Marter's Reviews

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Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Dec 17, 2012 10:08 pm

Previous Thread Can Be Found Here

Death Race 2
Death Race 2 could have been titled "Death Match" and would have been just as accurate. About half of the film contains no event that the title is copied from. There's a race early on, sure, but it's not the event that we've come to know and hopefully love. You see, this is a prequel to Death Race, kind of like how The Scorpion King 2 wasn't a sequel to its predecessor. This one deals with the origin of the man known as Frankenstein (portrayed by Jason Statham in the last Death Race).

The movie begins with the same statement we were told about the first time around. In 2012, the economy crashed and private corporations now own all of the prisons in the United States. That gives them the right to do whatever they want with the prisoners, apparently. As the audience already knows, they will eventually hold races to the death -- the titular "Death Races," which are sold to a PPV audience for absurd amounts of money. We begin before the races, though, when caged fights to the death were the main attraction.

We begin even before we learn about any of that. The lead is Luke (Luke Goss), a man who has some ties to crime boss Markus Kane (Sean Bean). A job goes wrong, Luke gets put in jail, and then we learn about what's going on in the prisons. He won't rat out his boss and friend, so he's imprisoned for life. He goes through the same sort of hazing as Statham's character did in the last film, and eventually finds himself told that he's going to participate in The Games, whether he likes it or not.

So, what we have here is basically a retread of Death Race, except instead of a race for the first half, we get a fist fight. Then, we get the race that a reported 20 million people in the movie universe want to see. It's exactly what you'd expect, although there's a somewhat lesser charismatic character in the lead role. It doesn't matter, as most of the people watching are going to want to see cars bang and clash, and shoot tons of guns that blow stuff up real good. At least, that's as good of a guess as I can make as to why the race would be so popular.

Anyone caring about silly things like plots will not want to see Death Race 2. It's a prequel that describes a story that doesn't matter, but it's a "prequel" in the loosest sense of the word. It's really just a different story with the same basic structure that's tangentially related to the last film by a character that doesn't even come about until the last few minutes. Frankenstein doesn't even exist for most of this movie, and once you find out how he does come to be, you'll almost wish you hadn't.

I can't believe I'm actually saying this, but the most interesting part about Frankenstein -- insomuch that there is a most interesting part about a guy who sits in a car and wears a mask -- was the mystique that surrounds him. We didn't know what happened to him that made him adopt the mask, he didn't talk to any of his competitors, and he worked well as a silent protagonist. Explaining him kind of takes away from that mystique, and I actually got less interested in him as the film progressed.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Death Race 2 is the cast that the filmmakers have managed to get to agree to appear. Ving Rhames shows up as the boss of the television network that shows The Games, Danny Trejo takes over the Ian McShane role as our protagonist's head mechanic, Sean Bean is the aforementioned crime boss who is frequently angry, while Robin Shou and Fred Koehler reprise their roles from the last Death Race. For a film with a $7 million budget, there's quite a bit of talent here.

Unfortunately, none of the talent is put to much use. The only actor to get a lot of screen time is Goss, and he's so drab on-film that I'm inclined to say that Statham should win an Oscar by comparison. Rhames, Bean and Trejo all get very little time on-screen, which is unfortunate but probably a testament to the low budget; they'd only be on the set for a few days thanks to their lower contracts. The action is pretty well-made for the low budget, and the film looks just as good as its predecessor does.

I've been down on Death Race 2 so far, but truth be told, I actually liked it more than the first one. I was bored by the end of Death Race, as it all felt like the same thing happening over and over again -- and none of the people inside the film appeared to be having any fun. Both of those are rectified this time around; there is the aforementioned "Death Match" which means we're not always racing, and characters smile and the filmmakers know they're making a silly B-movie, which makes it more enjoyable.

Death Race 2 is more of the same, even though it's slightly more enjoyable than its predecessor, in large part because it mixes things up and does it with a sense of humor. It assembles a strong cast of talent, and despite the low budget, doesn't feel like a cheap effort, even though many of the bigger names don't get as much screen time as you'd hope for. The action is just fine, and it's varied, which helps it stay fresh. The mystique of Frankenstein is lost, though, which kind of ruined what little of a character this is.


Last edited by Movie Martyr on Fri Feb 01, 2013 6:38 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Dec 18, 2012 9:07 pm

The Guilt Trip
The Guilt Trip is such a horrid experience, which is the complete opposite from what it should and probably was intended to be. Somewhere along the line, the jokes got lost. Perhaps one of the screenwriters -- the guy assigned to making the film funny -- walked out before even beginning to write, and instead of replacing him, the filmmakers just decided to let the two lead actors make things up and hope that it works. Seth Rogen is one of those actors who often improvises lines, and Barbra Streisand can certainly hold her own.

It's unfortunate to report that this plan didn't pay off here. The Guilt Trip is the least enjoyable comedy I saw in 2012. There is one laugh-out-loud scene, and a handful of small chuckles, but this 96 minute film feels like it plays for three hours. And that's despite the plot moving rather quickly, especially as we near to the end, as characters "develop" without cause or reason, just so that they can complete their arcs. I'm sorry, but one scene where you sit and look ominously into space does not allow you to completely change your character.

The plot: Seth Rogen plays Andy, the inventor of an organic cleaning product, one that vastly outperforms its competitors in both cleaning power and environmental friendliness. He plans on taking a cross-country road trip to pitch the product to potential investors. His overbearing mother, Joyce (Streisand), winds up tagging along, as Andy hopes that, by the end of the journey, he'll be able to reunite her with her long lost love, who currently resides in San Francisco.

Of course, his mother is the type of person who calls a dozen times every day, reminds him of everything, attempts to structure his life according to her beliefs, and so on. He's approaching 30, so obviously this isn't something he greatly appreciates. So, you have two opposing personalities, both of which are locked in a car together for seven days. The funny should just roll off the tongues of these actors, shouldn't it? That's the hope of the filmmakers, anyway.

Presumably, character growth also has to happen. This is a road movie, and the development that occurs on the road is one of the reasons to see these things. Watching a character go from, say, an unappreciative son, or a mother who needs to lay off a little, become more or less a perfect human being is supposed to be worth the trip. In The Guilt Trip, all of this happens, but randomly and suddenly, often without reason. There's no cause and effect here; these characters change just because that's what's required of them in order for the film to satisfy its genre's requirements.

There are only a few actual jokes in the film. Most of the time, we just have Rogen muttering to himself while Streisand plays the overbearing archetype to a tee. She talks over him, he says things that he would normally just think but verbally has to project for the audience in order for any sort of comedy to arise from the situation. Admittedly, this can be funny, but most of it is so easy and low-hanging that you'll be able to think of it before Rogen can say it.

And that's only accounting for the points in the film where that's even attempted. Lots of the time, they don't even aim for this amount of comedy, and instead basically go straight to drama. The problem is that none of the drama works because the characters are too simple and have no constant motivations. You're here for a comedy, and although some drama is okay, it has to actually work in order to be a worthwhile endeavor. You can't understand these characters. They're too random and underwritten.

The Guilt Trip is not even a feel-good movie. Sure, it wants to be, but all of the drama through the second act is all kind of sad. Rogen's character is too self-absorbed to be endearing, while Streisand's is like a bad stereotype. There's nobody to root for here. At times, it's like you should be cheering for Andy, but at others, Joyce appears more sympathetic. We keep seeing them in a different light, and it's not because of their depth -- it's because they're inconsistently written.

Admittedly, it's kind of fun to see Streisand and Rogen playing off one another, especially because Streisand is such a joy to watch on-screen. Rogen is even not terrible here. I enjoyed his straight-man routine more than his general slacker persona, and I hope he does this more often. I might start to like him as an actor if that's the case. There are a few known names in the supporting cast, too, but they each get a single scene and that's all; the two leads are the stars and that's all there is to it.

The Guilt Trip is a horrible movie. It's as simple as that. It's not funny, the drama feels forced and takes way too much of the film, and the characters are archetypes. It doesn't even attempt comedy for the majority of its running time, the characters change thought process without reason, and it seemed that the intent was to have Rogen and Streisand -- both fine in the film -- locked in a car and just have them banter at one another after being given an archetypal character to play. It occasionally works, but the film is a horrid experience, one that isn't even "nice," that it's not even worth considering watching it.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Dec 19, 2012 7:25 pm

Monte Carlo
I suffered through all 109 minutes of Monte Carlo and came away with absolutely nothing of value. I watched a clichéd, repetitive and boring story, characters without any depth, and also some pretty locations. I suppose getting to go on a sightseeing tour of Paris and Monte Carlo is fun enough, but it just would have been nice if the characters would have done something while we're there. Oh, and it's also basically a retread for star Selena Gomez, as she plays the same sort of role as she did in Princess Protection Program, except this time with a fake, inconsistent accent.

The story begins in Texas, where two young waitresses, Grace and Emma (Gomez and Katie Cassidy, respectively), have been saving for years to go to Paris for a week. Grace has just graduated high school, Emma left for a modeling career that didn't work out that well, and nobody in the audience will care. Grace's parents decide that they're going to send her stepsister, Meg (Leighton Meester), to act as a chaperone, and also in a hope that the sisters will bond while out of the country.

Once in Paris, the trip doesn't really go as planned. The tour that Grace booked is rushed and not terribly thorough, the hostel rooms suck, and it's not a lot of fun for anyone. You might think it would come as a relief when the bus leaves without them as they explored the Eiffel Tower, but they don't think it's so great. One thing leads to another, an identity is stolen, and the girls find themselves in Monte Carlo, with Grace impersonating a rich English heiress named Cordelia.

Basically, this is just an excuse that the filmmakers can use to say that there's a plot. There really isn't much of one; characters just go from place to place, meet a couple of different people, and do whatever their heart desires. Grace is forced to go to rich-people events and do things like playing polo, and each of the girls will find a guy that they will probably fall in love with. And we also get to see lots of fun sights, so there's that, I suppose.

Grace meets a Frenchman named Theo (Pierre Boulanger), Meg meets a traveling Australian named Riley (Luke Bracey), while Emma tries to forget about her sweetheart back home, Owen (Cory Monteith), but probably can't. Everything you expect to happen in a film like Monte Carlo will, and there are no surprises to be had. It's cute, innocent, family friendly, and bubbly, and if you're in the target audience -- a 12-year-old girl or the parent of one -- you might think it's just fine.

