Marter's Reviews

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Mr. Wiggles on Wed Jan 16, 2013 6:17 pm

Hubilub wrote:@Marter & Wiggles: Did you both just stop reading after section 1?

It's an article about how contrary to popular belief, Katniss is far from a strong female character, as she is continuously robbed of agency throughout the book/film.

You speak genius? I grossly underestimated your abilities, Mr. Carlander.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Hubilub on Wed Jan 16, 2013 6:34 pm

It will not happen again, Mr Bond. Fire the laserbeam!

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Xandy on Wed Jan 16, 2013 8:54 pm

Hubilub wrote:You didn't put Moonrise Kingdom on that list ye bastard

Funny, I just got this as a belated Christmas gift from one of my grandparents. Haven't watched it yet, how is it?

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Hubilub on Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:07 pm

I want to say it's the shit, but there is danger that you might find it pretentious. It's a Wes Anderson flick, so it's very peculiar. If pressed to describe it, I'd probably call it adorable, both innocently and how it handles some more adult subjects.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Hubilub on Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:08 pm

It's pretty funny though. Not laugh out loud, but constant chuckling all the way through.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:09 pm

@Hub: It's not pretentious unless it's Paul Thomas Anderson.



Or Terrence Malick.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by ggggggggggg on Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:22 pm

PTA did Boogie Nights so he's fucking cool.


Anderson can skirt on pretentiousness sometimes, and his style tends to attract the most annoying of hipsters, but I like his films.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:22 pm

Yeah, I liked Boogie Nights, too.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by PayJ on Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:44 pm

The Darjeeling Limited was excellent. Haven't seen many of his other films.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:49 pm

Nothing but the Truth
Based on real events -- but the film is quick to ensure that we're aware that it is not aiming to be an accurate representation of them -- Nothing but the Truth is a film about a woman and her incorruptible decision to not reveal her primary source for a newspaper article she wrote, revealing a member of the CIA who was undercover at the time (played by Vera Farmiga). Her name is Rachel Armstrong (Kate Beckinsale), although she's playing the role of the real life woman, Judith Miller, someone who spent a few months in jail after being found in contempt of court for keeping her source secret.

A similar situation unfolds here. Rachel publishes a story, which becomes a matter of national security, apparently, and is then investigated by a prosecutor named Patton Dubois (Matt Dillon), who is our villain. He informs her that since this is a very important thing, confidentiality is null and void, and that she must reveal her source, who will then be charged with treason. She denies, and like in real life, is imprisoned. I won't go into what happens from there, but there are moving scenes on all sides of the emotional spectrum.

Supporting roles go to Vera Farmiga as Erica Van Doren, the woman outed by Rachel's story; David Schwimmer, playing Rachel's husband who fights his own battles while she is imprisoned; and Alan Alda as Rachel's prolific lawyer, who gets one monologue so well-written and performed that it gave me patriotic chills -- and I'm not even from America. It's surprising just how good Alda is in the role, which also contains more depth than it probably should have, and I found him very pleasant to watch.

Admittedly, there isn't much to the story. Not much happens, and characters often spend a lot of time in the same location. Judith Miller spent 85 days in jail; Rachel spends a lot longer than that, and while inside, she's unable to do a whole lot. She's steadfast and determined in her decision not to reveal her source's name, but it feels like at time that this is the only thing driving her forward. Her son, husband, friends, career -- they're all basically ignored in favor of this one decision.

What I would have liked to see was more temptation, more complexity going into her thought process. Show her toying with whether or not keeping the source's name confidential is worth the turmoil she's putting on those around her and, of course, herself as well. But Nothing but the Truth rarely ventures into those territories, and I think this is a missed opportunity. Some emotional impact is surely lost when you remove her son from the equation for the majority of the time she's in jail.

Even though much of the film's plot is simple and doesn't do all that much, there are a few points in time where it gets livened up. A couple of plot twists and reveals late in the game leave you with a good final impression, with the film's final scene bringing the most to the table. The reveal works, doesn't feel like a cheat, and it's plausible. It's pretty much the perfect way to end this movie, and Nothing but the Truth left my mind with a very good impression as a result.

Thankfully, the movie isn't all about politics. It's about one woman and the principle that she stands for. While some may call it a political thriller, it features very few politics and is not biased one way or another. I was happy with this, as it manages to make its point without potentially alienating a large portion of its audience. It easily could have fallen into that trap, but instead decides to stay as far away from politics as this subject matter allows.

Now, don't let the direct-to-DVD label fool you, as this is far better than the releases that studios don't deem good enough to put in theaters. Nothing but the Truth was planned for a theatrical release, but thanks to financial trouble, the distributor behind it was unable to do that. It was released on DVD as a result, never getting to have the theatrical release it deserved. And it did deserve one; it's really unfortunate that a lot of people won't see it as a result of something beyond the film's control.

The real reason that this is a movie worth seeking out is the actors. Beckinsale has never been given as much respect as she deserves, but she's in fine form here, giving a determined performance filled with a wide range of emotions. Dillon is suitable as the villain, a man just doing his job. And Vera Farmiga chews the scenery so hard that you can wince a little bit every time she's on-screen, which is unfortunately not often enough. I've already mentioned the brilliance of Alan Alda in the few scenes he gets.

Nothing but the Truth is a very enjoyable film that never should have been released directly to home video. It features strong lead performances, enough drama to satisfy its running time, and a couple of late game reveals that change things up enough to keep the story interesting. It's a simple film, sure, but it manages to stir emotional responses even though it misses a few opportunities along the way. It's worth the time it takes to seek out, and I hope that you'll give it a chance.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Akariking93 on Thu Jan 17, 2013 4:31 am

@Hub: Fun article. I mentioned a lot of similar issues with the film when it first came out in my review of it that Matt hated. Why you gotta hate me so much, matt? ;~;

@Matt: No shit it was a joke, still doesn't make it not tacky Very Happy
And I think the idea of Pitch Perfect trying to get its audience to appreciate that form of music is fine by showing a character the audience can relate to; IE someone else who hates that shit, but regardless of that, it doesn't make me as a viewer any less annoyed when hearing a Madonna song sung in a cappela. It's just like that Glee silliness. >.>
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Jan 17, 2013 9:12 pm

Coraline
Coraline is a more mature animated movie than it initially appears. It tells a relatively simple basic story, but in the details are dark secrets that are definitely more adult oriented. It ultimately is pandering, especially in its message, but, like most of Pixar's films -- this wasn't Pixar, but it's close in terms of quality -- adults will easily be able to enjoy it, too. Or, at least, they have the same potential to enjoy it. I can't call myself a big fan of the finished product.

The film follows the adventures of a young Coraline Jones (voice of Dakota Fanning), who has recently moved to a new town with her mother (Teri Hatcher) and father (John Hodgman). Neither of her parents spend time with her, she has no friends here, and she's grumpy as a result. This is a more realistic child than in most animated movies -- movies in general, really. She has the whole range of emotions, which is great to see considering how many times a younger character is typecast as one or two things.

Unsatisfied with her real life, she explores her house, only to find a miniature door, which unfortunately is bricked up. The following night, some mice lead her to the door, and the bricks are gone. Down the rabbit hole she goes, only to find herself in a parallel world, one in which everyone seems to exist just to make her happy. Her "Other Mother" and "Other Father" exist to please her every whim. The only difference from her real world is that all of the surrounding cast now have buttons instead of eyes. Of course, everything is not quite as it seems, but I'll leave you to discover exactly what for yourself.

The moral of the story is this: Don't take your life for granted. Also, something that's too good to be true probably is. These are good points to get across to the children, I suppose, and if the intention here is to scare it into them, Coraline is a good way to do it. The film is by Henry Selick, the man behind The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach and the criminally underrated and absolutely horrifying Monkeybone. You should know the type of creepy imagery you're going to get into.

That is true here, and there are a lot of scenes in Coraline that could easily scare a younger child. Even older ones, I suppose, could be scared if they're not the kind of person with a high tolerance. It's a surreal film, one with lots of insects, disproportionate limbs, and scenery that moves and acts in ways you hope it wouldn't. It might still be Selick's tamest film, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

I'm not usually one to complain about the animation, especially given how much time it takes to make an animated film, but I found some parts of Coraline to be lackluster in this department. The majority of the film is stop-motion, and for the most part, it's smooth. However, there are some actions that become very apparent that it is stop-motion; frames almost appear to be missing. It might have just been missing a bit of polish, or perhaps the deadline was approaching and corners had to be cut. I'm not sure.

It does, for the most part, look great. I complain because it takes you out of the film. It has a unique visual style that draws you in, but when a small problem like this happens, you're taken out of the film's world. This happened less frequently as Coraline went on, and it's an admittedly minor complaint, but it's still one that I feel is worth pointing out. This is still very fluid stop-motion, though, and it's unlike almost any other film you've ever seen -- even if you've seen Selick's other films.

I wasn't completely sold on the narrative. Most of it seemed formulaic, and you can pretty much tell the direction it's going to take as soon as it starts. Once a treasure hunt started for a few MacGuffins, I was just about done following Ms. Jones. The creepy imagery doesn't advance past what is established relatively early on, the characters, save for Coraline, are all shallow, and there isn't much worth staying around for after you figure out how it's going to conclude. I applaud the effort, but it's just kind of dull.

There is a lot of talent behind the camera, and behind the characters. Henry Selick has a unique vision, and he knows the types of films he wants to make. The voice cast, featuring the likes of the aforementioned Fanning, Hatcher and Hodgman, as well as Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Ian McShane, Keith David and Robery Bailey, are all enjoyable to listen to. The film itself always has something interesting to look at even if its narrative gets dull and predictable, and, while it's a tad long, it gets the job done.

I think Coraline is a good film, although I think its story holds it back from being a great or even really enjoyable one. Its animation is sometimes a bit unpolished, and the narrative needed some work in order to properly adapt it from the book it's based on, but it brings up a good message and has a ton of talent driving it forward. It's intermittently creepy and scary, and it always looks great. It's worth watching especially for fans of animation, and it isn't, strictly speaking, a "children's movie," which is a plus for any adults in the room.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Jan 18, 2013 10:09 pm

Far Cry
Far Cry, technically an adaptation of the video game sharing the same name, is directed by Uwe Boll. That alone probably tells you that it'll likely be awful, but I've enjoyed some of Boll's films in the past. If they're really that bad, they still have the potential to be enjoyable. Laughing at a bad movie with some friends can be quite a fun experience, after all, so it's with that sort of mindset that I approached Far Cry.

