Wednesday, August 30, 2006

One Hour Photo

From the first second Robin Williams came on the screen, I instantly felt very uncomfortable. He’s one of those actors who has the power to make you feel a certain thing with his very presence. He first entered the American consciousness in the role of Mork on Mork & Mindy, the kind-hearted and silly alien. Since then, his roles were largely relegated to the silly, with some rather notable deviations. Dead Poets Society and Jakob the Liar were very serious roles, while Good Morning Vietnam, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Toys were high on the silliness scale. In 2002, he did his trifecta of frowning, with Death to Smoochy, Insomnia, and One Hour Photo all coming out that year. Nearly everyone who has attempted to conduct an interview with him has failed miserably because he made them laugh too hard with his antics, and they always forget what questions they want to ask him. But which is better, the wild, anything-goes funnyman, or the stern, serious artist? It’s a tough call.

One Hour Photo, directed by Mark Romanek, is incredibly creepy and unsettling through atmosphere and tone rather than visual acrobatics. Romanek has the ability to take a perfectly normal setting and make it into what he wants. Though this is his first feature film, he’s had tons of practice, since he’s been cutting his teeth on music videos since the early 90s. It has served him well, because this movie has a definite sense of style, a signature mark distinctive from other films. Usually, it takes directors at least three films to really develop that. Romanek feels like a veteran, and in a way, he is.

It’s odd that this movie is classified as horror, because it differs from pretty much every other movie of that genre. There are no jump scenes, no special effects (except in a very short scene), and no scary monsters, human or otherwise. Even Sy, Williams’ character, isn’t a monster but a sympathetic man with many problems. The actions he takes in the movie are bad, and only get worse as the movie progresses, but they never seem to have evil intent behind them. He does bad things for not necessarily good reasons, but at least understandable ones.

One thing this movie does share in common with other horror movies is a heavy reliance on music. This is not surprising, since the director directed music videos for 15 years before making this film. Everything about the visual style is very exact, and that goes for the music as well. Sometimes it’s overwhelming, and I think Romanek would have done well to scale it back a bit.

Aside from Williams, who was great, there are no stand-out performances. Connie Nielsen and Michael Vartan play their parts competently as a troubled married couple, and Dylan Smith is sweet but vapid as their son. I’ll admit that in the first minutes of the film I did say “Hey! What’s Peter Benton doing in this movie?” Eriq La Salle of ER fame gives a pretty good performance, but he was basically just Peter Benton as a cop instead of a doctor.

In summation, this was a good movie about an injured man whom, though we don’t like him, we sort of understand. He develops an incredibly unhealthy obsession with a certain family, and it ends up costing both him and the family a lot. What I take away from this movie is that you should be careful where you let you emotions take you, and you should always be aware of your circumstances, and what they could mean to the future. Also, digital photography is the way to go.

Iconic lines:
“And if these pictures have anything important to say to future generations, it's this: I was here. I existed. I was young, I was happy, and someone cared enough about me in this world to take my picture.”

22 Rating: 9

Particle Man

Monday, August 28, 2006

Proof (a review by Number Three)

***NOTE*** (This is a review written by Number Three, our first guest reviewer. Look for future reviews by Number Three and other guest reviewers!)

There are two types of clever movies, in my opinion. The first type can ultimately be described as cheap. This is the kind that Hollywood usually puts out because it’s the easiest kind to develop. A viewer can know he/she’s dealing with cheap/clever when the moviemakers hide facts from you. The Ocean’s Eleven remake is a perfect example. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the movie as fairly entertaining popcorn fare, but it’s still cheap/clever. The “Oh cool…that’s clever” moments are a result of making us think one thing was happening and then showing us that something completely different actually happened by revealing things that the movie purposefully kept secret from us. Cheap/clever only has temporal leverage over my emotions. It’s a pop that quickly fizzes. The other kind of clever is quite different. I’ll call it smart. It’s harder to find a Hollywood production that utilizes smart/clever, but here’s how you detect it: the moviemaker reveals all of the possible realities, and then causes you to question which one is true. In other words, cheap/clever movies hide aces up their sleeves, but smart/clever movies show all the cards and dare you to keep track of them.