My main problem was with the characters and how stereotypical they are -- as well as how simple their relationships are with the other ones. Grace is the happy one, Meg is the cynic, and Emma is the ... I'm not really sure. If it was a PG-13 flick she'd be the promiscuous one, I guess, but since this is a PG affair, she's just kind of there. She's happier than Meg, and those two fight as a result, but she doesn't really do anything, and could have been excluded from the film without any noticeable detractors.

They all have to learn one thing in order to be happy, and there's a lack of depth as a result. Superficial attempts are made to make us care about them -- one character was in the hospital for a year, another couple lost a parent at a young age, and so on -- but it feels fake and forced, like the filmmakers were aware that they were working with paper-thin caricatures and wanted to fix that, but weren't quite sure how to. I suppose it won't matter to the target audience, but I couldn't help feeling like the film was trying to trick me.

I'd be remiss to not point out that I did laugh a couple of times during Monte Carlo. The first came rather early on, actually, during the high school graduation ceremony. I can't actually remember any of the others, although I'm sure that they were generated from Meester's character, the cynical one. She was also one of the only two characters I liked in the film -- at least, when she hadn't yet "grown" as a person.

The other one was the English heiress that Gomez plays, if only because it's playing against type for the actor. She's cold, unemotional, and a real jerk here, and it's kind of enjoyable to see, even if the accent could have used some more work. Meester is fine for the most part, while Cassidy had no reason to be in the film and doesn't do anything to warrant an inclusion. Gomez, when playing Grace, failed to convince me that she could headline a movie. And the male actors are there but never manage to stand out.

Monte Carlo is not a good movie, but it will satisfy the desires of the teenagers who want to see it. If it sounds like it's a movie for you, chances are that you will have a good time with it, as it'll be exactly what you're seeking. For me, it's a mess filled with cliché, stereotypes, and tedium. None of the characters are anything more than caricatures, their relationships fall flat, and the plot is non-existent. There are a couple of laughs to be had and the sightseeing tour can be fun, but the film as a whole isn't worth watching. It's like Princess Protection Program mixed with the Lizzie McGuire Movie, and that's about all that needs to be said about that.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:25 am

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
I didn't get some of the humor within The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Some of it, I wager, could not be enjoyed without already being familiar with the book series written by Douglas Adams. Being unfamiliar, I must have missed something. Assuming you like the books and are only curious about the movie, you should probably just see it for yourself, as I'm sure my ignorance will anger you. If you're a newcomer, like me, perhaps I'll be able to shed some light onto whether or not you should give it a watch.

It's hard to talk about a plot, since there isn't much of one. There are four lead characters who run around on different planets searching for something, but there isn't much of a plot to keep things on the rails. The lead is a human named Arthur (Martin Freeman), whose house is about to be destroyed so that a bypass can be made. The plans have been on display for a while, the construction workers claim. Soon enough, aliens come down and say that the Earth is going to be destroyed -- to make room for a hyperspace bypass -- and that those plans have also been on display. The film almost won me over with that little quip.

Arthur is saved by his friend, Ford (Mos Def), who manages to get them onto the alien spaceship. The Earth is destroyed, the two men are picked up by another ship, and we meet the other two members of our human-looking main cast. The first is the "President of the Universe," Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), while the other is a girl who just wants to explore new places, Tricia (Zooey Deschanel). Along with their clinically depressed robot, Marvin (voiced by Alan Rickman), the four are about to set off on a quest to find out ... something.

It doesn't really matter what that something is, as they diverge from their quest so frequently that it rarely comes into play. It's all just an excuse to have them all travel through space and show us the universe that Adams created in his books. And what a universe it is. If I happened to be in love with it before watching this movie, I would probably be gleeful after getting to see it represented on-screen.

See, even though I haven't read the books, listened to the radio shows, or been previously exposed to the franchise much at all apart from all that "42" nonsense, I found myself wanting to be after seeing this film. If the voice-over narration provided by Stephen Fry is any indication -- and I've been told that it is -- the books are probably hilarious and I would enjoy reading them. I'm not sure if his narration is lifted directly from the book's pages, but if it is, I can definitely see myself getting into them at some point.

I did laugh during some portions of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, mainly during the obvious satire and the bizarre aspects that it features. I'm sure that I missed some in-jokes and references that will have fans cheering and hooting, but for what it's worth, newcomers should still have a fairly fun time. You'll laugh a bunch if this kind of humor is your thing, and you'll probably also have a bunch of moments where you just won't understand what's going on -- but you'll kind of like it anyway.

Where The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy falls apart is in its characters and story, both of which are lackluster. The characters and their relationships are all surface level in terms of depth, and while they're acted just fine, there isn't much to them. Whether that's intentional or not, I'm not sure, but if the books are more about the universe and less about these people, then it would make sense that they're one-dimensional and not fully realized. It doesn't make this acceptable, but I do understand it.

As for the plot, it's pretty much nonexistent. These people are on a journey, sure, but they basically just go from one place to another -- often randomly thanks to the way that their ship lets them travel -- and wherever they end up is where they're going to explore. The film goes on like this for its entirety, and if you're looking for some coherency in the story, you'll want to look elsewhere.

Most of the cast is phenomenal, which shouldn't come as a surprise given the names I'm about to list. Martin Freeman plays the not-a-hero very well, Sam Rockwell is insane (probably literally) as Mr. President, and the strong voice cast consisting of Alan Rickman, Helen Mirren, Stephen Fry, and Thomas Lennon all give their roles life and sounded perfect for me. Mos Def and Zooey Deschanel were less spectacular, if only because their roles were less meaty and they weren't given much to work with. Oh, and Billy Nighy and John Malkovich have small roles. That's always fun.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is ultimately a fun film, although I think that not knowing the source material beforehand hurts your understanding of the references and in-jokes that would probably deepen the experience. If nothing else, the film has given me some reason to read the books that it's based on, as they seem like they'd be a lot of fun. And if they're more about the atmosphere than the characters and story, that would probably work better as a book than film.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Dec 21, 2012 10:28 pm

Phone Booth
Phone Booth is a fun little thriller, lasting no more than 90 minutes in length, that kept me on the edge of my seat for a good portion of its running time. It has only one major performance, here given by Colin Farrell, who has to play opposite a voiceover added in post production by Keifer Sutherland. It contains only the most basic of plots, one location, and mostly consists of dialogue, but it is incredibly tense and I would recommend it to anyone at any time as a result.

Stu Shepard (Farrell), is a publicist residing in New York City. He's pretty confident in his abilities, he seems to know everyone around town, and he knows exactly how to play different publications against each other. The opening scene shows him walking around the streets, talking a lot on his cell phone, and acting like he's the coolest cat around -- even though he looks like kind of a jerk to us. We find out that he makes a phone call every day from the last remaining phone booth on the street, doing so to call a woman named Pam (Katie Holmes), whom he wishes to woo with his money and charm, I guess, despite being married to a woman named Kelly (Radha Mitchell).

After ending a call with Pam, the phone booth telephone rings. Of course, not wanting to be incredibly rude, he picks up the phone, and a familiar voice (to us, anyway), is on the other line. It turns out that the man behind the voice has a gun focused on Stu's face, and if Stu doesn't do what he says, the trigger will be pulled. Stu's now trapped inside the phone booth, while cops eventually show up and also threaten to shoot him, as they're lead to believe that he killed a man.

So, we've got a very tense situation. Stu could be shot by one of two forces at any given moment, and it all relies on what he says and does to each one. Reach for even a wallet, and a trigger-happy policeman might think he's pulling a gun. Or, disobey the man on the telephone, and a sniper rife will go off from a window of one of the surrounding buildings. You can see how this is a perfect situation around which to stage a thriller.

Phone Booth is basically a morality fable. Purportedly, all the villain wants the lead to do is stop living such a deceitful life and own up to all of his past sins. Come clean about the cheating, tell everyone what a big fake he is, that sort of thing. It plays out more like a battle of wills than anything else, with Stu always trying to sneak his way out, or to lie and save his own life. Well, it's not going to work this time, or so the voice on the other end of the line thinks.

Sutherland's villain is a little too knowing to be completely realistic. He sees all, knows all -- even things that he shouldn't possibly be able to know or see. He cannot be outsmarted because that's how the film has to work, up to a point. He's basically God, I guess, and if that's who he's representing, then I guess it makes sense that we only get to hear his voice, that he knows everything, and that he's trying to teach a lesson. That he'd sacrifice other people, most of whom probably have lived a better life than Stu, to teach Stu a lesson is what doesn't make sense in that case.

I'm probably putting more thought into it than director Joel Schumacher and writer Larry Cohen did. They wanted to make a thriller, one that didn't feature any time wasted, and that's what they did. Explaining how the bad guy knows what he does or what he represents would waste valuable seconds. That's unacceptable according to them, so the film has been trimmed to a brief 81 minutes.

I won't complain about that kind of running time for a film like this, as it's the perfect amount of time to suspend your disbelief. You don't have time to ask questions when the film is this relentlessly paced and this brief; you just have to sit back and enjoy the ride. The runtime and the pacing are what make it work as well as it does. Because something important it always happening, because at any second, a bullet could shatter the glass and impact our main character's skull, we don't think too hard.

The other reason that it works is because of the work done by Colin Farrell in the lead role. Rocking out with a Bronx accent, Farrell is just the kind of fast-talking leading man that the film needs. That he gives off a sense of swagger and self-assuredness is a bonus, and watching him go from brushing off the phone call to taking it as a serious threat is a transformation that a lot of actors wouldn't sell correctly. He pulls it off wonderfully here, and once he reaches for fear, it stays with him the rest of the way -- even though that earlier swagger remains in smaller portions, too.