The film opens with some confusion. I had no idea what was going on for the half hour or so. There are a lot of characters, many of whom look the same, and since I had never played the video game, I wasn't sure what the basic plot layout would be. I wasn't even sure who was supposed to be our main character until things started going south. It turns out that our lead is a man named Jack Carver (Til Schweiger), a war veteran, who currently spends his time drinking or running a whale-watching tour. Sometimes he does both at the same time, we assume. I think his possible alcoholism is supposed to be his flaw, but since it never factors into anything, it's just a footnote.

He's approached one day by Valerie (Emmanuelle Vaugier), a reporter who has been told by her uncle that something fishy is happening on an island which is off-limits to the public. She hopes that Jack will sail her over to the island so that she can meet with her uncle and learn exactly what's going on, but things go wrong when her uncle is found out, she is captured, and Jack's boat is blown to smithereens. Jack then uses his military training in hopes to save Valerie and maybe take down the evilness of the island, too.

It's basically an excuse to have a bunch of action scenes, many of which involves Genetically Engineered Super Soldiers, who can take bullets without body armor but unfortunately are mindless killing machines. They predictably get released for an all-out brawl near the end of the film, but don't actually play a large role in the movie. I don't know why they're being created or what their ultimate purpose is, but I do know that they must be stopped.

Essentially, we don't know much about our villains, only that they are evil killing machines. That's fine, I suppose, as a villain you know nothing about can often be more terrifying than one you know intimately, but here it isn't very effective, in large part because, for most of the time, Jack is fighting random, generic soldiers. The super soldiers don't do anything until the final third of the film, and even then, they're not as imposing a presence as you would expect.

Uwe Boll has always been fine at directing action scenes. They're always watchable, often entertaining, and you can usually tell what's going on in them. That's all true here, but, like with most of his films, it's everything around the action that doesn't work. The first third of the film contains no action, and is all set-up for later on, there are only a few action scenes once this set-up period is over, and any attempt at drama doesn't work at all.

There are even some attempts at comedy sprinkled throughout, all of which feel so forced that I cringed every time there was a comedic attempt. There's even one attempt at romance, wherein there was the build-up to a sec scene, followed directly by a dialogue exchange in which a character asks "How did I do?" followed by "2/10." Was the second character being sarcastic with that rating? We'll have to wait the whole film to find out, and even then, it doesn't matter. These types of things -- like Chris Coppola showing up for the final third solely for comedic relief -- try to keep the tone light, but I don't remember laughing even once.

Far Cry wore me out. By the end, I felt exhausted and bored. There was so much tedium and similar-looking scenes that this 95-minute film felt like it played for three hours. Even once everything breaks loose and anything can happen, it didn't feel like there was much difference from the events preceding this portion. What should have been a climax felt more like a sleep hypnotism program. I felt defeated by this movie.

The performances are terrible. Til Schweiger doesn't have an ounce of charisma or even much determination in this film. Whenever a dramatic or comedic scene happened, I felt like he was as uncomfortable as I was. Vaugier is almost as bad, showing no emotional response to being kidnapped, staring as stoically as she could straight ahead, with a look of "I can't believe I'm in this movie" glued to her face at all times. I get that people do these films for money, but I'd still appreciate a little bit of effort.

Far Cry is a typical Uwe Boll movie. The action scenes are fine, but there aren't enough of them and the film surrounding them is just awful. The performances are poor, the drama falls flat, the comedy is anything but funny, and even the action scenes feel same-y and, while watchable, are nothing more than technically competent. This isn't one of the "so bad it's good" movies; it's just so bad. If you can manage to avoid seeing Far Cry, it would be in your best interest to do so.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Katzenjammer on Fri Jan 18, 2013 11:01 pm

You want to see a terrible movie marter? Watch Vibrations. Uwe Boll's works are cinematic masterpieces next to that stinking pile of shite.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Jan 19, 2013 9:56 pm

Brüno
Brüno is a terrifying movie, full of stupidity and obscenity, aimed at an audience who wants to be offended for 80 minutes. Is it funny? I didn't think so, but I'm sure a lot of other people would. Is it offensive? You bet it is. Sacha Baron Cohen knows how to offend, and also how to get laughs from those who find him funny. Not being one of those people, I was only offended, but not just for myself. I felt bad for many of the groups targeted by Cohen's character, Brüno. I suppose they can stick up for themselves, but I found myself feeling sympathetic toward them, not to Brüno.

Brüno is a mockumentary staring Cohen, playing a character who previously appeared in skits for a couple of television shows. Brüno is a flamboyantly gay Austrian fashion reporter, who one day gets fired for something I can't even remember. He decides to flee the country, head to America, and pursue his dream of becoming a celebrity. No, he doesn't want to do anything important and then become a celebrity as a result; his end-goal is becoming a celebrity.

Of course, like all rags-to-riches films, he's going to have to fall before he can succeed. So he falls hard, really hard, and that's where most of the jokes come from. One failure after another, one harder fall after the last one, and we're supposed to be laughing at that. I guess it's funny to see a man turned down over and over again while pursuing his goals. Of course not! The jokes come from the individual scenes in which Brüno does offensive things that offend the people he does them to.

See, like Borat before it, Brüno doesn't have a lot of staged scenes. The reactions that the character gets are more often than not genuine, and the people he interacts with don't know that this is a character. They think he's a real person, and therefore don't think he'll go in the direction he so frequently does. This is where pretty much all of the humor lies. Seeing Paula Abdul react to sitting on living people instead of chairs and being told to eat the food sitting on a naked man instead of a table is hilarious, or so the movie hopes we think.

I'm sorry that I didn't think it was funny. Having a satirical character fool a bunch of people in ways that are basically an R-rated version of Punk'd isn't that funny to me, okay? I think that Sacha Baron Cohen can be really funny, and I didn't even mind Borat when I saw it back in '06, but this one just didn't work for me. I don't say that in hopes that you don't go see it, because there's a good chance you'll absolutely love it. It just wasn't for me.

You've got to hand it to the film's star, writer, and producer, though. He'll do whatever he can to offend you or make you laugh -- or both at the same time, which, to him, is probably preferable. He puts it all on the line, to the point of excess, and there definitely aren't any walls put up in his performance. He takes on a character and he'll stick with it to the very end. "I'm going to be a stereotypically gay Austrian fashion reporter," he says, and then he does it without a second thought.

I admire that. Really, I do. I don't even know what I would have done differently if I was in the shoes of everyone putting this thing together. Approaching it with more of a narrative might have been a start, but they were hoping to recapture the success that made Borat a surprise hit. It worked really well there, and that might be why Brüno doesn't register. Brüno was so funny and so offensive that this one feels like it's there just to top it. Everything is turned up to 10 because it has to be better than Borat was.

Instead of laughing, I just felt sorry for the targets. The LGBT community, Germanic culture, the Hollywood stars that the character supposedly idolizes -- they all deserved more sympathy than his shallow body deserves. And because he subjects us to all of this obscenity, I found myself really hating him. Do you really want to see a penis be the only thing on-screen, swinging around for a minute or two? I know I don't, and neither did the characters watching it within the film. It's offensive for the sake of being offensive, nothing more.

I was a little surprised to see the amount of real life talent that participated in this film. You see Brüno interact with so many well-known names and you think "Why did these people agree to this?" I have to wonder how the conversation went when contacting the representatives for these people. "Would you like to appear in our totally serious documentary? No, I can't tell you what it's about. Want to do it anyway?" And they all said yes, somehow. It's weird what people will do in order to get in front of a camera (or get paid).

Brüno didn't often make me laugh. Sure, it offended me, but I suppose I was missing the point, or just didn't enjoy that reaction. It's a worse version of Borat, I found, with a weaker character and fewer jokes. It's all about the reactions of the people Brüno comes into contact with, and how offended they (and you) are. You very likely will enjoy it, but I didn't find much of Brüno funny and I know that I'll never watch it again.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by GrinningManiac on Sun Jan 20, 2013 2:47 am

I liked Coraline quite a lot. It was formulaic but at the same time the world in which it was set was very interesting and uniquely creepy, I found.

I didn't notice any problems with the animation myself or, if I did, my brain ignored them as a deliberate quirk in the style.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Jan 20, 2013 10:00 pm

A Clockwork Orange
A Clockwork Orange is a very difficult film to enjoy. Not appreciate, which I most certainly did, but like. It is set in the future, a place that looks as if we finally gave up and let the interior designers have their way with the world. It features a protagonist who is so cruel, so unlikable, that when the film starts to want us to care about him, it's very difficult to. He's not sympathetic in the least, but we're to be convinced that he is by the time all is said and done. It's also very violent, featuring several scenes that make you want to turn away.

How does one enjoy A Clockwork Orange? I kept wondering that for the majority of its running time. I suppose it is funny, at times, with Malcolm McDowell's narration always being pleasant to listen to, but I kept feeling as if it needed a little ray of sunshine to penetrate its dark core. So sad, so upsetting, and while that's not bad in and of itself, it grows tiresome after sitting through it for over two hours. Sure, it's a mostly accurate translation of an equally dark novel, and it'll make you think a bit after it finishes, but if you're hoping to enjoy your time watching a movie, look elsewhere.

McDowell both narrates and is the lead actor, playing a teenager named Alex whose idea of fun is to either get into violent altercations with his peers, or going on raping sprees. If either is done to a song of Beethoven's, Alex is most pleased. The law does not hinder them, the police have no idea who they are (they wear masks, you see), and they have not a care in the world.

Alex's group has tensions, sure, but he always knows that he's the leader. Why? Because the camera distorts everyone but him, so that we know he's the lead. Stanley Kubrick, who wrote the screenplay and directed the film, uses wide-angle lenses frequently here, portraying Alex as the only sane person in this dystopic world, even though it's very likely completely the opposite. This is a crazy person with no regard for his fellow man, and yet we're supposed to root for him. Sorry, but I couldn't do it.