If you haven’t guessed it yet, Proof is smart/clever. The question is this: is Robert’s (Hopkins) mind gone for good, or does he still have moments of lucid genius? Either he does or he doesn’t, and the viewer truly questions which is true. As I watched, I kept changing my mind. But it wasn’t cheap/clever, because I knew it was one way or the other, and the moviemakers let me watch Robert be himself. There were a few unexpected revelations, but they never felt cheap. The lasting impact of the movie is that my perceptions were so wildly changed throughout the piece. I was being toyed with, and yet, I wasn’t being tricked. To me, that’s smart/clever.

How about a synopsis? Catherine (Paltrow) is the daughter of a brilliant mathematician who suffers from the crazy bug. After his death, a discovery of a brilliant mathematical proof in his study causes questions to arise about both Catherine and Robert. Add to this a nice little love story with math geek Hal (Gyllenhaal), who is trying to unlock the truth of this proof, and you have a pic that should appeal to many audiences. Think A Beautiful Mind meets Shine.

There are so many enjoyable moments in this movie that I’m reluctant to say more about the story itself. The acting is first rate all around, the story is powerful, and the popcorn is in your couch seat. Grab a glass of wine and your honey and enjoy this one.

As a new reviewer, let me explain my scoring. I use the –22 to 22 scale grading the mouthspeak and watchfeel. These terms are made up, but derived from the real term mouthfeel, which is used to describe the impact or taste of something (usually wine or coffee). In this case, mouthspeak is the overall cleverness, realness, and impact of the dialog and human interchange, and watchfeel is the overall aesthetics and impact of the visuals. Averaging these together produces an overall score, the mouthfeel, which judges the overall watchablility of the film.

Mouthspeak: 18
Watchfeel: 16
Mouthfeel: 17

Number Three

Friday, August 25, 2006

World Trade Center (Your Racist Friend)

(Note: This review is late. Please send your hate mail to the MBTA.)

Oliver Stone's World Trade Center opens with a shot of something bright, blurry, and red. "What is it?" we wonder. It might be a neon sign, but eventually comes into focus as an alarm clock, showing the time to be 3:29 in the morning. A man switches the alarm off before it rings, gets out of bed, and starts to get ready for his day by showering, brushing his teeth, and taking his watch and wallet off of his dresser. Very routine. WTC is a film that presents one of the most screwed-up days in American history in a manner that is very routine.
WTC follows the story of the aforementioned man, New York Port Authority Sgt. John McLoughlin (Nicholas Cage), and Officer Will Jimeno (The Shield's Michael Pena) as they respond to the disaster, get trapped in the rubble when the building collapses, and spend desperate hours waiting and hoping for rescue. These scenes are intercut with the reactions of others around the globe and the country, and also closely follow their families, most notably their wives Donna (Maria Bello) and Allison (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Note my careful use of the word "disaster." Some words you won't hear uttered in WTC include, "Taliban," Al Qaeda," or "Bin Laden." The film tastefully avoids politics, and wisely focuses on the human spirit and how it reacts and endures in the face of unfathomable horror.
Note my use of the word "tastefully." This works quite well to define how a controversial filmmaker such as Oliver Stone handles a very, very sensitive topic. Stone avoids histrionic recreations of the disaster in vivid detail, and doesn't show us anything unless we absolutely need to see it. There is no excessive blood or gore, and I don't think anything the movie does could be categorized as morbid or ghoulish. Stone's usually flamboyant cinegraphic language has been pared down, save one or two specific shots among the solid cinematography. Minimalism is the order of the day, which enhances the subplots, such as the astonishing (true) story of Dave Karnes (Michael Shannon), an accountant in Conneticut who felt strongly compelled as a former Marine to go to the site in his old uniform with rappelling gear and help out with the search and rescue operation.
It is pretty much scientific theory, going on law, that Oliver Stone is hands down the best living "actor's director" on the planet. He has gotten good performances out of mediocre actors (Kevin Costner in JFK), and phenomenal performances out of very good ones (Willem Dafoe in Platoon). There isn't much to speak of performance-wise in this film, with the exception of over-the-top and weird specialist Nicholas Cage being pulled wayyyyy back, with nice results.
I thought what WTC was a good film. It is not for everybody, as even a PG-13 depection of what happened that day will be much too much for some people, which is fine. It suffers from some wooden dialogue (Stone unfortunately did not write the script) and the fact that it's the furthest thing from escapist entertainment, but that's not exactly the whole point of art, is it? I give World Trade Center a 15 on the 22 scale.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