Phone Booth is a very enjoyable thriller that, while terribly brief, brings with it so many tense moments that it's absolutely worth your time. It contains a strong leading performance from Colin Farrell, a multitude of enjoyable moments, and had me holding my breath for a large portion of the time it was playing. It's a minimalist thriller taking place in only one major location, but it's a terribly enjoyable one as well, and you should definitely give it a watch.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Dec 22, 2012 10:34 pm

Rubber
Rubber is the kind of film that thinks it's about as clever as a film can be, and yet it's not. It contains a meta-narrative, it's about as self-aware as possible, and -- well, it's about a sentient tire that goes around and kills people. I mean, how do you tell that story completely straight-faced? It would probably be a terrible experience for both the audience and the filmmakers if that was the attempt, and yet, because of the comedic touches that director Quentin Dupieux imbues it with, the film, as a whole, works.

Our opening scene smells of being too smug for its own good. It has a man come up to the camera, look it in the eye, and tell us that a lot of films have things that happen for no reason, and that the film we're about to watch is an homage to such a plot device. It turns out that he's talking to an audience watching the "film" we're about to see on a hill with binoculars. They'll make comments every now and then and will become bothersome -- something that they'll even comment on, but won't do anything about.

What are they watching? Well, they're about to see a tire come to life, learn how to roll on its own, figure out that it has telepathic powers, and eventually gain full sentience -- or so it seems. We're going to watch its exploits for the next 80 minutes, and the film will comment on the ridiculous nature that it's showing us via the audience that's watching it with us. There also seems to be something sinister going on underneath, but I won't reveal that to you, in large part because I'm still not exactly sure what was going on the whole time.

It's all kind of vague and only parts are truly explained, so I'm not even going to try to get into exactly what's happening beneath the surface of Rubber. Basically, if you're watching this film it's to see a killer tire anyway, so take anything else as a bonus, I suppose. If the film happens to be about a killer tire and also be about something else, if it has ideas and commentary on top of the killer tire, then I'll take that any day of the week.

If you don't want to see a killer tire -- I can't emphasize the choice of both protagonist and villain enough -- roam the face of the Earth for 80 minutes, then no amount of genuine intellect and wit will save the film for you. The premise drew me in, but I think that if there wasn't something else going on, it would have gotten dull after a feature length running time. As a short film, just having a killer tire on the loose might have been enough. Having the killer tire while also commenting about it to the audience is what makes Rubber worthwhile.

It does drag on after a while, but the film also comments on this, having one of the audience members actually coming into the "film" area and telling the characters that (1) they're boring him and (2) they're approaching the situation the wrong way, and that there would be a faster, easier way to go about things. This may be irritating to some audience members, but I found it endearing. Sure, it not necessarily original, and it could have been avoided, making the "film" better, but the artistic choice to comment on it made me laugh, just like it did most of the time while watching Rubber.

There is a point in time when Rubber comes completely off the rails and unglued, where the "film" almost entirely stops. This section dragged on a little too much and also didn't make a whole lot of sense, but then, I suppose that comes with the territory. Not much of it does makes sense, and that's kind of the point. It's an homage to the "no reason," and you either have to accept it for that or stay well clear.

Rubber did make me question where the line is for self-aware films. When can a film be too self-aware that it becomes a detriment? How much self-indulgence can a filmmaker have before the film suffers as a result? I don't have the answers to those questions, especially after seeing Rubber, but I began to ask them. The film made me think, and I thank it for that. The only thing that I'm sure of is that for me, the line was not crossed here. It might have been threatened, but it was not crossed.

I must say that whatever movie magic was used to make the killer tire move around was quite impressive, as were the few explosions of people, glass bottles, and even a poor little bunny. Yes, I'm not generally happy when a rabbit gets blown up in a movie, but, once again, this is commented on, and I was assured that the rabbit wasn't real. It's always nice to know that the filmmakers didn't kill an actual rabbit in the making of their film. I know that the credits usually reassure us that "No animals were harmed in the making of this film," but really, who wants to wait that long to find out? I thank Rubber for not making me wait to find out whether a bunny died for our enjoyment.

Rubber is an enjoyable little film starring a killer tire. If that's not enough to get you to watch it, then you might as well skip it anyway, as it's not for you. The meta-narrative helps ease things along when it begins to get dull, and I'll always appreciate junk that makes you think, so I have to give Rubber a recommendation. It's a lot of fun.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Dec 23, 2012 9:15 pm

Vanilla Sky
In 1997, a Spanish film by the name of Abre los ojos was released and was a big hit not only in Spain, but in America, too. It didn't make a whole lot of money, but it was praised by critics and audiences alike. Director Cameron Crowe was one of its fans, and decided to remake it with an American cast and crew as Vanilla Sky, with the exception of Penélope Cruz, who got to play the same role that she had in the original. I suppose he was impressed by the performance, but also figured that a foreign actress to play the main love interest would make it more compelling.

We've transplanted the setting of Madrid to New York, and the leading role has been given to Tom Cruise. He plays a rich man named David, whose wealth was given to him after his parents died. His father was the owner of a big publishing company, so he inherited that company and all of the money his father had accrued. This is important, because it means that, apart from his good looks and charm, he has another way with which he can woo the ladies. This is something he does with great frequency, beginning the film having a casual relationship with a woman named Julie (Cameron Diaz).

At a birthday party, his best friend, Brian (Jason Lee), brings with him a woman named Sofia (Cruz). David, being the man that he is, instantly falls for Sofia. This is despite Brian telling him that she "might be the one." What seems like it's setting up to be a predictable film about a love triangle quickly becomes something much more, although to say more about the plot at this point would be ruining the surprise.

Much of the reason Vanilla Sky works is because it's very original if you haven't previously seen the Spanish film. If you have, that element might not be there, but you'll instead be looking at the small differences in scenes, in plot, and in dialogue. They are there. Crowe's film is longer and treats things differently from the original. Certain lines of dialogue are talked about later, and some reveals happen in different ways. They're different films, but they're both good. I recommend seeing both of them.

If you're pressed and have to pick one, Vanilla Sky is the film I'd choose. It's more accessible to the common audience for one; I know that a lot of viewers, particularly those in North America, don't like subtitles. Past that, though, Vanilla Sky essentially explains what's going on in the final moments, which has a revelatory conversation between David and a man whom I won't mention here. Vanilla Sky also takes its time a bit more, and I think it does a better job of making itself completely clear.

That is not to say that it doesn't give you a lot to think about. The plot is complex and there are a lot of big ideas that it brings up. It does pick a side on many of these points, although it leaves enough up to you to make your own conclusions. You can say the same thing about the plot, which can be interpreted in many different ways -- at least five, by my count, although a couple of those are the same but with different cutoff points (that will make sense once you see the movie).

Not only is Vanilla Sky complex enough to hold your attention, it's also really interesting, compelling, and well-made. Cameron Crowe typically makes good movies, and here he's outdone himself. Every scene is important, not a frame misplaced, and it adds up to something that's incredibly powerful. Sure, it might not have been first, and it's not as original as a result, but it still feels very fresh -- and like a different movie -- because of the filmmakers behind it.

There's also a really dark comedy lying underneath its proceedings. It's not exactly the type of thing that's funny to everyone, or even the first time you see it, but after a while you figure out that a lot of the film isn't supposed to be taken as seriously as it is at the beginning. You see Diaz and Cruise's freakouts throughout the film and while it's not necessarily funny in the moment, looking back on it will make you laugh. The second time through, you know how it ends -- or at least you think you do -- so you see the humor instead of just looking at it as it happens.

Vanilla Sky also has quite the payoff, the point when the spoiled, entitled, narcissist grows and learns something -- and then puts what he learns into action, making a life-altering decision in the process. The performance from Tom Cruise, balancing charisma, craziness and cockiness, molding a strange but interesting human in the process, as well as his chemistry with the naive Cruz and the devilish Diaz, is what allows for this to work. Cruise sometimes goes over-the-top, but it's glorious whenever that happens.

Vanilla Sky is a fabulous movie, either standing on its own or a remake of the very good Spanish film. It provides a lot to think about, some very touching scenes -- both as singular scenes and in the context of the entire film -- and some oddly comedic moments, as long as you're okay with some dark humor. It's a film that presents you with many valid ways to look at it, some good-to-great performances from its cast, and a very solid payoff at the end. It's complex, not confusing, and I absolutely adored it from start to finish.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Dec 24, 2012 11:36 am

Vivre sa vie
Much like life itself, Jean-Luc Godard's Vivre sa vie is a film structured into distinct chapters. When thinking about one's life, it is not possible to recall every facet of detail along the way. This motion picture is the same. There are twelve chapter headings, and it is sometimes unclear just how much time has passed between each section of the story. It plays out as if the main character, Nana (portrayed by Anna Karina), is looking back on the decisions and events that led to her end -- her death. The narrative's style, wonderfully utilized by Godard, effectively splits Vivre sa vie into twelve short films, each of which has been tangentially connected by their lead character. It has an overarching plot, but lacks cohesion, like one's memory. It helps to aid the storytelling, which is in stark contrast to what it might appear at the beginning. If a story is disjointed, split up, and missing pieces, it would not seem at the outset to be better than if it was all there. However, Godard makes it work by relaying it to the way people recall memories. This is not the only stylistic choice used in order to present the characters with more depth than is initially supposed, but it is the most obvious and a good jumping off point when looking at the movie.

Each chapter heading is shown just like it might have been written on the screenplay of any movie. All that is missing is whether the scene takes place inside or outside, which can be assumed depending on the locations. "Tableau one: A bistro -- Nana wants to leave Paul -- Pinball," the first chapter reads. Presented first is the number of the chapter the film is on, which ascends chronologically from one to twelve. Secondly, there is the primary location. In the first chapter, it takes place in a bistro. Later on, it might be in a police station, or in the streets. The third descriptor tells us Nana's feelings during this scene. Finally, there is another object. In this case, it's a pinball machine. Its importance is not signified in this initial scene, however it becomes one of the motifs throughout the film. Whenever the bistro is entered, there it sits, in the corner, often being played by someone. It is important to note that the final three of these short notes can be rearranged depending on the scene, or what Godard feels is the most significant. For instance, in Tableau nine, all we get is "A young man -- Nana wonders if she's happy." There is no location or object here. The focus here is on a young man, and on what Nana is feeling at this point in time. Everything else is in the background, and at the chapter's outset, this is what Godard puts into the head of his audience. He has already tailored their thoughts perfectly for what is about to be shown.