While I don't want to spoil later portions of the film, reform eventually comes to Alex, and we have to see the ramifications of that. It's not by choice, to put it bluntly, and we begin to question whether it's fair for someone to change someone's nature. Alex sees a vulnerable person, and he wants to inflict harm on them. Is it right for someone to physically prevent him from acting upon those urges? We see the pain that this treatment causes Alex, and we're supposed to sympathize with him.

So, A Clockwork Orange gives you a lot to think about. It'll stick with you, due to the violent images, the amount of detail that went into each scene, or the themes that it deals with while it plays. It is a good movie. It's not all that fun to watch, but it's important in its own right and it'll most certainly be worth your time if you decide that you can handle it. It is not, however, for everyone, and if you're looking for light entertainment for the night, this is most certainly not the movie for you.

There is some irony involved in later scenes that made me laugh, and some of McDowell's narration is hilarious, but for most of the time, this is a drab drama that needed some more cheeriness. Granted, that might have ruined the tone, and I can see why some form of comedy wasn't included, but when we're dealing with someone who is delusional, it wouldn't be too hard to make the film more of a dark comedy. Maybe a second viewing would make me appreciate that part of the film more; there's certainly enough there to warrant multiple viewings.

Actually, that problem might not have been with the film, but with me. I don't find someone singing "Singing in the Rain" while proceeding to rape someone particularly funny, but perhaps the intention was to make that comedic. I guess I just have a different sense of humor, or maybe a few morals. I think that I just might not have gotten the film's sense of humor, and that's fine. Other people will, and they'll like it more, while another group of people will find it even more depraved than I did, and hate A Clockwork Orange as a result.

If there's a driving force behind why A Clockwork Orange ultimately works, and you're completely ignorant of the talent behind the camera, it's Malcolm McDowell. Stanley Kubrick is known for being a perfectionist, and some of the things that McDowell has to get right -- over and over again, presumably -- are insane. The film opens with a shot of Alex's face, and continues to zoom out for a good two minutes, with Alex not blinking. How hard is that? Try not blinking for two minutes right now. Once you can do that, try doing something else like drinking some milk while not being able to blink.

A Clockwork Orange is a good movie, one that makes you think and appreciate it for the majority of its running time and for some time afterward. Is it enjoyable? No, but it's not exactly supposed to be. It gives us some insight into the mind of a person who is driven solely by his instincts to fight and rape, and then shows us what happens to him once those instincts are impeded. It has a driving performance by Malcolm McDowell, is made with great skill, and is dark and not at all enjoyable to watch.


Last edited by Movie Martyr on Mon Jan 21, 2013 6:55 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by PayJ on Sun Jan 20, 2013 10:11 pm





What's not to love?

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Jan 21, 2013 9:29 pm

Almost Famous
Almost Famous is a very pleasant film for most of its running time, and if that's what you're looking for, you'll want to watch it. You'll also want to see it if you're a fan of the '70s Rock 'n' Roll culture, as the film aims to accurately represent that. It has a great sense of time and place that you believe you're truly there, for most of the time. And it also has a coming-of-age story buried within. It's a film of great depth and it's easily enjoyable.

The film stars Patrick Fugit as a 15-year-old boy named William Miller. He loves music, so much so that he has to sneak in his listening time as his ultra-conservative mother (Frances McDormand). thinks it will take him down a bad road. He writes articles to magazines about his favorite -- and not-so-favorite -- bands, and is eventually given an opportunity to work with Rolling Stone magazine. He just has to follow a band called Stillwater on the road and on their tour for an undetermined amount of time in order to figure out 3,000 words to write about them. That's totally the thing that a boy of fifteen years should be doing.

Reluctantly, his mother allows him to go, giving him the always solid advice "Don't do drugs!" before saying goodbye for what probably feels like a lifetime to her. He's only supposed to be gone for four days, but when was the last time that a plan came together? He's not going to be coming back anytime soon, as the life on the road is going to consume him, much like it has already taken over the lives of the band's groupies, Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), Polexia (Anna Paquin), and Sapphire (Fairuza Balk).

There are so many interesting things to take in here. There's the relationship between the band members -- in particular the lead singer (Jason Lee) and the "guitarist with mystique" (Billy Crudup) -- the one between the band and the groupies or William, "The Enemy," the interactions between William and the groupies, and even the one with William and his mother. Oh, and we can't forget the one between William's "normal" life and the one of rock stardom. There's so much to take in, so much to pay attention to, that I found myself thinking about watching Almost Famous again right away, just so that I could absorb it all.

It does get a little tiresome at times when not a whole lot is going on, but it's during these points when you realize just how perfectly the era is captured. You pay attention to the small details that are there only for the hard workers, and you feel like you've been transported back in time to a different time and place. That's a feeling that only the best of movies perfectly capture, and Almost Famous definitely gets it right.

I would have preferred a bit more conflict, though, as it would have kept things entertaining throughout. There are moments when Almost Famous starts to drag a tad, even with all the scenery gazing that you'll be doing, and if would have been an even better film had there been some more conflict. With all the relationships that are covered, there's a surprisingly small amount of quibbling, which was a mistake on the filmmakers' parts, I think.

This leads to some of the relations not quite working the way they should. Some of them don't get enough time to develop, others feel forced because they progress without any sort of conflict or even time, and others seem to dominate and you wish that they would step back and let another one take charge for a bit. I didn't exactly buy the "love" between Penny and William, for instance, because even though they spend some time together, that aspect isn't given a whole lot of time because whenever they're together, another relationship is center stage.

Don't get me wrong: Almost Famous is a very good movie, but it's the kind of movie that has quite a few flaws -- most of which you ignore while in the moment, but notice after the film concludes. I didn't really care about any of these things while watching the movie, but sitting back and thinking about it now makes me wish that certain things would have been switched around or fixed up. These changes would have turned it into a great movie, in my opinion.

The aspect that didn't need changing was the acting, as all of the talent assembled here does a great job. The two younger main actors, Patrick Fugit and Kate Hudson, bring so much life to their role that it's hard to dislike them -- even if neither is the most emotional actor in the world (Hudson just sort of stands around and smiles). You'd be surprised by some of the names that appear in this film. The likes of Jay Baruchel, Jimmy Fallon, Zooey Deschanel, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Rainn Wilson all show up, and I didn't even notice half of them.

Almost Famous is a very good movie, in large part because of the way it captures the look and feel of the 1970s. Its plot stumbles around a little, and a bit more conflict would have been to everyone's benefit, but even during those slow times, you can sit back and lose yourself in the experience. It's immersive, an easy watch, and contains enough characters and relationships to always give you something to think about.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Jan 22, 2013 7:59 pm

Matchstick Men
Matchstick Men is a bizarre film, teaming up Ridley Scott and Nicolas Cage, two men who have made some ... odd choices over their history in the film industry, and the result is a movie of almost unmeasurable success. It's not always enjoyable or fun to watch, but when it comes to making a good movie, nobody knows how to do it better than Scott, and when it comes to turning in a performance that is always intriguing, Nicolas Cage is your man. Here, he creates a great character, and with Scott behind the camera, he's put into a clever story.

The film begins like many others. We find Cage's character, a neurotic chain-smoker named Roy, joined by his partner, Frank (Sam Rockwell), in a con. He convinces a naïve woman to buy a water filtration system, then, after she finds out she's been had, he appears as a detective who claims that in order to get the money back, he needs access to the woman's bank account. It's a brilliant plan that is well-executed, and sets up these characters wonderfully. We learn enough about them in the first few minutes to carry the entire film.

However, an element will soon be introduced which changes Roy's entire outlook on life -- kind of. It is discovered that he has a daughter, Angela (Alison Lohman), and soon enough, she has entered his life and wants in on his "antique business," which is what he calls his con-artistry. There's a big job coming up, Angela is starting to bond with her father, and Roy's obsessive compulsive disorder is really acting up. It all leads to one satisfying conclusion, which in turn brings up a twist in the story that makes you think that the film is too clever for its own good.

There are really two stories here, and each of them deserves its own film. It takes skill in order to ensure that each one gets the time to work; it's a balancing act that's tough to pull off. Fortunately, this is Ridley Scott we're dealing with here. He knows how much time needs to be spent on them, and he makes sure that we get the time to develop these characters and also keep the major con in play and in our minds.

There's more to the story than meets the eye, too, which you'll find out right before the credits roll. I won't spoil it, but suffice to say that there's a twist which might not make you too happy. If you've read the book the film is based on, you'll know it beforehand and will likely be satisfied with how it is executed, but if you don't, you'll be in for a bit of a shock. It ultimately works, and the scenes following it are so well-done that I can't complain too much, but it did come off as trying too hard.

What really drives the film is Nicolas Cage's performance. He does neurotic without going over-the-top, and manages to still bring enough energy to the table to ensure that we don't get bored. When he has bursts of OCD, it's kind of scary, but it's fascinating all the same. The tics that he adds don't detract, even though they easily could. He captures exactly what he needs to, and delivers one of the best performances of his career, hit and miss as it may be.

As the child, despite being over the age of twenty when filming began, Alison Lohman is believable. She's playing a fourteen-year-old in this film, and I would never have guessed that she was older. Her actual age is likely a benefit, as you're not going to find too many children of her character's age who can bring forward a performance this deep. Sam Rockwell is as good as he normally is, although I felt that he was underused in the few scenes that he gets. I would have liked to see more of him, really, as Rockwell is always enjoyable to watch on-screen.

There is enough style given to the film to make it worthwhile, and both parts to the story are interesting in their own rights. While there are lots of points in the film that could be boring -- either they were clichéd or simply not terribly interesting -- the performances and Scott's direction ensure that you'll always have something to watch. Plot twist included, even though I'm not sure it completely holds up upon inspection. Perhaps it does, but I'd have to watch it again to find out.

And don't get me wrong: I'll probably see Matchstick Men again someday. It was mostly enjoyable, and has enough depth to make it worth seeing again. It is not the best movie Ridley Scott has ever done, but look at his filmography and I don't know why you would expect it to be. It is a nice change of pace from his larger budget films, though, and I'm happy to have seen it. I'm not even sure what else I wanted from it; I just wasn't completely pleased.