World Trade Center (Particle Man)

“Well, call me a transatlantic flight. He didn’t screw it up.” These were my first thoughts when exiting the theater after seeing World Trade Center. To me, the name Oliver Stone summons up images of war, murder, drugs, and the generally icky side of life. World Trade Center is a pretty screwball movie for him to do, considering. He usually does films about unsavory people doing unsavory things. I refer you to The Doors, Platoon, U Turn, and Natural Born Killers. So naturally, when I heard that he would be doing the first mondo-budget Hollywood movie about 9/11 (United 93 doesn’t count), my heart sank. Lord knows conspiracy theories about 9/11 abound, and Stone has been known to explore conspiracy theories in the past. I refer you to JFK and Nixon. He has let me down before. In fact, I’ve never really liked a movie of his that I saw. But you know, old Ollie didn’t do such a bad job on this one.

In all fairness, with the subject matter he was working with and the style he had chosen, he couldn’t have directed a great movie. He couldn’t have even directed just a good one. In fact, he only had two options: an adequate movie, or a horrendously terrible one. He must have known this, because he went with adequate. More than that, he avoided (mostly) all the things that would have made this a terrible movie. Terrible would have been easy. But instead, he ignores politics and conjectures about why this happened, and instead focuses on the human elements of the story. For the most part, it zeros in pretty tightly on the people involved in the tragedy, not the tragedy itself.

9/11 is a very touchy and sensitive subject for a lot of people. I had a very hard time getting anyone to see it with me, and ended up seeing it alone. There were a couple of moments when even I thought it would be a little too much for me. Everyone is saying it’s “too soon.” While I understand that, there really is no time that you could make this movie without it being “too soon.” This is a difficult movie for any American to watch, and if some just don’t want to, I can completely sympathize with their position.

As for specifics, the performances were good, better than they are in most movies today. There was no over-acting, and everyone was very convincing. Nicholas Cage, who’s really hit-or-miss, hits with this one as John McLoughlin, Port Authority Police Sergeant. He never oversells his character, and subtracts rather than adds to his performance, which is what this movie needs. Michael Peña plays the yin to Cage’s yang. With both of them, and all the police officers, you get the sense that they are just ordinary, unremarkable people. This is a definite plus, since all the heroes of 9/11 were just that: ordinary men and women doing what to them, in the moment, seemed like second nature. Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhaal behave just as women in their situation would have, and Bello’s performance in particular is very subtle at times.

Some things about the movie I really could have done without, like the Jesus sighting, which while probably a true account, was just cheesy. Cage saying near the end that his wife was what “kept him alive,” while also probably a true account, was very Hollywood and cliché. But for the most part, the movie was done very tastefully and with a heart. There were very few moments where we were forced to stop and think about the entirety of what just happened. The rest of the time, we were too busy being worried about the people involved. That was what the relatives and loved ones of the people involved were feeling at the time, so it fits. I appreciate that this film had to be made, and I did enjoy it. But I will probably never see it again.

Iconic lines:
“It’s as if God lowered a curtain of smoke, to shield us from what we are not ready to see.”
“I just saw Jesus and he was holding a bottle of water!”
“The kitchen isn’t even finished yet.”