The first shot of each chapter, after the heading, is intriguing. There is only one time where a person's face is unobstructed in the shot directly following the chapter heading. In chapters one, four, six, eight and twelve, the first thing seen in the frame is a human head, but not the entirety of a character's face. Obscured by the camera being placed behind the head or to the side, by shadows, or even a book, there is no possibility to glimpse the whole face. It is only in chapter ten, after Nana has become a prostitute and her life is finally looking up, that we get to see a face -- any face, but more important because it is hers; the face in chapter twelve's opening shot is not of Nana, but of Raoul (played by Sady Rebbot). The difference comes from the framing. In earlier shots, the openings which were not establishing shots, the framing was always much tighter. Godard presented the audience with close-ups. However, when a clear shot is finally given, it is in a medium long shot. While finally allowing the audience to see Nana for all she is worth, Godard also distances her from the camera, and anyone watching, simply by moving the camera back a few steps. This is a subtle, yet effective way of directing the emotions and thoughts of the viewer.

Vivre sa vie also brings forward the idea of showing a movie within the movie. He has Nana go watch the classic film The Passion of Joan of Arc in the third chapter, showing one of the many scenes of interrogation throughout it. Some editing was done to Theodor Dryer's film -- after a while, the intertitles were replaced with subtitles -- but the film remains as poignant as it was previously, just a tad shorter. This is not done just because Godard is a fan of that film, but for two reasons. The first is that it once again makes a philosophical point, something that becomes a running theme throughout Vivre sa vie, while the second is that in a later scene, the sound is removed from the film and all dialogue comes across via subtitles. This not only has the viewer remember the issues of the scene shown from Passion, but also relates that entire film -- or, at least, the emotion felt within that film -- to Nana. She feels interrogated, persecuted, threatened, and mistreated in this scene. It is a perfect example of the "show, do not tell," school of storytelling; it is observed what Nana feels because of an earlier scene, so it is not necessary for her to express that with words.

That the film brings up philosophical questions is not in itself a unique notion. That it does it in lieu of plot progression, just to make the characters and the audience think, is. When watching Vivre sa vie nowadays, one can easily think about Quentin Tarantino and his Pulp Fiction, and just how liberally the 1994 film borrowed from Godard's. Chapter eleven is the most prevalent, which situates Nana inside a restaurant, and has her converse with an elderly man for a good while. They discuss words, thoughts, how those two things cannot be separated, and how silence is something as powerful as discourse. It is almost impossible to not think of Vincent and Mia's conversation in a diner about the power of silence and what it means to a couple's relationship. Or even the one between Jules and Vincent. Much of Tarantino's dialogue, from all of his films, is done in the same manner as that of Godard's in this film. It is interesting and intriguing even if it is not functional in advancing the plot right away. The films make great observations of the characters. The camera can sit there, observe them talking to each other, hanging on every word. Fancy or unconventional editing is rare -- although it does sometimes crop up -- as longer takes are preferred.

In terms of the editing, as few cuts as possible seems to be the goal of Godard with Vivre sa vie. This is perfectly captured by the initial shot of the first chapter, which has the camera stationary as Nana talks to the man she is leaving, Paul (André S. Labarthe), showing just the back of her head, not breaking or cutting until it is Paul's turn to talk, drawing our focus to him. Later, in the record store, the camera moves with the action, instead of cutting to another one for a better angle. The French New Wave artists had to work with what they had, sometimes only granting them one camera for the entire movie. Whether or not that is the case here is unknown, but the stylistic approach to the editing remains. It immerses, and draws a viewer into the world, and feels almost like a documentary -- like these events are actually taking place. The only time the editing draws attention to itself is when a series of jump cuts are used, in chapter six, where the camera pans right but a small cut happens every time the machine gun is fired, matching the rhythm set by the gun. Godard, the auteur, first used jump cuts in À bout de souffle, two years prior, and here seems to be paying homage to himself -- which he did in Une femme est une femme, too, when he mentioned his earlier film -- while also showing off a little flourish.

Even the title, "Vivre sa vie," has some sense of allure to it. It translates to English as "to live one's life," although the film has been released in English-speaking regions as "My Life to Live." There is a novel of the same name, although it features no connection to Godard's film, and is not even about the same subject. It is a love story, while Vivre sa vie most assuredly is not. There is a song of the same title, too, but it also has no connection to the film. It has been suggested that it comes from a passage from Paul Sarte's La Nausée, although even if that is true, Godard has made the phrase his own -- something more meaningful. Even though the film is about a young woman living her life, there is also a double entendre present, as in France, prostitution is referred to as "the life." It gives even more meaning to a very simple title

As is the New Wave way, there are many unconventional techniques used in the creation of Vivre sa vie. Filmed on the streets of Paris, it is sometimes possible to see non-actors looking at the camera, as if they are being drawn to the star, Anna Karina. Long takes are prevalent, and, according to an interview with Godard, were often accomplished in the first take. "If retakes were necessary, it was no good," he was quoted as saying. The storytelling method played with the film form. It is not a simple A to B narrative; pieces are missing, and it is impossible to fill them in given the information given in the film. The camera moves to follow the action; if it is possible not to have an edit, that is usually the decision made. There are many existential and philosophical questions raised -- some answered, some not -- but the film, too, as the youthful New Wave director began to question life itself. The fourth wall is broken, to a haunting effect. It is a rebellious piece that often plays with story structure and film technique, like many of the New Wave films. Likely done for both practical or artistic reasons, Vivre sa vie could be described as avant-garde quite easily and correctly.

Indeed, it is true that there is a certain difficulty to get lost in the diegesis that Godard creates, specifically for this reason. By constantly playing with film, by pushing the boundaries, by drawing attention to the differences between his film and the ordinary, he makes the viewer always aware that they are watching a motion picture. Contrasting that -- the style in which it was put together -- with the documentary-like method in which it was filmed, seems to have the two styles playing against one another. On one hand, we have a director who wants to do more with the medium, drawing the attention of his audience to the way he created it. On the other, we have an unobtrusive camera just wanting to show the action how it is, unsatisfied with fancy editing within a scene. It is a combination that most directors would not attempt, but Godard does such an ease that it makes the contrasting styles feel like they belong together, like they should be paired and never separated.

It does not appear as if much of the mise-en-scène was created specifically for the film. Certainly the locations where Godard shot his film were chosen for certain reasons, but with a limited budget and New Wave mentality, it would be foolish to assume that much, if any, of the mise-en-scène was not already in place at the time of filming. All Godard would have to do is move some things around, and perhaps choose outfits out of his cast's closets. Maybe the pinball machine was not in place before filming. The mise-en-scène is simple and realistic as a result, and furthers the documentary-like shooting style with which Godard approached the film.

The music in Vivre sa vie is very minimal. This is not the type of film that needs a loud, booming score anyway, but there are very few moments when its score is pivotal to the scene. Most of the time, it covers the silence, save for an important moment when Nana dances around a room, showing a glimpse of the expressive young woman that had to be left behind in order to pursue "the life." In other scenes, it is often used early on, eagerly awaiting what will happen next. But, as soon as the dialogue begins, the music is off, waiting for its next chance to shine, building anticipation for the upcoming scene before it even really starts. Dialogue is usually very clear, except when it is intentionally obscured or turned off completely, as in the scene when Vivre sa vie mimics a silent movie, harkening back to La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc.

There is a reason that Jean-Luc Godard is mentioned among the great filmmakers of history, and Vivre sa vie is one of those reasons. He takes a pretty simple story, chops off some of the parts -- making it feel like something out of a memory -- shoots it in a similar style to a documentary, layers it with depth and playing with film form, creating an unforgettable work of art. It contains twelve chapters, all of which are engaging for many reasons. The camera sits there, follows the action, but rarely blinks, allowing the viewer to absorb everything perfectly. Long takes were common, and, if Godard is to be believed, the first take was used more often than not. Everything came into place for the first time, and most of the time it wound up in the final product. That is not to say that more unconventional editing was not used. Jump cuts, popular coming out of Godard's À bout de souffle, occur once, for example, rhythmically edited to sync up with machine gun fire. The film is very typical of the New Wave in general, being shot on the cheap, on location, and in questioning both film conventions, and life itself. It brings up many philosophical and existential points, answering many, and will sometimes pause itself just to ponder these questions. It plays for just over 80 minutes, but it takes the time to smell the roses, so to speak. Even the title, "Vivre sa vie," is thoughtful enough to warrant a discussion. Everything about this movie can be dissected, picked apart, and it all works toward the ultimate goal of making the audience think, provoking an emotional response, and -- on a more technical level -- questioning the way a film is made. All questions, asked and answered.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Mr. Wiggles on Mon Dec 24, 2012 11:43 am

Why so long Marttartar?

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Dec 24, 2012 11:51 am

Because it was initially written for a class that had a minimum word count.

And I believe the film deserves it.

And that's also as close as you're going to get (right now) to me writing "real film criticism."

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Furburt on Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:00 pm

Oh yeah Marter, in terms of the Hitchhikers guide, it's probably best to listen to the radio series rather than read the books first. The books are actually novelisations of the original BBC radio series.
Also, the guy who plays Arthur Dent in both that and the BBC tv series, Simon Jones, is actually the person who the character is based on.

The story is much more apparent when they're all listened to/read in order. There's 6 books, although the first 4 are sufficient. The first book, which is what the film is based on, is basically the origin story.
My favourite is actually the second, The Restaurant At The End of the Universe. It's only by the 4th book that you actually understand what's going on with all the Vogons and everything.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:04 pm

I might have to do that, then. Thanks for that.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Furburt on Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:08 pm

I spread the word.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Dec 24, 2012 8:42 pm

Django Unchained
A part of me really wants to love Django Unchained. Here is a film that serves more as a reminder of the horror that took place regarding slaves in America in the 19th century than anything else. There is no sanitizing here, like is so popular in popular culture; the slaves are treated brutally and the film is as violent as violent gets. It has a message, it can't easily be taken lightly, and it contains a few very strong performances.

However, it's one of the more straightforward and easy films from Quentin Tarantino, at least in terms of its creation, not its subject matter. The plot follows a simple structure with a predictable conclusion, there are no twists or turns, the villains are clearly villains and the heroes are the only good guys, slavery is bad -- and it desperately needed more trimming. The biggest problem, however, is that dialogue -- which is what most of the film is; this is a Tarantino movie, after all -- simply isn't very sharp or even all that interesting. That's what leads to the "it's too long" feeling.