Matchstick Men is a good film featuring fascinating stories and a very enjoyable performance by Nicolas Cage. While I'm not sure if it all holds up with closer inspection, I know that I'll be watching it again at some point in the future so that I can find out. All three leading performances were strong, although I would have liked to see more of Sam Rockwell. This is a film that you should definitely give a chance, especially if you're a fan of either Cage or Scott. The former turns in one of the performances of his career, while the other has a lower-budget film that is a nice departure from his usual works.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Hubilub on Wed Jan 23, 2013 11:16 am

D-d-d-domination

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Jan 23, 2013 9:46 pm

Collateral
Collateral is a film featuring a couple of strong lead performances, a thrilling premise, and strong execution. It's not entirely successful -- there are some dull stretches -- but for the most part, it's a very enjoyable movie, even though much of it takes place inside of a cab featuring lots of dialogue. But because there is always a danger to everyone involved, it's always a thrilling movie. Having each character be sympathetic is also a bonus.

We begin with a routine night on the town for L.A. cabbie, Max (Jamie Foxx). He drives around, hoping to save up enough money to fulfill his life goal of opening an elite transit service whose purpose is to make the journey so pleasurable that upon reaching the destination, the client wouldn't want to leave. After some typical fares, into his cab steps Vincent (Tom Cruise), who offers him $700 to be a personal chauffeur for the night. While initially resisting the tempting offer, Max is forced into it after Vincent's first stop, which results in a body landing on the roof of the car. We learn now who Vincent really is: A killer.

His goal is quite simple. He has to go around Los Angeles, taking out priority targets, and anyone who stands in his way of getting to these people. He's a hitman, and he has five people that need killing in order for him to get paid. Max finds himself in the middle of things, and can't escape now that he knows Vincent's true reason for coming to the City of Angels. This is a very simple premise, but it works effectively in the context of the film.

There's a school of thought out there that copious plot twists end up hurting the suspense that one can generate. It appears that Michael Mann is one of these people, so he keeps things simple here. It doesn't get any more complex than what I've laid out for you, and even one late-game reveal doesn't complicate things too much. You might see it coming -- the fifth target, that is -- but it makes sense and while it does feel a little forced, it pretty much had to be the direction that the film took. At that point, there was no other way to go.

As I said earlier, much of Collateral takes place inside of Max's cab, with him driving Vincent around the city. They exchange tons of dialogue sequences, and their conversations are always interesting. They're not always thrilling -- even though they frequently are -- but they always reveal something about the characters, and often can be taken in more ways than one. I could watch them talk back and forth for a couple of hours, and for the most part, that's what you do when watching Collateral.

When the characters step outside of the car, you know some shooting is going to happen. Someone must die, after all, in order for Vincent to be able to check off the names on his list. Each of the kills is different, sometimes things go wrong which add to the tension, and somehow, some way, Tom Cruise makes us want to see Vincent succeed in killing everyone. His character is so classy, so charismatic, that you don't want to see him fail. He's the villain, sure, but he's sympathetic and you want him to accomplish his task.

I think it's because of how monotone and professional everything he says about his job ends up being. When discussion it, he's cold and calculated. When he talks about other things, he's anything but. The disconnect between the man and his profession helps us think that it doesn't matter what he's doing, as it's just a job. He can still be a good person; he's just tasked with doing something terrible. While he's more sociopathic than that, we don't think that way as he goes about his business.

Max is also sympathetic, which puts us in an awkward position. Who do we root for? Do we want Max to escape Vincent's clutches and turn him in, which will lead to Vincent failing his quest, or should Vincent get his way and kill everyone -- and possibly Max, too, as he's a witness. The actors playing these characters don't help things, as I like both of them, and I was hoping for a happy ending for everyone, even though I knew the movie couldn't end that way.

Oh yeah, Mark Ruffalo is also here, in a role whose sole point is to show us that, yes, the police are trying to figure out that murders are going on and that they're not pleased about that. I'll always appreciate seeing Ruffalo in a film, but he has no reason to be here and the film might have been tighter had we not seen so many shots of him and his force walking around, attempting to track down the taxi and the men inside of it. I didn't find the scenes boring, but they didn't add to anything except the runtime.

Collateral is a very engaging and entertaining thriller containing some strong performances and a lot of banter instead of massive shootouts. We get those as well, but most of the truly thrilling moments come from the dialogue exchanges between Foxx and Cruise. Each character is sympathetic and deep, and I had a fun time simply watching them. Had a bit more trimming been done, I would have called this a must-see film. As it is, it's very fun and I'm sure you'll have a good time watching it.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Jan 24, 2013 9:32 pm

Parker
There isn't an actor more typecast at the moment than Jason Statham. Regardless of whether or not a film in which he stars is based on already existing material (this one is), no matter the talent around him or directing him, you know the type of film you're going to get. Sure, there are exceptions, but these are few and far between, and have done nothing to alter public opinion. You go into a Jason Statham movie and you know what you're going to get. That sentiment holds true with Parker.

There are a bunch of novels, written by Donald Westlake (under the pen name "Richard Stark"), that have this Parker character. This film is a loose adaptation of the 19th one, Flashfire. I'm sure that means something to someone. Statham plays Parker, a good man but also a thief. He and a group of people pull off a job at the start of the film, and surprising absolutely nobody, he gets betrayed and left for dead. Well, not even left for dead; the other people shoot him -- presumably in the face, although we don't see the shot; yes, I thought that might matter later on, but it doesn't -- and roll him into a river.

Also surprising nobody, Parker survives and now wants revenge. That's what gets built up for the next hour and a half. There is a ton of time wasted trying to get Statham's character back into a position to take down the people who betrayed him. It's an hour into Parker when we finally meet the second-billed actor, Jennifer Lopez, playing Leslie, a real estate agent in Palm Beach, which just happens to be the place to which the other criminals have relocated -- because they need to pull off a bigger heist despite getting away with more than $200,000 the last time.

Okay, so it's a revenge film. What's Parker's main reason for wanting revenge? Well, it's a matter of principle, so he says. Nick Nolte has a role in this film, and it's not to be the secret mastermind behind the whole operation like you might expect. He offers Parker the $200,000 to avoid any confrontation, but Parker declines because it's all about principles. That is his entire motivation behind taking these guys down.

None of this movie holds up on close inspection. Why does Leslie's mother (Patti LuPone) at one point bring in a brutally injured Parker without ever having met him? Who cares? How do the two heists in this film actually work? It's a movie; most of these couldn't be executed in real life. This is a Jason Statham film. You kind of know what you're getting into, right? You can't go in and expect to not suspend your disbelief for a couple of hours.

The thing about that is that many of the movies starring Statham are well-paced or exciting enough to keep your mind from thinking about these sorts of things. There's enough action to keep your eyes engaged, so your mind doesn't start wandering. Because Parker takes so long to really get going -- and even once it does, there isn't a lot of action -- and there are no characters to grab a hold of, your mind is going to be waning. Being bored in an action-thriller like this one is the absolute worst crime the filmmakers can commit.

Jennifer Lopez has no reason to be in this movie. She is not the love interest -- Parker has a girlfriend played by Emma Booth -- and her character doesn't do a single helpful thing outside of providing exposition. She is there to do just that, and to become a victim later on. Director Taylor Hackford doesn't know how to transition from a scene where Lopez explains her entire character's back story and motivation to an action scene with any efficiency or grace. Both come across as awkward and clunky. Statham and Lopez also have no chemistry, even though Lopez by herself manages to create at least a little bit of sympathy for her character.

What few action scenes we get are generally fine. There are fewer of them than you'd expect from a Statham-led film, but that's not in and of itself a problem. What we do get are very bloody and quite violent, even if all of the actors involved no-sell until they're dead. Seriously, you walk away from one of these scenes seeing how much damage has been done to each character, and you wonder why nobody got stunned for even a moment during the flurry of shots they were taking.

The only range that Statham shows in this film is in his attempt at a Southern drawl. When he meets Leslie, he's in disguise-mode as a millionaire from Texas. So, Statham has to put on the accent. It's not so much that it's bad, but since Statham mumbles a lot of the time anyway, this makes it even worse. I was laughing during each one of these scenes. The only actor who seems to have any fun here is Michael Chiklis, who plays the leader of the villains.

Parker is occasionally exciting, but it takes way too long to get to the point where it's enjoyable, meaning much of the audience is going to get lost before that point. I know I was. I found my brain wandering, wondering how exactly any of this could actually take place. A Jason Statham-led action movie can't be boring. This one is about what you'd expect once it gets rolling, and for its target audience, it will be appreciated. There is no action star working that is more reliable than Jason Statham.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Xandy on Fri Jan 25, 2013 12:39 am

Review Foodfight.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Jan 25, 2013 8:36 pm

From Dusk Till Dawn
From Dusk Till Dawn is the type of movie that only the duo of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino could team up to make. Here, Rodriguez serves as the director, while Tarantino wrote the screenplay, but I have to figure that these credits don't tell the whole story. After watching the film, it seems quite clear that it was Tarantino's film up until the halfway mark, at which point Rodriguez took over. Maybe Rodriguez really did direct the whole thing, and Tarantino was the one who wrote the entire script, but the different styles of each half make me thing that's not exactly the case.

The first half of the film introduces us to our characters, and takes us on a fun little road trip. The initial leads are brother Seth (George Clooney) and Richie (Tarantino plays a large acting role here). They've recently robbed a bank, but figure if they can get to Mexico, they'll be safe. Stopping at a motel, they kidnap a former pastor, Jacob (Harvey Keitel), and his two children, Kate (Juliette Lewis) and Scott (Ernest Liu). The five people end up heading to Mexico, and actually kind of bonding -- as much as kidnappers and their hostages can, I guess.

It's in this part that it feels like Tarantino was in the driver's seat. The dialogue is very much akin to that of a Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs, and while there is little in terms of thrills, when that is attempted it is very successful. The way the characters interact is something to appreciate, and it helps set-up the second half very effectively; you can see how these people would wind up being able to work together if the circumstance arose in which they needed to.