22 Rating: 7

Particle Man

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

World Trade Center (Dr. Worm)

I think you should see this movie.

I don't know you personally, so I don't know your story and why you haven't seen it yet, or why you don't want to see it. Maybe you have already seen it; if that's the case, I'm not talking to you. I'm talking to the person behind you. The person who's saying it's too soon, saying they don't want to relive that day, saying that it's wrong to make a movie about such a dark point in our history.

Those are all fair reasons not to see a movie. But let me just tell you, they don't apply here.

Now, I can't make you see World Trade Center, and I don't want to make you see it. But I also don't want you to miss it for a reason that may be irrelevant.

If you're reluctant to see this movie, it probably isn't so much because you think it's going to be poorly shot, or because the acting is going to be bad. Neither is the case, I assure you. But I don't want to talk about that right now.

I want to talk about what this movie isn't. And what it's not--what I suspect many of you fear--is a shameless ploy to make money off of a national tragedy. It's not that. It's not even really a disaster movie. There's nothing Bruckheimerian about this film at all, no high-tech explosions, no shameless pandering to an audience's fears and emotions. In fact, the movie is notable for its certain lack of pandering. It has a certain healthy disregard for what its audience might be feeling, which leads to the inclusion of one particularly strange scene and one rather weird character that certainly are not what you've come to expect from Hollywood.

No, this movie just wants to tell a story.

And it does so to a perfectly acceptable degree. It's a simple story of two men trapped and hurting, their families wracked with worry, and the race to save them. The 9/11 background provides a context for all of us to relate to the events, but it's really much more irrelevant to the story than you might think. The acting serves the story. None of it is mind-bendingly awesome (with the notable exception of Nicholas Cage before the tower collapse), but none of it is embarrassing either. Like the lighting, the cinematography, the screenwriting, the sound mixing, and everything else, it's just another helping hand to tell the story.

But even the story by itself wouldn't have made this such a recommendable film. No, what makes this such a recommendable film to me is the take on the story that we get, summarized beautifully by a certain image and a certain speech in the movie.

The image comes toward the very end of the movie, as Nicholas Cage's character is being pulled from the rubble, strapped to a backboard. The camera pans out and shows us a literal sea of volunteers, all huddled together just to hold the backboard for a second before passing it on to the next person in the chain.

And this image is reinforced by a voiceover speech made by Nicholas Cage's character at the end of the film. "9/11 showed us what humans are capable of," he begins telling us, "the bad, sure. But also the good."

I reflected on that speech, on that image, on the fact that 19 human beings worked to bring the Twin Towers down, but that millions worked to aid, comfort, help, and serve those affected that day. And I got goosebumps. And--supposedly impossible for a film about a day of unspeakable evil--I also got an enormous feeling of good toward my fellow man.

And that's why you should go see this movie. That's why this movie gets a 16.

Monday, August 21, 2006

World Trade Center (Stormy Pinkness)