The plot: Jamie Foxx is a former slave named Django, freed by a bounty hunter named Dr. Shultz (Christoph Waltz). They soon become partners, but also have to go about rescuing Django's wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), from a plantation owner named Mr. Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). The first third of the film is bounty hunting business -- concluded with some text telling us that, yes, they had fun and were successful in their job -- and then we move to the real meat of the plot, which is attempting to rescue Django's wife.

This is pretty basic stuff. The film isn't about its plot, though. It's more concerned with the treatment of slaves, as witnessed through the eyes of someone formerly in their position, Django. Sure, you get some revenge killing, but Django has to act restrained for the majority of the film in order to allow him a chance to get back his wife. You see some incredibly awful things in this film, and I can almost see how some people are going to assume that they've been invented for the film. News flash: The treatment of slaves really was this bad.

On one hand, I get what Tarantino was going for. It's an eye-opener for sure, and this is the type of film that's really hard to forget. I'm sure it will serve as a very strong reminder to anyone who had forgotten just how terrible the slave trade was -- and how awful the people involved in it were. The feeling of repulsion is one that you don't too often get from the movies, and you'll have it for the majority of the time Django plays.

He also wants to pay homage to many Westerns from over the years, in particular those from Sergio Leone, with one shot in particular making anyone recognize what's going on. If you don't, you're not paying enough attention to the world you live in. Even if you haven't seen Leone's films, there's one shot in Django Unchained that's pretty much unmistakable -- it's been done and parodied so many times since that you'll likely have come across it in one shape or another. Let's just say that it involves a shadow and a figure standing in the sun to create that shadow. There are more references than just that, but this is the one that will stand out for pretty much everyone in the world around them.

On the other hand, it's kind of boring, and if you're looking at your watch instead of what's happening on-screen, it's not going to be quite as effective. Sure, this isn't as bad a film as Death Proof, but it's more middling for Tarantino, who previously had either made great or pretty bad films. This one is good, but it feels too long and the dialogue isn't sharp enough for it to hold interest for its entirety.

The other problem is that Jamie Foxx is too bland as Django to effectively work the "seeing the world through his eyes" conceit. Whenever he sees something he does like, he puts his hand on the pistol on his belt, but his facial expression rarely changes. His character is too emotionless -- whether intentionally due to years of abuse or unintentionally because Foxx didn't turn in a good performance -- for us to really get that he doesn't like what's happening to the slaves.

Part of that is that Django and Dr. Shultz have to "act" and be "in character" for much of the film, so as to not arouse suspicion as to why a white man and a black man would both be riding on horseback, or conversing like partners and not slave and master, meaning Django has to be someone that doesn't react a whole lot to slavery. But even when nobody's paying him any mind, his facial tone doesn't change.

Waltz and DiCaprio are the most enjoyable actors here. It's not a lock, but either could easily win an Oscar for their performance here. Waltz, of course, already won with Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, and DiCaprio has been chasing one for years. Samuel L. Jackson also transforms into a 76-year-old in this film, looking far older and less able than he actually is. All three are capable of stealing scenes, and each one does at least once or twice.

Django Unchained is a film that's both risky and safe for Quentin Tarantino. On one hand, the subject matter is going to provoke responses from a lot of people, while on the other, the style and structure used to make it are about as easy as they come. I can completely respect where the film is coming from, but it's probably Tarantino's least enjoyable film. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I can't help but feeling like more trimming would have led to more consistently sharp dialogue, and a better film.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Dec 25, 2012 11:04 pm

Joyeux Noël
Joyeux Noël is based on a true story, or perhaps several true stories all mixed into one movie, with additional moments made up in order to tie it all together. It takes place during the first World War, mostly on the front lines. To be more specific, it takes place in a small area in which there are three armies: The Germans, the French, and the Scottish. They have been fighting for months now, and spirits are low. It is also Christmas Eve, a magical time of the year.

It's even more magical once you see what happens in this film. In real life, the three troops decide to call a cease-fire for the rest of the evening, allowing them to happily celebrate Christmas Eve without the fear of gunfire. In the film, they all come up from the trenches, drink champagne, play football, and do all sorts of fun things. That's not even the entire film; this starts at around the 45 minute mark. I will not reveal what happens after this. It is sweet and you might shed a happy tear. Joyeux Noël is a very sentimental film.

Switching back and forth between the different nationalities and armies is initially a shock. It's tough to follow and get to know these characters. This is especially true because most of the people watching this film won't intimately know these actors. Are Benno Fürmann, Guillaume Canet, Daniel Brühl and Gary Lewis household names in most places? Maybe one of them is, if you live in Europe, but if you don't, and you don't watch many foreign films, it's possible that you won't even know of them.

The only thing that you'll know off the bat is the language they're speaking. Yes, unlike many Hollywood films -- this is mostly a French production -- foreign characters actually speak their native tongue. At least, that happens for most of the film. When the groups come together, the most prominent language is English, presumably because the Scots don't know either of the two other languages, while the higher ranking men of the German and French armies speak at least a little English.

The whole enterprise is incredibly sweet. You'll find it hard to not to feel emotional as it plays out. By the time the actual truce is called, I was welling up. It's nice to see a pleasant film like this one come around, say something about the human condition, and make you feel something. There are so many depressing war movies, but this isn't one of them. At least, it isn't if all you think about is what's presented within the confines of the time frame that is captured on film. If you think beyond that, and about the real life events, it gets a bit more upsetting.

See, doing this type of thing wasn't exactly looked upon well by these soldiers' superiors, and many of them died soon after this truce. None of this is portrayed in the film -- it has a tight focus and is strictly on the happy side. It's all about how very different groups were able to come together to celebrate a mutual holiday. Every frame after a certain point is powerful. This is a movie that gives you something to think about and also gives you insight into humanity as a whole.

That it's based on a true story is amazing. In 1914, truces were actually called, and soldiers laid down their arms to celebrate Christmas. It's a story absolutely worth telling, and while it's overly sentimental, isn't the real life story the same way? It seems unbelievable, doesn't it, that something like this could actually happen? It deserves a somewhat sappy portrayal on film. What it doesn't need is a brutal one. We have incredibly violent and graphic war movies. Thankfully, Joyeux Noël doesn't take this approach.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't a film that glorifies or even sanitizes the war that acts as its setting. There are two instances of violence, but it's handled tastefully. You get to see some shots, and you also get one instance of artillery shelling. The latter is scarier, although nobody dies from it. You'll understand what this means when you see it. The scene is both terrifying and sweet, and because of Christian Carion's direction, it makes a real impact.

Even if you don't know these actors, they're all quite strong here. They're all believable as soldiers -- often reluctant to even be participating in the war -- or as whatever other profession they are. These aren't the most emotional performances, as the characters themselves have to remain stoic to maintain appearances, and I felt transported back in time to 1914. The costumes all feel authentic, too. Everything about this film works. It's paced properly, too. It never feels long, and it's very emotionally compelling.

Joyeux Noël is a fabulous film. There is never a dull moment, and after the first 45 minutes, which establish the scenario the characters find themselves in. The film is an incredibly emotional experience, with every frame after a certain part hitting quite hard -- despite the general tone being very light and happy. This is based on a true story, and it deserves to be as sentimental as possible. I really enjoyed Joyeux Noël, and I definitely recommend it. If you're looking for a new Christmas movie, or even just a good movie in general, Joyeux Noël is for you.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Dec 26, 2012 9:54 pm

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist brings together two people who embark on a quest to do two things. The first and most important, obviously, is to find the secret location where their mutual favorite band, Where's Fluffy?, is playing. The second is to find the location of one of their drunk friends, who goes missing thanks to a plot convenience. They actually depart from the first search in order to go find the drunk, as they figure she might end up in big trouble thanks to her state of mind. Given the zany adventures they get up to, they might be right.

Our main character is Nick (Michael Cera), a nice guy who is still heartbroken after his now ex-girlfriend (Alexis Dziena) broke up with him. He makes mixtapes which she throws out, but they get picked up out of the trash by her friend, Norah (Kat Dennings). So you know at this point, assuming you haven't seen a trailer or even the poster or you don't know the title, that Nick and Norah will at some point come into contact with one another. We just don't know when or for how long or how intense their connection will be.

They wind up pairing up in the scavenger hunt for both the aforementioned band and for Norah's friend, Caroline (Ari Graynor). Their relationship grows as they progress through the city, looking for both things, but not a whole lot really happens, and they jump around a lot with little coherency. They'll run into people that they know, and they'll interact with them, but none of it really matters, as this is a story of two people with little room for everyone else.

There isn't much of a plot to guide these characters, so random, chance encounters have to give us enough content to fill our 90 minute movie. They all end with some sort of development, good or bad, for these characters, but it feels very forced every time they run into someone they already have seen, like they've being followed. The story involving the search for the two parties ends up serving as a way to ensure that a real plot isn't required, and while it gets people moving, it doesn't get them doing things of interest.

It's like watching someone on a real scavenger hunt -- one where their partner is a stranger of the opposite sex. Something interesting will probably come out of it, but for most of the time, you're just going to watch two people drive around and chat. While good dialogue is always enjoyable to listen to, what you hear in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist isn't anything special. It's not bad and it's not as stupid as a lot of other teen flicks like this, but there's nothing intriguing about it.

There's not much to the characters, either. They spend so much time talking about the things they're chasing that they don't really get to develop or even let us know who they are. Anyone could be doing this and the film would be the same. Well, that's not exactly true, as "anyone" might get us some more interesting people. That would actually be an improvement, as there might be something to pay attention to. As it is, I was dozing frequently as the movie played.

What did keep me awake was the soundtrack. When your film involves mixtapes and you have the word "playlist" in your title, I guess you need a good soundtrack. Well, I enjoyed listening to the music in this film. It was energetic, mood setting, and I simply liked the film's taste in song choices. That's enough for me to give the soundtrack a recommendation. I'm not quite sold on the film as a whole, but the songs in the film get a thumbs up. That's something, right?