That's exactly what happens in the second half. The group stops at a bar, and then ... something -- which I don't want to spoil -- happens, leaving these characters to fight for their lives, mostly by working together. In a normal movie, it might be difficult to believe that captor and victims would cooperate so easily, but because of their bonding earlier on, it's not such a stretch here. And, besides, this is no normal movie.

We essentially go from a semi-serious crime drama with atypical villains to a B-movie action flick in the blink of an eye. This genre subversion makes From Dusk Till Dawn stand out. It doesn't start off like a campy B-movie, but that's how it ends up. Having the star power involved is also beneficial, but that's secondary. We have our expectations at the start -- especially if you haven't been spoiled regarding what the twist is and why the characters are put in an unfortunate situation -- and then they're shattered in an instant, and we start watching a different movie.

So, there's something here for fans of both Tarantino and Rodriguez, which is a good thing for someone like me, who is a fan of both. You get the dialogue, drama and thrills from Tarantino's part, and the camp, gore and silliness from Rodriguez. This mixture might not always work, but coming from these two men, it's a great success. The result is a film that's never boring, and keeps your attention for the entirety of its running time.

I think I liked the first part more, simply because of the actors. Watching George Clooney play the bad guy with a heart and a sense of style, while having fun doing it is very enjoyable, and seeing him clash with Harvey Keitel and Quentin Tarantino is absolutely worth seeing. Tarantino might not be the best actor around -- I would argue that he should stay behind the camera whenever possible -- but he turns in his best performance here, perhaps brought out by working alongside Clooney and being directed by Rodriguez.

Once the action starts, it's fun, but anyone could be doing it. That's why B-movies so rarely cast the big stars; they don't need the extra budget or talent in order to succeed. And while it's fun to see well-known actors going through the absurdity that From Dusk Till Dawn contains, they're not really needed in order for it to work. All that's needed is a lot of gore, a lot of cheesiness, and someone behind the camera with creativity. We have all of that here. The stars are but a bonus.

And what stars there are. Aside from the aforementioned actors, the film also contains supporting work from Salma Hayek as an erotic dancer, Cheech Marin, who plays three different roles, all of which are funny, Danny Trejo, Tom Savini, and Michael Parks. That's quite the cast, I must say, and it's simply fun to see them all working on a picture like this together. If there's one thing I think Rodriguez did most of the work on, it was picking the cast. These seem like the type of people he'd choose.

From Dusk Till Dawn is a very fun movie that succeeds and stands out from the crowd primarily because of the talent behind it, and because of the way it completely disregards our expectations, subverting its own genre in order to surprise us. It has two distinct parts, representing each of the men that brought it to us -- Rodriguez and Tarantino -- and is something that only works because of their talent and creativity. It is absolutely worth a watch, and is a very enjoyable film from start to finish.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Jan 26, 2013 9:25 pm

From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money
Since the first From Dusk Till Dawn was all about subverting our expectations about the genre that it initially laid out for us, it makes sense for the sequel to do the same thing. Here, we're initially promised a heist movie, with all of the tropes that this genre carries. We get to meet the crew, see their different skills in action, and so on. But something happens in Texas Blood Money that we do not expect -- or do expect, considering you've probably seen the first one. This is no ordinary heist movie, you see.

There is still a heist element, but Texas Blood Money is far more interested in being a low-grade knockoff of The Thing, which isn't a bad horror film to take inspiration from. One by one, group members become changed into (spoilers if you haven't seen the first movie) vampires, and end up waiting until they can get another member one on one so that, yes, they can also be turned. That entire idea might not be unique to The Thing, but it's pretty clear what's being ripped off here, especially because certain scenes play out in exactly the same fashion.

The problem is that what made The Thing worth watching was the tension caused by never knowing exactly who was infected. Here, we know who is and who isn't for the entirety of the time, so any potential standoff carries little thrills for us. We already know that the main character isn't infected, so anyone accusing him of potentially being so isn't going to have much of an impact. And there's no tension generated from two uninfected characters going into a room and staring one another down, because we know that neither is a vampire and therefore nothing will come of it.

That's not the only issue with this, as it disregards what the vampires did in the first From Dusk Till Dawn. There, as soon as the transformation from human to vampire was complete, the new vampire became a savage beast, unable to control emotions or thoughts -- at least, while the moon was out. Here, they all still go through with the heist plan until, I wager, they'd all be infected, at which point they might just give up. Or, as a couple of characters reckon later on, maybe they'd still go through with the job, because sentient vampires would still need the money.

I suppose that it's still a plus that the film doesn't just become another terrible genre flick, and instead becomes two terrible genre flicks, each of which isn't given enough time to develop or really do anything besides being there. Sure, it's nice to not have our low expectations matched (I guess?), but it grows tiresome once you realize that Texas Blood Money has no aspirations above being a worse version of The Thing.

Apart from the vampires, there are a couple of other things that you'll notice that return or are referenced from From Dusk Till Dawn. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, Danny Trejo is back as the bartender of that trucker bar that really shouldn't still exist, and the Texas Ranger that was murdered in the first film's opening is mentioned briefly, I think by the actor's actual son, James Parks. Oh, and there's a Terminator reference or two, because the lead is played by Robert Patrick. That's just kind of neat to see, I guess.

I suppose it's kind of admirable that Texas Blood Money does attempt to deviate from the plot of its predecessor. It doesn't go for the "bigger is better" approach to sequel making -- in large part because it's a direct-to-video affair with a much lower budget -- and instead does its own thing ... which just so happens to be a poor ripoff of The Thing, but at least it's trying, and I have to give it credit for that. It easily could have tried to top the final to From Dusk Till Dawn, even on a lower budget, and it would have been even worse if it had.

Another positive that Texas Blood Money has going for it is that Bruce Campbell is in it. He's only in the opening scene, which is a movie within a movie, but he's always fun to watch, and opening with him -- much like the first film opened with Michael Parks -- is a good way to begin. And, hey, don't you just feel compelled to see anything that has Bruce Campbell in it?

Apart from Campbell, and perhaps Trejo, there's nothing memorable to anyone in the film, and especially not in their characters. You can remember some of the actors, I suppose, but when it comes to defining character features, I drew a blank. And that's with entire scenes dedicated to the character, as we learn what he or she is good at when it comes time to pull off the heist. But, no, there is no genuine characterization here, and by the end, I would have a hard time telling you any given character's name.

From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money isn't necessarily a terrible sequel, but it's just a generic heist movie crossed with a poor version of John Carpenter's The Thing. If that sounds interesting, well, then you'll probably want to check it out. If it doesn't, and you have no affinity for straight-to-vide sequels to B-movies, you'll want to avoid it. It does its own thing, but it's not memorable in the least, and it's not even that enjoyable in the moment.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Jan 27, 2013 10:05 pm

From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter
From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter, which is technically a prequel to the first From Dusk Till Dawn, is also more in line with the type of movie that the first installment is. That is to say, apart from the beginning, it's basically the same movie. Okay, so the crime-drama from the first flick has been replaced with a Western, but save for that and the circumstances which lead to all of the characters finding themselves in a bar, fighting for their lives, this is the same movie.

Well, it's the same movie, but it doesn't have the talent behind the cameras or the impressive cast that the first film had, making it feel much less impressive. The most well-known cast member is, perhaps, Michael Parks, who appeared in the first film's opening scene, but here plays a role similar to Harvey Keitel's. He's not a man of God, essentially, which is going to be a bit of a problem once the vampires, who can be harmed by everything holy, start showing up. Of course, since this is a From Dusk Till Dawn movie, they won't appear until the halfway point.

No, the first half of the picture is typical Western affair. We've got horses, shootouts, standoffs, and so on, which, if you still haven't gotten the message, leads you to believe that this is the genre in which we're going to stay. However, since you've more than likely seen at least one of the previous chapters in this saga, you know that genre subversion is what it's about. It builds up our expectations, and then it completely smashes them by throwing vampires into the mix, changing tone and genre in the process.

The problem is that the Western is often more enjoyable near its conclusion, and takes quite a while to get going. Because the decision was made to not cram the entirety of a Western into the first half -- opting to, instead, simply cut it off when the vampires are unleashed -- there's no real payoff to the beginning. We go through all of this Western stuff, which should be building up to something, but it never gets there, which is frustrating.

It's such a dull movie. Yes, even with a bunch of deaths and vampires and killing and all that wholesome goodness, it's just not a whole lot of fun. That's the bare minimum that is required from a campy B-movie. There were points even in Texas Blood Money where I went "I can see what they were going for and how, if the execution was better, I would be enjoying myself." Here, I don't even see the attempt. It's lazy filmmaking, stealing directly from the earlier film but done with a lower budget and with less style.

Oh, and it's technically a prequel, which means that the story has to leave us at a point where the film can say "And that's how the first movie happened." Does it really work here? Not really, and the only character they actually establish is Salma Hayek's, here played by Ara Celi. How the bar came to be, why they decide that the best way to go about things is to lure people in and then go for the jugulars, and any other part of the mythos that you want to learn about isn't going to be explained here. It's a prequel because that's the easiest thing to do.

In the first film, there were actual characters to grab a hold of and watch as they progress. Clooney and Tarantino made for effective, atypical villains, while the victimized family is just that. Everyone has a reason for you to feel sympathetic, and when the killing starts, you actually care about them -- as much as you can for B-movie heroes, at least. Here, there's nobody to root for, nobody to follow, and nobody of interest to keep you paying attention.

The only positive I can think of is that this is somewhat of a reunion for a couple of the actors from the first movie, so at least that set must have been quite enjoyable to work on, or else they wouldn't have returned. Michael Parks played the Texas Ranger in the first film, and is referenced in the second, and he plays a much more prominent role here, showing us that he must have enjoyed working on the first installment. Danny Trejo is also back, and ends up being the only actor to appear in all three movies of the series, each time playing the bartender. At least the movies are somewhat consistent.

The action isn't fun. There is no horror. It's derivative of the first film and it's simply dull. There is no fun to be had here. That is the only thing I needed. These types of movies don't need much, and don't even need to be consistently enjoyable. A few really fun, really funny, moments are enough. The Hangman's Daughter has none. I felt downtrodden after it ended, not elevated like I should have.

