.

Michael Cera will do nothing to show versatility and make himself more respected in the world of film. He’ll still rake in money doing his usual schtick, though.

Norway will emerge as a major player in the field of international cinema. Swedes will groan and moan.

Mel Gibson will go a full year without any PR catastrophes.

Lars von Trier won’t, despite his self-imposed vow of silence.

The Amazing Spider-Man will do about as well as Superman Returns did, in all fields.

The ratings for the Oscars broadcast will be up a bit from previous years. Billy Crystal will be announced as returning to host the 2013 ceremony as well. Bloggers will cry out about how the Academy are a bunch of old phogeys scared of change. Then AMPAS will change the rules of Best Picture nominations again.

News will emerge that Jason Statham has signed on for a family comedy in which he will play some form of child caretaker. When questioned about this, Statham will debunk the rumor with harsh words not fit for print. To drive home the point, he will then announce plans for seven new action films to be released in 2013, including a third Crank movie and his directorial debut.

Speaking of third films in a series, a sequel to Before Sunset will be formally announced.

Last but not least: lots of great films will be released. Some expected, some not. 2012 will be a good year.

Have a great New Year’s Eve, everyone! See you in 2012!

 
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Posted by on 30 December, 2011 in Misc.

 

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