The actors also do, if only because they're likable and didn't make me hate them by the end of the 90 minutes of my life that I surrendered to theirs. Okay, so Michael Cera annoyed me, but what else is new? The supporting cast is fine, Dennings is fun to watch, and Cera is almost too good at playing the overly nice guy. But something about his voice and demeanor annoy me whenever I see him. But he can be funny and being nice isn't exactly a sin, so I don't mind watching a movie starring him every now and then.

There are a few funny parts and the film is sweet on the whole. I just wanted something more to happen. There are interesting people introduced, and if they would have been expanded upon, the film might have been more interesting. For instance, Nick is in a band, and each member seems to have his own personality -- for the few minutes that we actually get to interact with them, anyway. Dennings' character also has an on/off boyfriend played by Jay Baruchel, but he's not given much time, either. It's disappointing seeing these potentially interesting elements be ignored in favor of a boring scavenger hunt.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is disappointing and not really worth your time. It starts off fine, but degenerates into a boring scavenger hunt with random scenes included in an attempt to hold our attention. If the soundtrack wasn't so much fun to listen to, a nap would have been a better use of my time. Like the blackout drunk character in this film, I would have preferred to sleep than sit through Nick and Norah's adventures in the middle of the night.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Furburt on Wed Dec 26, 2012 10:07 pm

Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiipsteeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeers

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Dec 27, 2012 10:58 pm

Million Dollar Baby
It's not terribly often that you think about a movie for a while after it plays. More often than not, I'm forgetting that I even watched a movie just hours after it ends -- even for some of the ones that I quite enjoy. A movie that truly sticks with you is rare, but that happens to be just the kind of movie that Million Dollar Baby is. It took me a while to forget about it, and even then, I could remember practically every scene and how I felt during them. Sometimes, people ask you if you remember where you were during a certain event; I'll remember where I was when I watched this movie.

Our film stars Hilary Swank as a fighter named Maggie Fitzgerald, someone without any professional training but a real courage to succeed. She approaches a coach, Frankie (Clint Eastwood, who also directed and scored the film), who is the best in the business, but he tells her that he doesn't train girls. She goes to his gym and begins training anyway, and eventually convinces Frankie to become her coach through her unrelenting work effort and spirit -- even though he tells her it'll take him four years to get her to the top, and she's already 32 years old.

It doesn't matter. Her spirit is enough, and she eventually stars getting into fights, and doing reasonably well. However, what seems like it's going to be a generic underdog story eventually progresses and transcends into something much more. I don't want to spoil that, but the Million Dollar Baby's final half hour is so much more than a typical sports movie, and is memorable and powerful because of that.

Let's just say that I didn't see a twist in the road coming, and that it left me with my jaw hanging low. If for no other reason than that -- although there are more reasons which I will get to -- you should give Million Dollar Baby a watch. It's a film that probably would have deserved your time even if it decided to stay the course of a generic underdog story, as it's well made on all levels, but making it actually worth something is what makes it stick with you for days after it concludes.

There wasn't a moment in this film that felt rushed or too slow. It was perfectly paced, and not a scene or point in time felt out of place. For a film exceeding a two hour running time, this is important. I wouldn't change a single thing about the way it was put together, and I can't think of one moment I didn't really enjoy. Even the times when it decided to focus on something else -- like a subplot involving Jay Baruchel's small but scrappy fighter -- it's thoroughly engaging.

The actors are the main draw, I think. Hilary Swank's determination and energy are almost enough to carry us, but when matched with Eastwood's gruff veteran, the combination is perfect, allowing us to see the two play off one another. Adding in Morgan Freeman as a former fighter, current gym janitor, is a brilliant decision. Freeman also narrates the film, presumably because that's an excuse to have Freeman's voice permeate the film for more time. I'm not knocking that decision, although the narration doesn't really bring much until the very last scene, when it's revealed who exactly he's talking to.

The actual boxing scenes are fairly thrilling, although many of them are dominations, one way or another, meaning that they're not as fun as watching a real boxing match. It's only when the opponents are of equal skill that they're enjoyable to watch in this film, as it means that there will actually be some risk involved for both parties. This only happens a couple of times, and it might have been an even better film if there was some more parity in the fighters more often than not.

Each one of these characters has a tremendous amount of depth. They all have pasts that involve heartbreak and difficulties. Maggie has a family that doesn't appreciate her, Frankie hasn't spoken with his daughter for years, Freeman's character lost an eye and he and Frankie don't always see eye to -- well, they're not always happy with one another, thanks to something that happened in their past. Frankie and Maggie begin almost a surrogate father-daughter relationship, and that becomes a big focus midway through.

There's so much to absorb and take in that you could watch Million Dollar Baby a few times and still not quite get everything out of it. It's rich in depth and yet is still fairly simple, allowing for a watch that's as great as you allow it to be. You put a lot into it, and you'll get a lot out, but if you just want to watch a movie about an underdog boxer, that's there for you as well. It's always nice to have a movie that gives you as much as you put into it.

Million Dollar Baby is a great movie that transcends its genre and all of the clichés that are associated with that. It's not just an underdog story; all of the characters have more to give you than adhering to that typical story arch. It contains three outstanding performances by Swank, Eastwood and Freeman, and it's perfectly paced, leading to you never having a dull moment while watching it. As someone who doesn't like boxing, it captivated me throughout, and kept my focus for a while after it finishing.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Dec 28, 2012 9:46 pm

Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a very pleasant movie to watch. It's not terribly good or enjoyable, but you can put it on and relax as it's not going to challenge you and it doesn't have the capacity to offend. It's simple-minded and just wants to entertain. Sometimes, these kind of movies are fun to watch, as they can allow you some time to relax after a stressful day. It will allow you to reflect upon your days in high school, or if you're still in it, it'll make you think about the last few days, that one teacher you hate, or the crush you never had the courage to ask out. Okay, so maybe it might get you riled up, but it's not from its content.

Okay, so it's also kind of vulgar and there are a few moments that will make you wince, but compared to many other movies, it's pretty tame. It's a teen movie, after all, and those aren't exactly going to be about much more than teenage life. This one appreciates its subject matter, and doesn't demean it, which is a point in its favor. It features real people for characters, and doesn't often take clichéd routes. For the most part, it's a good movie, and it's an easy watch.

While this isn't an ensemble film, there are a bunch of colorful characters that will take you about half the film to get used to seeing. I'm thinking that the lead is a young girl named Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh), if only because she gets a lot of time on-screen. I don't know if it's the most out of all the characters, but it seemed like it to me. Maybe it's just because of how sweet and energetic Leigh was in the role.

The film takes place over the course of an entire year of high school. For some, it's the final year, while for others, it's the first or second. Some, like Mike (Robert Romanus), are just trying to find a girl, while others, like Jeff (Sean Penn), have been perpetually stoned since the third grade, and just want to pass. Stacy is trying to learn the ways of the boys, figuring out what they want in a partner, and essentially going through a coming-of-age sort of story arc. Some characters just seem to exist, not going through much of a story of their own, but interjecting in other characters' stories.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High is basically exactly what you're going to expect out of an '80s teen movie. It's a good one, sure, but it's not out to bend the rules or change things around. The one thing it does differently is that it actually respects its subject matter -- the teens at hand -- and that helps it break away from the pack a bit. It's enjoyable largely because of that, and because it's such an easy watch.

The only adult in the film with a significant amount of screen time is a teacher named Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), who doesn't take flack from anyone. He doesn't allow eating in his classroom, he hates it when people are late, and so on. His foil is Jeff, the stoner, and the two engage in a series of skits, serving mainly as comic relief. Granted, they take a little bit away from the rest of the film as they don't fit tonally, but I appreciated them because they made me laugh and because it's always fun to see a clash of personalities.

I liked how all of the characters in this film felt real. They didn't feel like movie people, or like they had been written to act a certain way. Instead, they were like the people you might have gone to school with. Sure, they all have to posses a distinct personality so that there isn't any repeat, but they all feel natural and organic. I enjoyed just seeing how they'd react to certain circumstances, and they never appeared to do something just for the sake of moving the plot forward.

When the film falters, it's because there are points in which not a whole lot happens. It gets dull every now and then, and when your film is only 90 minutes long in the first place, this is inexcusable. There are a couple of scenes that felt like repeats, a few times in which the characters all seemed bored and uninspired, and it seemed like a bit more trimming would have been to Fast Times at Ridgemont High's benefit. But, then, high school is like that sometimes, right?

Most of the actors either are convincing or energetic enough to make us not care. The main actors are all older than the 15-18 range that they're playing, but that's typical for Hollywood. We believe that most of them are teenagers, and because the Cameron Crowe's script is so believable, there isn't a lot of stretching to do. Crowe went undercover at a high school and wrote about his experiences there, and the film is based on those. I suppose that might be why it comes across as much more appreciative of its subject matter than a lot of these other types of movies.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a very easy watch, one that has difficulty riling anyone up. You can put it on and shut off your brain, enjoying it for the simple experience that it is. It has a fun cast of characters, it treats everyone with respect, and it rises above a lot of other teen flicks as a result. It could have done with tighter editing and possibly the removal of one or two goofy skits, but on the whole, it's a fun and easy watch.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Dec 30, 2012 9:39 pm

happythankyoumoreplease
happythankyoumoreplease's title tells you the type of film that it's going to be: Odd, squished together, generally pleasant and trying far too hard to be clever. It's a very awkward film in its delivery and pacing, and while it's an easy watch, it's not terribly entertaining or inspiring, even though you can tell that it so desperately wants to be. Then again, people try too hard to be lever all the time in real life, and it's just as bad then. So, perhaps the film is mimicking those types of people. Who knows?

The brainiac behind the film is Josh Radnor of How I Met Your Mother fame. He wrote and directed happythankyoumoreplease, and also decided to play the lead character, a struggling writer named Sam Wexler. One day, while on the train, he sees a little boy, Rasheen (Michael Algieri), get separated from whom he assumes is the child's family. It turns out, Rasheedn is a foster child, and that he doesn't like his current family. The kid won't leave Sam alone, so he decides to do the logical thing and take the boy home with him.

Meanwhile, Annie (Malin Åkerman) is trying to find her place in the world, which is hard considering she's a woman who can't grow any hair on her body. There's one man interested in her, Sam #2 (Tony Hale), although he doesn't play much of a role in her life considering she doesn't see him as a potential love interest. She and Sam are best friends, and they talk a lot about how life sucks or is hard or what have you. Sam is also trying to gain the affections of a waitress, Mississippi (Kate Mara), whom he invites into his home for a three day trial of living together -- which he thinks is the most genius idea ever.