“Wow, this is eerie.”
This was my first sentiment while watching World Trade Center. The movie begins with scenes of people getting ready for work as if it is going to be a completely ordinary day. I could not get over the eerie normalness of the movie, knowing full well what was in store for these people.
Given the fact that most people remember September 11, 2001, I don’t feel it’s necessary to give a full plot synopsis. What I will say is that the story tells the tale of that day through the eyes of two Port Authority officers, Will Jimeno and John McLoughlin, who became trapped in the rubble when the World Trade Center towers collapsed.
Many people were uncomfortable with the fact that Oliver Stone was tackling this very tragic day in United States history. As someone who tends to explore conspiracy theories within his films, he was thought by many to be a bad choice to direct this film. But Stone proved his critics wrong. The movie is simply an account of that day and the lives of the officers and their families. I was thoroughly impressed with the lack of political statements, as this event is a perfect venue for anyone with strong political views to express them. I’m not saying that there aren’t ANY political statements in this film, but, surprisingly, the political statements tend to lean to the right if anything. The film utilizes the Prig school of history, which means that it shows the events as they were then without using knowledge from now. Because of that, there is no one blamed for the attacks. It is more of an "us versus them" without defining who the "them" are.
The acting in this movie was excellent. Whether it was Nicholas Cage and Michael Pena portraying the officers or Maggie Gyllenhaal and Maria Bello playing the wives of these officers, none of the acting was disappointing. Not once did I get the feeling that someone was overacting or not acting human. In fact, I was impressed with the degree of humanity that showed through the actors’ portrayal. In so many movies you see people dealing with catastrophes in several different ways, and more often than not they just aren’t believable. But I didn’t find any unbelievable acting in this movie. I was expecting it, but I was happy to be wrong.
I have to say that this review was rather hard to write. I think that simply had to do with the subject of the film. This was not a film I enjoyed. But it was an extremely well done film. There are some people who would rather not see this movie, and I can see their point. Why should they have to relive that day? They already lived it through once. Everyone should make their own choice whether or not to see this film, as it is a very sensitive subject area. Only if people view this movie on their own terms will they have their own experiences with the least amount of pre-viewing bias possible. I wanted to see this film, and so I did not have any prior negative feelings.
It is also hard to rate this movie, because I usually base my ratings on enjoyment. As I said before, I did not enjoy this movie, but I thought it was well done. But after much deliberation, I have come up with a rating: This movie receives a 16. Good job, Oliver Stone! Way to show people that you can handle such a sensitive subject.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Love Actually

Love Actually is like a good hug. It’s warm, it’s peaceful, and it makes you much happier when it’s over than you were before it began. Sure, it’s unbelievable. Sure, it’s way over the top. Sure, it makes ridiculous assumptions about our emotions and the optimism of them. For me, however, all those assumptions are right on. You really have to check your instinctual disbelief at the door to really enjoy this movie. You have to let it work its magic on you. However, the movie’s just so charming that it’s really not all that hard. It features a veritable bevy of British talent, at least four of which have been in the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Okay, just allow me to let my hopeless-romantic tendencies run wild for a little while. I promise I’ll keep them in check from now on.

Daniel, Sam & Joanna
The real story in this section is what happens to Sam and Daniel, and Joanna is just window dressing. Liam Neeson gives probably the most sympathetic performance of his career; from the second he comes on the screen in the funeral scene, you feel like giving him a hug. Thomas Sangster violates about 50 international laws with how frickin’ cute he is, and the two of them together play off each other so well, you might forget it’s a movie. Sam represents the carpe diem philosophy the film puts forth. The moment Sam comes back from the terminal and hugs Daniel was really what the storyline was about: Sam connecting with Daniel, not Joanna.

Jamie & Aurelia
Colin Firth is very convincing as a British writer, but he basically plays the same character in every movie he’s in. His performance here is basically exactly the same as his two Bridget Jones’ Diary turns, and his role in Pride & Prejudice was so minimal that it can’t bear comparison. Lúcia Moniz is a stunning physical specimen as Aurelia, and her smile lights up a room, but it really goes no further than that. This storyline, however, is responsible for one of the sweetest and most hilarious moments in the entire film.

Billy & Joe
These two are fantastic. Not a romantic relationship, but still love, though they don’t realize it till the end. Here we have one person very polite and composed (Joe), and the other a seemingly rude prick (Billy) who’s progressed to the point where he doesn’t need to be careful what he says. This relationship shows that love is different than romance, and really needs a much wider definition then romance.

Karen, Harry & Mia
This storyline is very predictable, and yet it’s not. We can see from the get-go that it’s going down a very dark road, from the first interaction of Harry and Mia. In theory, Mia is very attractive and sexy, but I didn’t find her so; maybe it was because she was just so slutty. Add to that Emma Thompson’s performance as Karen, and I just thought Harry was the biggest prat in the world. But Alan Rickman plays a prat like no one else. He is simply brilliant, like he always is. Note: Even standing at a counter is completely hilarious when it’s done by Rowan Atkinson.