From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter, is the same movie as the first one, with a slight genre tweak, an even lower budget, and a much less talented cast and crew. That could all work in a so-bad-it's-good kind of way, but with the lack of execution at every turn, it becomes dull and uninteresting. There are no moments to make you laugh or get your heartbeat up, no characters to latch onto, and absolutely no reason to watch it. You're better off just watching the first movie again.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:56 pm

Southie
When you return home after disappearing for three years, you hope that the rest of your family has held it together. This isn't the case for Danny Quinn (Donnie Wahlberg), who left a long time ago but returned for some reason. He claims it's for a friend's wedding, but since many weddings have happened over the last few years, his family doesn't believe that. Really, he's doing it to provide us with a movie, one in which he decides to start cleaning up the lives of the people he left behind.

That's quite literally all there is to the plot. There are a bunch of people in his life that are in need of rescuing, and systematically (and possibly alphabetically for how efficient he is), he begins to solve their problems. All because his mother wants him to, apparently, although he probably would have anyway for how saint like he is. Is someone in debt? He'll get the money. Is there a drug addict in the family? Detox/rehab it is! He's such a good person; it's kind of impossible to not find him an endearing character.

Eventually, Irish mobs get involved, and a very familiar crime story comes out. There's an old fling that Danny abandoned when he packed up and left town (Amanda Peet), some guns get involved, and there are eventually some thrilling scenes that you'll only get to if you decide to sit through the hour of tedium that precedes them. And by this point, you're so involved that the film could probably do anything and you'd applaud. Because if you manage to get through and enjoy the first part of the film, you're already a fanboy.

That's not a bad thing, but considering how low-grade the first two acts of Southie are, it was really hard for me to like it. I'm not from Boston, and I'm sure the film will play way differently there, but the mob wars story has been done far better in earlier films, and the "clean up the family" storyline is dull and simple. The only tension is what's brewing underneath, but that comes up so infrequently that it's barely worth mentioning. I wanted to sleep during Southie, and for a while I thought I did doze off. But then the film still went nowhere and I realized that even if I did fall asleep, I wouldn't have missed anything.

This is a mostly uneventful drama -- and I use the word "drama" about as loosely as possible. You'll like Danny -- I mean, why wouldn't you -- but he seems so untouchable, so perfect, that you'll never care for him or his safety. He can't be touched by the mob, as he's too perfect. His family is full of ungrateful people, with the only one you'll grow to like being his mother (Anne Meara).

But then you think about how wrong she might have gone to raise so many terrible, terrible children. Only Danny turned out okay, and he, a former alcoholic, only did so after leaving for three years. Mrs. Quinn seems like a nice enough lady, and certainly the streets of South Boston had something to do with how her children grew up, but how much should she be blamed? Yes, this is the type of thing I was thinking about in Southie. Not, you know, what was actually going on in the film.

The best part about Southie is how it establishes the setting in which it takes place. I suppose the "toughest neighborhood in America" tagline explains it all. This setting has been used in films before, and even if you haven't seen those movies, Southie does a good enough job explaining to you why you don't really want to live in South Boston. It is a rough place to grow up and live, and you see that very clearly in Danny's family -- even if I still don't think that absolves his mother of blame.

The acting is surprisingly good, considering it doesn't have a ton of established or even well-known names. Donnie Wahlberg is the second most famous Wahlberg brother -- the role was actually offered to Mark, but the filmmakers couldn't afford him -- and he shows a general likability and the potential to show intensity. He makes for a good lead, and based just on Southie, he could be a leading actor. None of the other males are worthy of mention.

On the female side, the most sympathetic actor is Anne Meara as the elderly mother. She gets that way simply by showing determination and kindness even though she's suffering from heart disease. Rose McGowan turns in a surprisingly strong performance as Danny's alcoholic sister, getting a few scenes to really show that she has dramatic chops. I was most impressed with her here, actually, and anyone who is a fan of hers needs to see Southie simply to witness her performance.

There is very little to say about Southie. It's a generic crime movie for its final half hour, and a nothing movie for the first two-thirds that it plays. It tries to establish characters, it succeeds in establishing setting, but it fails to give us reason to care or feel excited. It sits there, hoping that we'll care simply because of where the film takes place. Maybe those of you who live in Boston will greatly appreciate it -- The Boondock Saints was a massive hit there, after all -- but for most of the potential audience, it's worthless.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Jan 29, 2013 9:28 pm

Perfect Stranger
Perfect Stranger is a terrible thriller, filled with contrivance, confusion and a whole lot of tedium. It doesn't make much sense, it's never actually entertaining, and I'm having a hard time remembering a single moment about it, save for the ending. I recall that just fine, if only because it adds a twist for the sake of having one, and in doing so winds up making the film even more of a mess than it previously was. This film would be headed direct to video if it wasn't for the names in its cast list.

Halle Berry stars as Rowena Price, a journalist who, after working on a big story that took her six months, is shut down after her source is paid off. She quits, but is given a new "case" when a woman she knew previously hands her a file on a big-shot advertiser named Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis), and then, just a week later, her informant turns up dead. Hill is obviously to blame, so Rowena, along with her friend and computer hacker, Miles (Giovanni Ribisi), decides to infiltrate Hill's company and dig up as much dirt on him as she can.

However, things don't go quite as planned. She takes to her new boss, and soon enough we wonder if she even wants to prove that he was behind the murder. And Miles is always seen lurking everywhere -- what's up with him? Or is there someone else who might be behind this killing, like Hill's wife? Or was it suicide? I don't think that final suggestion is ever suggested in the film, in large part because the victim's body was (unsuccessfully) weighed down so that it wouldn't be found, but don't rule out anything in a stupid thriller like this one.

There's no tension in any of the scenes in this film. There's never a sense of danger, there are never any points where your heart starts beating faster, and none of the questions I listed above actually go through your mind. Oh, sure, the film wants you to ask them, but you never do because it's such a boring affair. For the most part, it shows Hill as the only possible killer, while everyone else is just there to find him out.

Basically, the only thing that happens in Perfect Stranger is this: Berry's character walks around Hill's office, or a party, or her apartment, and acts scared whenever she thinks she might be found out. It's all supposed to be scary -- the main character having to race against the clock or talk her way out of a situation is supposed to make you bite your nails -- but none of it works here. Director James Foley doesn't bring any suspense to the table, making the film have the same effect as watching a sitcom without the laugh track. Something's missing.

I think that something is intelligence. I can't think of anything in Perfect Stranger that could challenge you even remotely, and that's a problem in a thriller where you're supposed to be trying to figure out who a killer is. It doesn't end up mattering anyway, as the ending is a cheat and doesn't make sense, even if you can see it coming if you've watched other terrible movies like this one before. Berry's own Gothika comes to mind, although that one had more suspense than this does.

This is an unmemorable thriller. It doesn't excite while it was playing, and looking back on it doesn't bring me fond memories. I really didn't like this one. It has nothing that makes it worthwhile, even though it tries to promote the cast as the reason it was released at all. Halle Berry has won an Oscar, but everything she's done since hasn't shown us that she deserved it. This is no exception, as she somehow manages to overact and still not show a shred of emotion throughout.

I'll watch Bruce Willis in anything, but he's not any good here. His character, so we're told, is supposed to be the kind of slimy individual that you just want to put away in a corner. He paid off several sexual harassment lawsuits, his wife spies on him all the time to ensure he's being faithful, and so on. Yet, Willis plays him like a nice guy. He's respectful toward everyone, and while he can be fierce -- like when he's firing someone who spied on his company -- he's not a bad person.

Perhaps it's not Willis' fault. It might just be that the script was contradictory and the director told him to act this way. Maybe the character was supposed to be the subject of slander and once we get to know him we find out that he wasn't really the bad guy. But that's giving the film more credit than it deserves. None of that is in there, and I'm just spitballing in hopes of figuring out why it went wrong. I don't think I'll be able to do it, though, and should probably stop thinking about this awful, awful movie.

Perfect Stranger is a terrible little thriller that, if it didn't have Halle Berry and Bruce Willis in the cast list, would have been released directly onto home video. I think it should have been anyway. It makes little sense, isn't at all thrilling, has poor acting, and is completely ruined by its twist ending. This is a movie that you have no reason to think about, no reason to waste your time watching, and no reason to even consider giving the time of day. Stay as far away from it as you can.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Jan 30, 2013 9:53 pm

Observe and Report
Do you want to know how Observe and Report opens? It begins with a scene of a flasher going around a mall parking lot, exposing himself to a bunch of females just going about their daily business. Eventually you'll see the flasher for yourself -- in all his glory -- but for now, all you need to know is that there's one man on the case, trying to figure out who is behind these sexual misconducts. This man is named Ronnie (Seth Rogen), and is the head security guard of this mall. He has decided to take it upon himself to bring this flasher to justice.

He also wants to figure out a way to go out with a woman who works at the local cosmetic store, Brandi (Anna Faris). And he also wants to pursue his dream of becoming a police officer, instead of the "rent-a-cop" that he is now. And he has to deal with Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta), who acts as his rival for the duration of the film. That's a lot for one man to deal with, especially given that the film is only 86 minutes long. There isn't a scene that goes by without something strange or important happening, and the film's relentless pace does help it somewhat.

I suppose you also can't call Observe and Report clichéd, as it goes in so many different directions -- many times changing from scene to scene or even within a specific scene -- that you're never able to tell where it's going. The plot as a whole isn't terribly unique, but since it contains a few unexpected turns and surprises, I found it to be satisfactory. Dark, sure, but only satisfactory, which was unfortunate.

See, Observe and Report happens to be a comedy starring Seth Rogen. Those two things hardly ever work for me, and even though this is a very dark comedy -- a film where date rape is a joke is about as dark as you can get -- I didn't laugh a whole lot. The lead is a delusional man suffering from bipolar disorder, the main villain is a dude who walks around flashing women at the local mall, there is a crack-dealing child, a betrayal, an alcoholic, and a whole list of subjects that you don't typically make fun of -- and then the film does.