Oh, and there's also the subplot involving Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan), and her boyfriend, Charlie (Pablo Schreiber), who are trying to make the decision whether or not they should move from New York to Los Angeles for a potential job opportunity for Charlie. The film chronicles the development in each of these relationships, while also showing how the characters have to come to terms with the world, their cynicism, and pretty much everything else that young people have to deal with in order to grow up.

This is Radnor's directorial debut, and while it's a valiant effort, you can see that it's not a veteran behind the camera. The pacing is what's noticeably off, as many of the events happen too quickly, allowing for no real character development. Events then happen for no conceivable reason, as we can't quite grasp why a certain character made that decision, as we don't understand anyone.

This also makes it hard to care about these people. I don't care that the writer is having his work rejected, as he never seems to be making an effort to improve it. After the rejection, he stops writing altogether -- at least, we never see him write. Annie is having trouble finding love because ... she's not really looking for it, I guess. I couldn't empathize with these people because it seemed like laziness was the source of all of their problems. If they wanted to fix their lives, they certainly weren't going about it very well.

Even though everything happens so fast, there are long stretches where the plot seems to come to a halt, and then we just jump ahead and the characters have changed, somehow. They decided to progress and grow for absolutely no reason, and it's extremely frustrating to see that. We want to see that growth and understand it, but when the characters seem to not at all be correlating to the events that are transpiring in front of them, you have to give up on them.

The writing is also a bit off-putting. While it can be cute and clever at times, it often felt like it was trying too hard to be endearing, and there were times when I had to shake my head because I couldn't believe that those lines were being delivered. Much of the delivery is awkward, too, and I'm guessing it's because Radnor was trying to be too controlling and precise when telling his actors what to do. There are moments when it truly succeeds, and you see the potential that is there, but this isn't the film that showcases all that Radnor can do.

I will say that he makes for a likable leading actor, which did help for some of the time. I enjoyed seeing him and Kate Mara together, as I felt they had some decent chemistry, even if their lines were, at times, cringe worthy. Actually, apart from the writing and the delivery of that writing -- which is, admittedly, a fairly big portion -- the acting was all fine. And you have to admire the dedication to the role on the part of Malin Åkerman, as she actually shaved off her eyebrows to play the part of an alopecia patient.

happythankyoumoreplease is a pleasant film, but it's not much more than that. It's an easy watch, but it's not worth the time you spend with it. It's poorly paced, awkwardly written, and the characters don't progress or develop like you feel they should. It all feels forced because it's a movie, even if all the actors are likable enough to almost hold it together. It's not a complete waste, and it has its share of moments, but I can't recommend spending the 100 minutes it takes to watch it.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Furburt on Sun Dec 30, 2012 11:33 pm

Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiipsteeeeeeeeeeers.......

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Dec 30, 2012 11:37 pm

You really don't like hipsters.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Furburt on Mon Dec 31, 2012 12:32 am

They are to me as Bosnians to a Serb.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Pararaptor on Mon Dec 31, 2012 3:08 am

I told you about that crazy Serb kid I went to school with who gave a speech about ethnically cleansing all the Albanians?
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Furburt on Mon Dec 31, 2012 3:21 am

First bit yes, second bit no.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Pararaptor on Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:40 am

It was great. Supposed to be a 7 minute speech, he went on for 15 minutes in a circular loop about how NATO were terrorists and how all the Albanians in Serbia needed to be exterminated. The teacher was too nice to stop him.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Furburt on Mon Dec 31, 2012 12:41 pm

There's your political correctness!

They should have air-striked him.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Xandy on Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:24 pm

Croatia best, serbs are fags.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Dec 31, 2012 9:50 pm

New Year's Eve
I feel like I could just repeat my thoughts on 2009's Valentine's Day and just add a little note at the end of the review saying that New Year's Eve isn't quite as good as its predecessor. That wouldn't be entirely fair; they're not exactly the same film, after all, although it's incredibly difficult to not notice the many similarities common between them. The most obvious of which is that there are too many characters and stories to mention without confusing anyone who hasn't yet seen it.

As only the most clever among you might guess, the film takes place on New Year's Eve, 2011, in the city known for the famous ball drop, New York City. All of the characters live here, and almost all of them have major plans for the holiday. Some want to win a contest by having the first birth of the year; another just wants to live to see the next year; some are catering the big party; some are the ones attending the party being catered; there's a singer wanting to rekindle a relationship he walked out of, and another singer wishing to get her chance to tour with the first one.

That's not even beginning to describe how many different things are going on in this film. That might be about half of them, although I suspect you could list almost a dozen more. Most of the stories involve two main characters, sometimes with some notable supporting roles, and they often intertwine with each other. It's quite surprising the number of high-profile actors they got to participate in this movie, although considering it would likely only require a week or so of participation to receive a strong paycheck, I can see the appeal from the stars' perspective.

If you're already familiar with Valentine's Day, this is more of the same. If you didn't watch that film -- and while I liked it, I wouldn't blame you for not giving it a chance -- you might suspect that so many characters and storylines would get confusing. It doesn't. You adjust rather quickly, mostly because you know most of the actors, and the constant cutting back and forth is rarely bothersome.

However, what Valentine's Day did better, in terms of plot structure, was always ending on a bit of a cliffhanger. When we'd cut to a different story, you'd anticipate seeing what happened in the previous one because it left you hanging. It was intriguing to watch because of this. New Year's Eve doesn't even attempt this. It arbitrarily moves from one story to the next, and there was never any reason beyond "Well, we've lingered here for too long."

Because of this, there's no reason for all of the stories to be told at the same time. They would each work just as well told separately and all together. The only thing you'd miss out on would be the crossovers, I suppose, but those could still happen and be rewarding for second viewings. I mean, you probably wouldn't want to see New Year's Eve again anyway, as it's not really any good, but if you had that inkling to rewatch it, you could notice something new. "Hey, that guy shows up later," for example, would be a phrase you might utter a couple of times.

The main reason you won't want to see New Year's Eve again is because it's not really funny, or all that enjoyable. Sure, it's all overly sentimental -- and some people will like that kind of thing, especially as a date movie on the titular holiday -- but there are essentially no laughs, and the sweetness all but rubs off once you see just how contrived it has to be in order to all work out. There are at least two stories that shouldn't have had a happy ending, but wind up having one anyway because it's that kind of movie.

There's one fakeout in the middle of the movie that I was happy about, but that's about the only time I smiled during New Year's Eve. It involves a man (Josh Duhamel) wanting to meet a woman he only meant once before, exactly 365 days ago. He didn't even get a name. When another character, a woman, tells someone else that she should go "see him," we know exactly what she means, right? Not necessarily. It would have been too easy, sure, but I was surprised that there was at least one "twist."

The performances are all fine for what this is: sentimental fluff. The only actually "good" acting in the film comes from Robert De Niro playing a character lying on his deathbed. But even De Niro phones in some scenes. Some of the names in here are quite prominent, but not many are really good in this; they're all just adequate, here for a paycheck, and nothing more. Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Jon Bon Jovi, Aigail Breslin, Zac Efron, Katherine Heigel, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Hilary Swank and Sofi Vergara are all in this film.

New Year's Eve will probably please anyone looking for an easygoing, unchallenging date movie. One that, when it's finished, something more interesting can take place. Anything would fit that bill. If you want anything other than an overly sentimental piece of fluff made to please people and give actors a paycheck for very little work, you'll want to look elsewhere. And if you want a better version of essentially the same movie, Valentine's Day exists. At least it's funny.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:54 pm

Raiders of the Last Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark is a film of such fun that it's incredibly hard to dislike it. There's a lot of action and humor, and everyone involved seems to be having a good time. You'll simultaneously laugh and feel scared, which is quite the feat. A film that can get your heartbeat up while also making you clutch your stomach from all the laughing you're doing is definitely a movie that you're going to want to watch -- probably more than once.

The year is 1936. The lead is an archaeologist and professor named Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford). The basic idea: Stop the Nazis from getting a magical box called the Ark of the Covenant. Go nuts. That's the basic idea of Raiders of the Lost Ark, which has its lead go through action scene after action scene, sometimes with others and sometimes alone, all in order to stop the Nazis from gaining a power that could destroy the world. He's no ordinary archaeologist, of course, as daring adventures are his forte, but it's still ridiculous when you think of what he goes through on a daily basis.

You'll be amazed by the sheer amount of places and set pieces that Indiana goes through. There is never a dull moment in the film, which our hero takes in stride. While he doesn't exactly acknowledge how crazy the few days that we get to see are, I'm sure there was one or two "Oh, not again," comments scattered throughout. You laugh when you notice that the characters are acknowledging just how silly the things going on around them are. But he never actually stops enjoying himself, which is imperative to a movie like this.

You go in to have fun, and it's a lot easier for you to have fun if the characters are smiling and enjoying themselves. Ford always has a smile on his face, as do most of the other characters. Even when their lives are on the line, they never stop laughing about the situation. I don't know how anyone would be able to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark and walk away unhappy. It's an inventive, swashbuckling action movie that will hold your interest throughout.

It's the opening sequence that really draws us in. It establishes Indiana as an action hero, and it shows us exactly how competent he is at handling everything. He's smart, as he shows us as he moves around a booby trapped cave, and he's also in quite the physical shape, proving that as he outruns a massive rock that could crush him if he slows down for even a second. I don't think the movie ever actually gets better than its opening, but it does have a couple of moments that come close.

The only thing that I didn't quite like was the ending, which felt far more like a cop out than it should. It made many of the things that the characters did in the movie feel unnecessary and pointless, as if they didn't need to be there at all and the same conclusion would happen. It's a cheat, really, and cheapens the experience as a result. The journey to get to this point, while fun, feels like it had no purpose, because the lead characters don't even factor into the finale that heavily.

That is, however, pretty much the only problem that Raiders of the Lost Ark has. It's so fun for the vast majority of its running time that I'll easily forgive that, and I'll even add that the epilogue kind of makes up for it, too. It's a minor flaw that I'll easily look over, although I did hope that the main characters would, you know, have an effect on the proceedings near the end. You'll see what I mean if and when you watch it, which you definitely should. It won't ruin the whole experience, but it might put a damper on what is otherwise a blast of a motion picture.