This section infuriated me, and made me pout a little. I thought, “why does this happen to him and not to me?” Colin, who’s the very definition of a loser, experiences some incredibly fantastic luck, and amazingly, karma never catches up to him. By the end, I was sticking my lip out and going “NOT FAIR!!!” It’s saved, however, by Kris Marshall’s unendingly charming performance.

John & Judy
Nothing much happens in this storyline, and it’s basically just the comic relief in a movie that needs none. The fact that they’re very innocently pursuing a romance while they’re doing what they’re doing is pretty funny. It’s like they don’t even take notice of their surroundings. Funny, but unnecessary.

Peter, Juliet & Mark
It’s hard to choose, but this is probably my favorite section. Keira Knightly is very good in a subtle and sweet turn, as is Andrew Lincoln. Of all the characters, I probably empathized with Lincoln’s character Mark the most. The shot where he’s just walked out his door and he’s deciding whether or not to go back inside almost made me cry, and the choice of the Dido song was pitch-perfect. The way the storyline ends exists on an incredibly delicate balance; if it ended any other way than it did, it would have been horrible, but as it is, it’s brilliant.

David & Natalie
The non-believability of this section is really what makes it shine. Hugh Grant seems to have carved his place out as the selfish bastard, but I think he’s a lot better when he plays passive-aggressive nice guys, like here and in Notting Hill. This storyline really emphasizes that you have to have your suspension of disbelief cranked to 11. Once you do, however, Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon make a very cute couple. The Billy Bob Thornton cameo is a case of dead-on casting, too.

Sarah & Karl
This section, one of the not-as-good ones, is redeemed by two things: that they got Laura Linney to play the part of Sarah (as opposed to basically anyone else), and the turn it takes. Normally, very stark turns in a mostly happy film are not advisable, but here it works. This section brings the movie to giving a complete view of love; it shows that it doesn’t always work out the way you want.

We may live in a fallen and sinful world, but no matter how much filth and ugliness you apply to some things, they still reflect something holy and pure. That’s what Love Actually brings out to me. Okay, hopeless-romantic moment over.

Iconic lines:
“I’m on Shag Highway, heading west!”
“Tell her that you love her! You’ve got nothing to lose, and you’ll always regret it if you don’t. You’ve seen the films, kiddo. It ain’t over till it’s over!”
“Enough. Enough now.”

22 Rating: 18

Particle Man

Friday, August 18, 2006

Donnie Darko

Initial Reaction: I’m not sure why that was so good.