Unfortunately, most of the jokes are being delivered by Seth Rogen, who is often a terrible actor and isn't funny; at least, he isn't in my opinion. I suppose if you're a fan of Rogen and don't mind being offended, you'll enjoy Observe and Report, but for me, there were only a couple of enjoyable scenes. I can't even remember when, or if, I laughed, and the only thing I can think of was being bored for the majority of its running time. Seth Rogen just irritates me, I guess.

Many of the supposed laughs are of the "I can't believe they just did that" variety, which grows old once you come to the realization that the filmmakers don't have any reserves. When there is no subject off-limits, you are no longer shocked when something happens. You expect it, and at that point, if the film doesn't go as far as you think it will, you wind up disappointed. While I wasn't exactly disappointed due to lowered expectations going in, the film wasn't as dark as I was expecting, and I could see others not having their expectations lived up to after all's said and done.

The one thing I liked was the list of names I recognized from the cast. I like Anna Farris, although she gets to be a generic love interest here. Patton Oswalt is frequently funny, although he gets no jokes here as an abusive manager at the local coffee shop. Danny McBride shows up for a one-scene cameo that's not funny at all. Aziz Ansari gets a couple of scenes in which he trades obscenities with Rogen. And Michael Peña plays a fellow mall cop in a small, largely unimportant role.

Observe and Report simply wasn't funny to me. That is all that matters in a comedy. If you like Seth Rogen, or if you like writer/director Jody Hill's television series Eastbound & Down, then you'll probably like this. I don't particularly like either, and as a result, didn't find this funny. Be aware that it touches on some very dark and morbid subject matter, but doesn't go as far with it as you might expect and hope. It's a very brief movie, anyway, so it's not like you'll waste a large chunk of time finding out.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Thu Jan 31, 2013 9:59 pm

The Grey
The Grey is an intense, very personal survival movie with Liam Neeson in the lead role. He plays John Ottaway, a worker for an oil company whose job involved shooting wolves so that the other men didn't get attacked by them. He and a group of guys board a plane heading somewhere, but it's not going to reach its destination. It crashes in one of the best plane-crash scenes ever filmed, leaving Ottaway and a few survivors to fend for themselves in a cold, harsh environment.

So, the rest of The Grey has Ottaway and a the rest of the survivors trying to figure out a way to survive this environment. Oh, and there is also a pack of wolves that have decided to take out a vendetta against these wounded individuals. Essentially, this gives the characters a reason to keep moving, while also allowing the film to pick off characters one by one after they no longer become important, or after they come to a realization that their death was inevitable anyway. Yes, the downtime in the film is spent philosophizing about religion, death, the afterlife, and so on.

The Grey isn't just an action film, it's an action film with something to say, which isn't exactly the most common thing to come out of Hollywood. Usually you get one or the other, or the latter portion is so weak that it would be better off not existing at all. Here, it's blended in nicely, while also allowing for these characters -- people we need to care about, otherwise their deaths mean nothing -- to become more well-rounded and fleshed out. Whenever downtime occurs, they sit around a fire and talk, and we get to know them quite well.

With that said, the only name I could remember was Ottaway, and the only actor who managed to make a long-lasting impact was Neeson. It's his film, even though the other characters do get enough time to develop. He becomes the leader of the group -- even though that causes tension with one or two other members -- in large part because of his expertise in this area. And, you know, because he's Liam Neeson and the best way it can be advertised is "Taken, but with wolves as the enemy."

That's not exactly a fair advertising point, but I can see why it was used. A film as haunting and gripping as this one doesn't often get released in January, a time when bad action movies get dumped off quite often, hoping to take advantage of the equally bad action movies the competitors are releasing at the time. The Grey is a step above most of these, mostly because it's not just an action film. It's more about these men -- their survival and mindset -- than about the wolves trying to kill them.

That's probably for the best, as The Grey doesn't quite have the budget for good looking CGI wolves. Most of the time, either the darkness or the editing obscures the wolves from view, ensuring that we don't get to see much of them. They're about on-par with how the wolves in the Twilight franchise look, and not allowing us to see this very often was definitely for the best. It would take us out of the immersive experience that much of the film is.

That's really what The Grey is: immersive. It's intense and personal, and when these characters are struggling to survive -- or trying to cope with what seems like the inevitable -- you're right there with them. Lots of close-ups make us feel very close to these people, and there's always something about a cold climate like this one that sends a chill down my spine. It's rare that a movie makes you want to put on a coat simply because of where it's set, but The Grey is one of them.

I struggle to call The Grey a great movie, although I can't think of a significant problem with it. It's a tad long, pushing the two-hour mark, and it gets a bit repetitive by the end. It mostly follows this formula: Characters sit around and talk, then start moving, then one gets picked off, then they sit around and talk some more. Repeat until only one -- or perhaps more; I don't want to spoil what happens -- remains. It's tense and frightening, but once you get the pattern down it starts to get a bit dull.

Liam Neeson is kind of the go-to guy for action movies starring older guys nowadays, and it's for good reason. He looks the part, for one, with the type of rugged face that tells you immediately that he's seen and done things. He has an intensity to his performance that is often unrivaled, and he's simply fun to watch on-screen. He can still carry himself in the action scenes, that's for sure, and until he no longer can, I hope to see him in many more of these types of films.

The Grey is a stomach-turner of a movie. It's haunting, intense, and manages to have something to say, while also working as a taut survival-thriller. The secondary characters get genuine personalities, meaning we care when they die, Liam Neeson continues to be a commanding presence, and it's a very compelling picture. You will feel cold by the end of it. It's too long, it gets predictable, and the wolves look pretty bad (in the few situations when we get to see them for an extended period of time), but the film on the whole is very good and well worth watching.


Last edited by Movie Martyr on Fri Feb 01, 2013 6:36 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Xandy on Thu Jan 31, 2013 10:53 pm

Xandy wrote:Review Foodfight.

Also review Singham.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Mr. Wiggles on Fri Feb 01, 2013 1:14 am

Xandy wrote:
Xandy wrote:Review Foodfight.

Also review Singham.

Also review The Shinjuku Incident.

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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Fri Feb 01, 2013 9:46 pm

Peacock
John and Emma have a very good daily routine. Emma gets up early, makes breakfast, does laundry, and the rest of the daily chores. John gets up at 8:15, eats breakfast, and then goes to work. At night, he'll prepare things for the morning, and the next day they repeat this. The only thing different from a normal couple is that they're actually the same person. John and Emma are different personalities of one man (Cillian Murphy), and while they can't speak to each other, somehow they've managed to come up with this system.

One day, everything changes. A train derails and crashes into John's yard, while Emma is doing the laundry, and it knocks her right out. We're still in a time and place where people hung their laundry to dry, so she was folding it into a basket in the yard. It hits her, or comes scarily close, and suddenly the townspeople are aware of her presence. They don't think it's John in a wig and a higher than usual voice; they think it's his wife, someone they've never previously met. She runs back inside, John emerges minutes later, and the day goes by somewhat normally.

But the train attracted attention, which is something that Emma liked. Now, she doesn't want to let John out, and starts to take over his life completely. Much of the film puts Murphy in the wig, makeup and funny voice, as Emma becomes the central character. She starts making all the important decisions, learns about what John was hiding from her, and impacting other people's lives -- for better or worse.

There's something off about each personality that makes it fascinating to watch them. John is a timid person, wishing to always stay to himself and always afraid of letting Emma take over for too long. He just wants everything back to the way it was and should be. Emma, on the other hand, is more outgoing. She's generous and appears to be incredibly nurturing, but I always had to question why John was so afraid. Did he not want to lose control of his life, or was there something dangerous about his other side?

There's also the question of John's deceased mother, who presumably made him the way he is now before she passed away approximately one year ago. The opening scene depicts almost torture-like noises and dialogue, but what does it all mean? If you watch Peacock, you'll get the answer to most of these things, but the answer isn't necessarily as clear-cut as you would initially think. There is more depth to this film than initially meets the eye, and there are more thing to think about than you'd assume from the get-go. I was left reflecting on the film and its characters for a while after it concluded.

However, there's a lot of tedium in the middle. A lot of the film felt like filler to me, included just so that we could have a 90 minute runtime. It's interesting filler, I suppose, and it could easily be a lot worse, but I would have preferred if everything mattered in one way or another. I mean, we could have skipped some of this filler and included some flashbacks regarding that torture-esque scene in the beginning. Explain it a little more before the ending reveal? I dunno. It might have helped.

The characters -- or character, if you prefer -- are what makes this film worthwhile. Seeing John and Emma's struggle for dominance is quite enjoyable, and watching them interact with those around them, especially after the other one previously said something completely contrary, is fun. And with something always brewing beneath the surface, you always feel like Peacock is building toward something bigger. It isn't exactly the most enjoyable film, but it's always intriguing, and you always want to see what will happen next.

In order to appreciate Peacock, you'll have to do something: Believe that a town of 800 people won't be able to recognize that Cillian Murphy doesn't look all that different even with a wig and makeup. Murphy creates two distinct personalities, but he has a rather recognizable face, and when people are familiar with John, somehow they don't even suspect for a second that Emma isn't sharing the same body; they immediately suspect that she's his wife and that they're not related whatsoever.

Someone should have found out, I think, or at least suspected. That would have made it more believable, even though cross-dressing was not at all common in the 1950s. Stepping past that, the script hastily introduces a whole host of characters -- played by some famous names like Ellen Page, Susan Sarandon, Bill Pullman and Josh Lucas -- and then doesn't do all that much with them. Those are the two major problems that Peacock has, along with the aforementioned meandering.

So, is Peacock worth watching? Sure. It contains a fine performance by Cillian Murphy, enough depth to keep you guessing, and it's intriguing enough to continue to make you wanting to see what will happen next. The supporting cast doesn't get enough time to make an impact, the plot meanders a lot, using filler so that the film will play for 90 minutes, and it's a bit tough to believe that nobody would question why John and his "wife" look so similar. But it's an interesting movie that will be worth your time, for the most part, that is.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sat Feb 02, 2013 10:04 pm

Catch and Release
Catch and Release is the kind of film that has a lot going for it, but fails because some of the choices in cast and direction don't allow for it to succeed. It opens and closes well, but lacks purpose for much of the second act. It introduces a lot of story points that could be interesting, but the film doesn't highlight which ones we should be paying attention to, leaving us confused about what is important and what isn't. And Jennifer Garner plays the lead, a mourning widow named Gray.