There are a couple of notable supporting characters, many of whom have an odd relationship with Dr. Jones. The most important is Marion (Karen Allen), a woman he met years ago but hasn't seen in a long time. She's bitter, obviously, but still adores him. They end up becoming partners. The villain, apart from the Nazis, is Dr. Belloq (Paul Freeman) who plays an important role in the opening scene -- he takes the item that Indy worked so hard to get, just because he can. And John Rhys-Davies appears as a sidekick in the middle section, which is always fun to see.

It's Harrison Ford, and the action scenes, that carry the film. He, a gruff, determined soul, battling constantly against the forces of whatever the filmmakers can cook up for him. The environment is far more dangerous than the Nazis ever are; they always seem to miss with their shots, regardless of how many are taken against our hero. There's enough variety to the action scenes to keep them fresh, and the pacing is so brisk so as to not allow us a moment to get bored.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is a very enjoyable movie. It has plenty of action, adventure and comedy, set to a brisk pace and with enough interesting characters to keep us engaged. It brings us a villain we can easily rally against, a MacGuffin that everyone will go to the ends of the for, and enough creative action scenes to make you say "wow," a couple of times every half hour. You owe it to yourself to see this movie, with other people if you can, so that you can have a very fun two hours of escapism.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Jan 02, 2013 9:31 pm

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Remember how lighthearted and fun Raiders of the Lost Ark was? Even when lives were on the line, everyone was still smiling, knowing that their skill and perhaps a little bit of luck would allow them to escape relatively unharmed. The bad guys would get shot up a touch, the good guys would be mostly okay, and everyone would be able to go about their merry way. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is not like this. It has the humor but none of the charm, and it has a few scenes that are darker than anything you'll find in Raiders.

This is a prequel to the film that introduced us to Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), the professor and archaeologist who so competently provided us two hours of thrills, all while keeping a smile on his face. This movie takes place only a couple of years prior to Raiders, and in the opening sequence, we see that Indiana is still the dashing fellow he becomes slightly later in life. He manages to escape from some Chinese businessmen, negate the poison that he ingested while dealing with them, and save two other people from a plane that was about to crash. And that's just for starters.

The people with him are the love interest, a singer name Willie (Kate Capshaw), and a small child suitably named Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan), an orphan that Indy takes with him on his adventures. After escaping from the plane, the trio finds themselves in India, at a small village that claims a magical stone was stolen, and that its theft has caused them to starve. Crops are dying, the well dried up, and so on. Indy, reluctantly, at first, decides that getting the stone back would be a good idea.

So, we're on another adventure. Unlike the last film, which took place in a great many locations, this one focuses on a palace, which holds unspeakable secrets. Once inside, there are a great many dangers for Indy and crew to face, and it's here where most of the excitement comes in. There are some seriously dark moments in Temple of Doom, and I was surprised by some of the places that it went to.

I can see what the filmmakers were trying to do. The first film had Nazis as the villain, and in order to not use them again, the film is set a bit earlier, before Jones had any reason to deal with them. The first movie was lighter in tone, so in order to contrast that, this one had to be darker. It helps keep things fresh, which I was happy with, although it lost some of the charm when that tonal change was made. How can something be charming when inside it you see a heart being ripped from someone's chest -- and then the person whose heart is no longer attached to the body gets burned alive?

Okay, so that's as dark as it gets, but in comparison to the first film, that's pretty bad. I didn't mind this direction, in large part because it allows the film to go in different ways -- and because the humor was kept, ensuring that I still laughed even when the darkness came -- but I can see it turning away some people who just wanted a light, enjoyable action-adventure movie. This is not that.

There is less action this time around, although once it starts, it takes a while to dial back down. Some of the film actually -- and if you saw the first film, you might not believe this -- talking and sitting around a table. And spying. Spying! Can you imagine that? Instead of recklessly charging into action, Indy and the gang wait until people have left in order to steal the magical stone. And they actually directly impact the ending this time around, which is always a plus.

The ending is what I disliked about Raiders. This time, my complaint is with the cast. Kate Capshaw's Willie is not as strong of a character as Karen Allen's Marion. Willie is more of an annoyance, rarely helping and always shrieking. Short Round, while a cut kid, also doesn't help all that much. Ke quan and Ford do have a strong chemistry, though, and if they didn't get separated so often, that could have really been made into something. Caphsaw and Ford's relationship, on the other hand, feels weak, especially when compared to the one in the previous film.

Temple of Doom is still quite inventive, and I enjoyed the few action scenes that we did get. The stakes feel high, although the characters are still occasionally joking, and they're always exciting. The opening is possibly even better than the one in the first movie, and the scene with bugs and spikes is so well-done that I found myself genuinely worried about Indy and his kid sidekick. It's a thrilling actioner, even if it is a bit darker and contains a bit less action than its predecessor.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a darker Indiana Jones film than the one that preceded it, but it's still a lot of fun and contains some very exciting moments. What didn't work as well was the love interest -- in part because the character is written to be weaker than Marion, and also because Capshaw's chemistry with Ford wasn't as strong -- and the kid sidekick -- which didn't work because it wasn't given a whole lot of time to develop. But if you're up for a slightly darker movie still starring the capable man with a whip and fedora, this is one you'll want to watch.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Pararaptor on Thu Jan 03, 2013 2:36 am

Didn't the first movie have a guy's flesh melt off?
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Jan 03, 2013 3:03 am

Yes?

I don't really remember these things months after I've seen them.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Jan 03, 2013 9:07 pm

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
In terms of tone, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade can be compared more easily to the first installment in the series. It's a lighthearted affair much like Raiders of the Lost Ark, filled with jokes, fun, and a good time. Unlike Temple of Doom, this film isn't going to frighten anyone. It's the best film in the series, too, fixing all of the problems that previous films had and not adding any into the mix. It's exactly what you should want in an Indiana Jones movie.

This is a direct sequel to Raiders, picking up a few years later. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford continues with the whip and fedora) is still teaching college, but after a colleague informs him that the Holy Grail is out there, and that Jones is needed in order to find it -- and locate the man previously heading the investigation, who has now disappeared -- Indy sets out on another adventure. He doesn't want to at the beginning, but after learning that the man who disappeared is his estranged father (played by Sean Connery), he heads out to look for both the man and the chalice.

The pair is quickly reunited, because why would you leave Sean Connery out of the picture for very long? From there, it's almost elementary what has to happen. Clues will be found, puzzles solved, bad guys -- this time it's the Nazis again -- will be fought, and the Holy Grail will either be found or not. It's all about how each of these stages plays out, and about how much fun the characters are having while going through the motions. In this case, it's a lot.

There are actually a couple of character twists this time around. The earlier, which I won't consider a spoiler, comes in the form of the only important woman in the film, Dr. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody). She initially looks to be filling the Marion/Willie role as the love interest, but soon betrays Indy and leaves him and his father for dead. She's one of two main villains, the other being Walter Donovan (Julian Glover), both of whom work with the Nazis in hopes that they'll be able to find the Grail and live forever.

So, thankfully, there is no love interest this time around. I don't recall what happened to Marion from the first film -- a line of dialogue might have told us but I might have missed it -- but that role gets filled by Connery anyway. He's somewhat helpless, and has great chemistry with Ford, so he does the job perfectly. He provides a lot of comic relief, too, and even gets in on the action once in a while. He's the perfect sidekick, especially because the relationship between him and Indy ends up being a focal point.

There are a couple of strong heart-to-heart conversations that take place between the two characters that allows you to understand Indy's childhood. There's a scene early on showing us how Indy got the whip and fedora (and his fear of snakes), but it doesn't delve into the relationship between him and his father. We learn early on, and then we find out that what Indy really wants, even more than finding the Grail, is to finally have a real relationship with his father. Isn't that sweet?

More action is in this film than in the previous one, which I'm thankful for. Temple of Doom wasn't boring by any means, but the nonstop, breakneck pacing of Raiders wasn't quite there. It is here. Once Indy and his father get going, there's no stopping them. The stunts and action scenes are still very creative and enjoyable, and there isn't a lot of time to rest. And unlike the first film, the ending doesn't feel like a cheat; the characters directly impact it, and it also resolves pretty much everything that is important.

That solves the problem from the first movie. The second movie had worse supporting characters than Raiders did. That's also solved. Sean Connery's involvement is enough to ensure that, but then you add in Doody's villain and John Rhys-Davies' reprisal of his role in the first film, and you're golden. And while it fixes the two major issues from the first two movies, it doesn't introduce any new problems. All of the things that worked earlier worked in this one, too, with nothing regressing or becoming stale.

If I have to find a complaint, it's that the prologue/flashback scene was a bit contrived. So, he gets everything that he needs to become our hero in one day? Right, like I'll believe that. I say this somewhat sarcastically, because it makes for a fine back story even if it is a bit too easy. In fact, not including it would have shortened the running time and not brought this complaint up at all. Maybe it wasn't necessary at all, although I suppose, all in all, I was glad it was included.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is exactly what is needed out of an Indiana Jones movie. It's action-packed, it's funny, it has strong and enjoyable characters, and it never gets boring. It's the strongest of the first three films in the series, and because of how well Connery and Ford work together, it's a very, very fun film. It's more tonally similar to the first film, which is probably a good thing, and it's recommended very highly.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Komrade Kharloth on Thu Jan 03, 2013 9:18 pm

Do you take requests Marty? If so, could you review this?


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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Jan 03, 2013 9:20 pm

I don't do documentaries. I might watch it, though, as it looks interesting (and horrifying).

EDIT: So, wait. Is it even a documentary? Some sites list it as a documentary, while others don't.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Komrade Kharloth on Thu Jan 03, 2013 9:24 pm

It's a narrative film, but with info that pops up similar to a documentary to fully expand the horror of the film and fill in the story.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Jan 03, 2013 9:34 pm

Cool. I might do it, then. Maybe. Someday. Or I'll just forget/lose interest.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Katzenjammer on Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:56 am

Have you seen Synecdoche, New York Marter?

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Jan 04, 2013 6:02 am

Nope.

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