After my first Donnie Darko viewing, I loved it, but was convinced that I needed to see it again to understand it. I did, and loved it, but was convinced that I needed to see it again to understand it. I did, loved it once more, but was saddened to realize that I needed to see it again to understand it. I watched the movie for probably the sixth time today, and I still don’t freaking understand it.
Donnie Darko fascinates its audience in almost every way possible. Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays Donnie, delivers a seamless performance as a teenager who is—big surprise—disturbed. He suffers from bouts of sleep walking and trouble at school, and as we learn further into the movie, an “imaginary” friend named Frank. The relationship between Donnie and Frank (who, by the way, is a guy in a creepy rabbit suit) seems predestined, and a bit schizophrenic. Frank comes to Donnie at night or when he’s alone, and in the beginning tells him that the world is going to end in 28 days. He continues the countdown throughout the film, and also instructs Donnie to do various illegal acts, mostly vandalism. These scenes are haunting, yet somehow reassuring. Frank is a character that we feel like we should figure out, but his purpose and cryptic messages are a little too random and sporadic.
As we would expect from a movie focusing on a troubled teen, we get to know the rest of the family. And the Darko family is totally engrossing. Holmes Osborne and Mary McDonnell play lenient parents, seemingly forced to be that way because they’ve lost control of their children. Gyllenhaal and his sister, Maggie Gyllenhaal, are on-screen siblings who are picture-perfect as teenage brother and sister. Each character contributes to a realistic sense of familial dissatisfaction, frustration, and hope.
The other characters, some almost caricatures, and some painfully normal, are nothing amazing. They serve the purpose of the movie. The only person noticeably not good in a role was Drew Barrymore as a young English teacher. I felt like she must have happened to be walking by the set the day that their English teacher called in sick; they grabbed her, gave her some shoulder pads, and wrote her lines on the back of her hand. This is especially sad, since she was one of the film's executive producers.
I love a lot of the different pieces of Donnie Darko. As I mentioned, the actors who play the Darko family are dead on. The music is delicious…a soundtrack that reflects a part of the 80s we actually enjoyed. Never without an appropriate mood, each scene allows the actors, music, set, and effects to build upon each other in an expert way. And the film does make some great points. One of my favorite subplots involves Patrick Swayze’s character, and gives us an ugly picture of how deceiving people can really be.
The movie gets so many things right. But it’s also too confusing for its own good. The characters explore such intriguing concepts as God’s plan, time travel, and ethics. It somehow tries to tie all of these things together in the midst of adolescent turmoil, and nearly does, but fails to deliver. I’m convinced that most people walk away from this movie mostly confused. If they don’t, then they probably missed something. There are so many loose ends that we’re confused about where we’re being led, and by the end we’re forced to forget about most of them anyway. The director has various subplots going on, and because of the nature of the film, they’re left in a tangled mess. The running story of Cherita (which I loved) just sort of…happened. There was a subtle theme of “everything’s going to be OK” that didn’t seem to fit well. The reasons behind what Frank tells Donnie to do are super-vague and not explained at all. I’m considering the fact that these things were maybe left open because of the way that time travel fit in. But, wait a second… then what was the point of this movie?
I loved the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. I generally enjoy the story in which the main character gets to see how his life affects people around him. It forces us to reevaluate our lives, our choices, and our significance. Donnie Darko, in almost a reverse way, gets to see this in his own life. I thought this was brilliant, and always an admirable choice for a movie scenario. However, this one lacks the punch that most of those movies have. We’re left drifting, wondering about existence and if our own is currently helpful or harmful. And no one wants to feel uncertain about purpose.

Rating: 14

I know, I know, it makes no sense. But I love this movie. I feel like if the director didn’t let it run away without him, it would be just about perfect. Richard Kelly is like a child roasting marshmallows on a stick for the first time. He slowly gets the sticky treat close to the fire. When he sees it turn a beautiful golden color, he gets bolder and sticks it directly into the flames. The white ball is now engulfed, and burning quickly. Once the kid finally gets the fire out by swinging the stick around in the air, his wonderful, fluffy white marshmallow looks like a hunk of coal. In the end, he (and the audience) are left with no other course of action but to eat through the charred and bitter coating in order to get the gooey sweetness.

Iconic Lines:

“Chut up!”
“Rose, sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion.”
“I’m NOT afraid anymore!”

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Movie of the Month - August '06

World Trade Center

Stay tuned for our reviews coming up August 20th-24th! Lucky for you, They Might Be Critics hosts a regular movie of the month. During this exciting time, all (or most) of our critics post reviews of a chosen movie that is due to come out this month. We are all about providing a range of opinions and insights, and allowing for an open forum in which we discuss the film with each other and anyone who desires to participate. So, see World Trade Center, and join in!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Descent

The Descent is a little horror movie that was released in England last year, made the rounds at quite a few festivals in Europe, and finally reared its head in America to do what seems to be good sleeper business. It is the tale of Sarah (Shauna McDonald), who loses her husband and child in a tragic accident at the beginning of the film. From the accident and the immediate aftermath, we fast-forward a year to Sarah and her friend Beth (Alex Reid) as they arrive at their friend Juno's (Natalie Mendoza) cabin near the Appalacian Mountains to meet up with some friends for a caving expedition. But one of the girls has a secret that gets them into more than they bargained for, and they find themselves stalked in the caves by....something. Or do they?
The Descent was directed by Neil Marshall, director of cult favorite Dog Soldiers. The film grabbed my attention from the first frame, and held on to it for the rest of the movie. It is well shot, and the trees, mountain landscapes, and caves are visually much more pleasing than in your average horror movie. The score serves the film without drawing attention to itself, and the performances are.....well, nothing amazing, but nothing to complain about either. Like many other elements, they serve the film.
The things that The Descent gets right are atmosphere, ambience, and tone.....three very similiar traits that can and will make or break a horror film. There is gore to be had, but it doesn't create tension like the scene where one of the girls scouts out a VERY narrow passage to the next tunnel......if you're claustrophobic, you might want to avoid this film like a ophidiophobe will be avoiding this week's much-talked-about Snakes On A Plane.
Neil Marshall has done well here: The Descent is one of the most honestly frightening films I've seen in years.....if it doesn't make it into my top 5 for Horror, which it might. I give The Descent a 14, in terms of how much I liked it in terms of replay value. But the actual score the film deserves? It's an 18 out of 22, all the way.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


Every human being is just that: a human being. Now, this may not seem like a huge revelation or a deeply profound statement, and maybe it’s not. But when dealing with conflict, with wrongs being done to us and deciding how to answer those wrongs, we very often forget that those wrongs are being done to us by humans. Remembering that might make us think twice about how we react to things.

is a very important movie, one of the most important movies to be released in recent years. Leave it to Spielberg to make a movie like this. He’s the most famous director in the world for a reason, and that was brought home to me by this movie. He has a golden touch for most things, and does social issues with a certain delicacy and gentleness. His methods are kind of like a good father’s: he unflinchingly lets you see the horrible things of life, then cradles you gently and whispers words of comfort while you’re trying to deal with them. Usually with Spielberg, there’s some sort of hope. Whether it’s the fun and pluck of such films as E.T. or Indiana Jones, or the quiet endurance of Schindler’s List, there is some element in there that lets you know the whole time that it’s all going to be all right. In Munich, that hope is muted and frail, but it’s still there. The hope comes in the human element of the story, in the simple fact that no amount of ugliness can quench the human spirit.

The framework of the plot of Munich is real events. The only things we know for absolute certain as being real and true are that in 1972, 11 Israeli athletes were kidnapped and murdered at the Munich Olympics by Arab terrorists, and shortly afterwards, 9 of the men thought to be responsible, directly or indirectly, were dead. After that, everything ranges from “could have been” to “probably was” to “almost certainly wasn’t.” The thing that’s so remarkable about Munich is its inability to let anyone off the hook. It never lets us forget that these are people involved in these stories, people with mothers, fathers, jobs, needs, obsessions, fears, and aspirations. When someone dies, it’s not just a statistic, a mark on a chalkboard.

The actors, who are mostly unknown to the general public (Geoffrey Rush aside), do a nice job of creating people who are real, whole, and don’t know they are in a movie. The cinematography is spectacular, creating a surprisingly warm atmosphere. Eric Bana carries the movie with ease and fluidity, making sure to highlight the issue at hand instead of himself. The movie doesn’t deal in answers, and brings out that the questions it poses don’t in fact have answers. It instead attempts to understand the actions of these characters through empathy, which is what any great film does. Once it does that, however, it doesn’t wave that power around irresponsibly like a kid who’s found his dad’s gun. It tries to bring us to a place where we can be more aware, more understanding, and maybe more compassionate.

In retrospect, Crash just barely has the edge over Munich for the Best Picture Oscar in my opinion. Both movies make you think very hard when they’re done, and spark a little bit of soul-searching. Crash deals with something that’s a little more universal, and does so in a more explicit fashion, but watching Munich doesn’t make you feel like a bastard the way watching Crash does, and that’s actually to its credit. The last line that’s spoken in the film is by a wife to a husband, saying “I love you.” After all that ugliness, there is still hope.

Iconic lines:
“Oh, we are tragic men; butcher’s hands, gentle souls.”
“If my fingernails grow, do I not cut them off?”
“Don’t f*** with Israel.”

22 Rating: 17

Particle Man