For the first bit of the film, I actually thought that Garner might have finally found a role that she could excel in. She opens up fairly emotional, and given that her husband-to-be recently passed away, that seemed like an appropriate reaction. But as the film progresses, she shows us that this small burst of emotion was too much to maintain, and the rest feels forced and unnatural. Her character is also very inconsistent, changing demeanor within scenes at times, but given the tragedy I figured that was intentional and not Garner's fault.

Anyway, after the funeral, we start to get into the meat of the story, something that is far tougher and gristly than it should be. Gray lives with a trio of men, all of whom were her fiance's friend. The first is Fritz (Timothy Olyphant), a commercial director from Los Angeles who isn't technically living with them, but more overstaying his welcome. There's also Dennis, a man who has nothing to define him as a character, and Sam (Kevin Smith), who plays the funny man, presumably because he's played by Kevin Smith, a funny man in real life.

Also joining the story is a woman named Maureen (Juliette Lewis), whom we learn had an affair with the deceased and has secretly been getting checks for child support. The child is legally entitled to the money he left behind, assuming a DNA test proves that it was his son, although Gray cares more about the infidelity than the money, as is to be expected. These characters all spend a great deal of time together, doing nothing of importance for the next hour or so, leading up to a somehow satisfying conclusion.

I'm not sure how it works. Somehow, some way, all of this meandering allows us to get to know these characters and we understand their relationships with each other, and when it's finally time to wrap up, it's a somewhat powerful conclusion. There are a couple of touching moments scattered throughout the overlong middle that almost make it worthwhile, and once the finale comes, we realize that we do care, and that the time hasn't been completely wasted.

It really sneaks up on you, and while exactly the most touching of conclusions, it's kind of neat to have it all wrap up nicely. It's logical, sweet, and the type of feel-good ending that the movie's overall tone tried to avoid for as long as it could. It's like the inevitable had to come, and the middle was as long and boring as it could be as a stall tactic. "Let's drag this out as long as we can," it says, "and then we'll make them feel satisfied when we finally finish." It worked, I suppose.

There were a couple of subplots that really didn't connect, though. For instance, Dennis, the plain guy, apparently has a crush on Gray for the entirety of the film -- while she's starting to fall for Fritz, who returns the favor. But Dennis doesn't let us, let alone Gray, know this until close to the end, and then the whole subplot is wrapped up like that. Dennis has nothing to define him as a character up until that point, and then he reveals this, and we're supposed to care, apparently, even though the Gray/Fritz pairing had been working out just fine.

And then there's the one involving the deceased's mother (Fiona Shaw), who shows up intermittently just to make everyone else unhappy. And then her character changes completely for seemingly no reason. She had no real reason to be there except to keep the tone downtrodden -- which, I'd like to point out, is in direct opposition to the reason Kevin Smith was in the film, which was to liven things up. It's an uneasy balance that doesn't quite work out.

In fact, Kevin Smith was the only one in the film that I really liked. He livens things up, and his demeanor is in such stark contrast to everyone else's that I gravitated toward him. He lifts things up from the depressed state that everyone else is in -- even when they're supposed to be "happy" -- that you can't help but want to see him in every scene. And he even gets a nice little subplot with Maureen and her child, which is sweet enough in its own right, especially after an earlier event in the film where he hits the lowest of lows.

As I write, I start to like Catch and Release more and more. I wasn't terribly pleased while I was watching it, and I still think that the second act was overlong and overloaded, leading to confusion regarding what's important and what isn't, but since the beginning and ending are quite strong, it left a good impression in my mind. And thinking back on all the little moments that worked -- I think they overpowered the ones that didn't. It's not really a good film, and I'm feeling very mixed on it, but it does enough right to maybe, just maybe, be worth your time.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Sun Feb 03, 2013 8:48 pm

House of Cards (Season One)
With a budget of $100 million and Hollywood talent like David Fincher behind it, Netflix has taken a big gamble with House of Cards. It has commissioned two seasons -- the first of which has been released in its entirety as of February 1, 2013 -- spent a great deal of money, and is hoping to compete with premium cable channels like HBO with its own content. The only place you can watch House of Cards is on Netflix, as it is an in-house production.

The title might be familiar to you, as this is an adaptation/update of a BBC miniseries that shared the same name. The setting is transplanted to present-day Washington D.C., and mostly follows a man named Frank Underhill (Kevin Spacey), a congressman and Majority Whip who feels shafted by those above him -- including the President. In the pilot, he is told that, despite being promised it, he will not be promoted to Secretary of State. Along with his wife (Robin Wright), who runs a non-profit charity organization and is also very power-hungry, he begins to plot and execute revenge on those he feels have slighted him.

There are far more characters than this. There's an up-and-coming reporter who will do anything to get ahead (Kate Mara), a fellow politician who is battling a substance problem (Corey Stroll), the Chief of Staff (Sakina Jaffrey), Frank's right-hand man (Michael Kelly), and a great deal of other people. These might initially come across as easy stereotypes, but because of the fantastic writing and the direction the plot takes, they become so much more than that as the season progresses.

With thirteen episodes, each playing for approximately 50 minutes, you get to spend a lot of time with these people. You learn about them, and you begin to feel connected to them. You want to see them make the right decisions, and when they don't, you feel it. Certain things that happen in House of Cards will make you gasp. There are some shocking moments in this show. You might anticipate some of them happening, but when they actually happen they surprise anyway because you just don't want to see these characters take that direction.

It's refreshing to see smart people get the chance to converse with other smart people and not dumb down anything for the audience. This doesn't make the show hard to follow, though, as you'll always understand the why and the importance, even if you don't quite get the specifics. Like Oliver Stone's Wall Street, as long as the significance of each action is made clear, knowing exactly what these characters are doing isn't necessarily that important.

I mean, I don't know a lot about American politics. I don't live in America, and, quite frankly, I don't care a whole lot. I do understand the lust for power, which is the primary goal for the majority of these characters. As a result of that, I had no trouble following House of Cards. To compare it to a recent film, it's kind of like Lincoln. Characters are constantly engaged in a battle of words in order to accomplish their goals. It's often a power struggle, which is what a lot of the show is about. What House of Cards does better than Lincoln is that its characters aren't as simple-minded; there is more than a single motivating factor moving them forward.

This is a very slick production. With its budget and talent, it should be. It wants to compete with HBO, and it succeeds. The look of this show can rival anything in Hollywood. It has Hollywood directors for many of its episodes. David Fincher directed the first two. James Foley did a couple. Joel Schumacher -- probably still hated for Batman & Robin -- also had a couple. This is some serious talent for a television show that is only available via online streaming.

In front of the camera, we have: Kevin Spacey in the lead, who has two Academy Awards; Robin Wright, who has been a solid performer for a couple of decades; Kate Mara, who has had a few strong supporting performances; as well as a great deal of other actors, many of whom turn in career-best work. Each actor is fantastic, turning in a complex performance that often varies depending on the situation and characters involved in that specific scene.

The writing is also very clever and, surprisingly, smart. I didn't expect a political drama to be so engaging, but House of Cards easily kept me captivated for thirteen episodes. It even gets a few moments of humor with each episode, most of which come from Kevin Spacey breaking the fourth wall, often with a sarcastic glance toward the camera while talking to another character. This technique is also used to provide exposition, although it's used rarely enough to not become a bother.

The first season of House of Cards is a great one. It left me wanting more. Thankfully, another thirteen episodes have already been ordered, meaning that we're going to get some sort of definite conclusion. This is a slick, well-produced series, filled with a lot more talent than a project of this nature often gets. The result is a fantastic watch, one that I would recommend to anyone. It looks great, it easily captures attention, it has great acting, and it's exciting from beginning to end.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Mon Feb 04, 2013 10:03 pm

Arena
Arena is the type of film that Death Race would be if it had an even smaller budget and a lesser cast. Oh, and if it was also about fights to the death instead of races. But apart from that small little plot detail, the two films are identical. A man is captured after being tragically separated from his wife. He's forced to participate in either a race or fight to the death. He becomes a crowd favorite. If he wins a certain number in a row, he'll be released. And those running the show are evil and probably won't keep their word.

In Arena, the lead is Kellan Lutz, who, unlike Jason Statham, has no natural charisma. It's hard to care about him when he can't look sympathetic to save his life. Even after his wife dies -- which looked orchestrated to me from the beginning, but the film doesn't want to reveal that until much later; Spoiler Alert -- he maintains his same blank-stare look. Anyway, he decides to go to bars to drown his sorrows, and is seen fighting by a woman named Milla (Katia Winter), who seduces him and then gets him captured right before they were about to get intimate.

We get to his prison, and it turns out that Samuel L. Jackson, not Joan Allen, is in charge. He's a man who is being looked for by everyone on the face of the planet, in large part because he streams fights to the death on the internet. I don't know if the various agencies know that he's using prisoners, not volunteers to do this, but we soon find out that this is the case when Lutz's character, David, is forced into a fight before any real context is established for him. It's kill or be killed and, to nobody's surprise, David doesn't wind up dead.

David is told that if he makes it through ten fights, he'll be granted his freedom. We know that this can't happen. We know he'll be double-crossed, that there will be another goal he'll need to get to, or that he'll figure out how much he likes fighting and that he simply wants to stay and become famous on the internet. One of these does happen, and then a plot twist occurs which is pointless and adds nothing to the film.

This is one of those cases of a twist just for the sake of having one. We get a flashback that shows us how everything wasn't as it initially seemed, detailing every little thing that should get changed because of this reveal, but when I sat back and think about it, it really didn't change a whole lot. One character's motivation is a bit different, but only at the beginning. Once the fights begin, the film would play out the same regardless of initial intentions. It is, after all, kill or be killed.

I'm likely giving away more than you need to figure out which character is involved in the twist, but it honestly doesn't matter. If you're watching a film like Arena for the story, you're doing it wrong. You should be here for the bloody fights, or perhaps for the shameless nudity. Both are here, and while it's a little hard to mess up on the latter, the former is where I'd like to spend my time, as it takes a lot more skill to film a fight scene than a naked woman (although I'll stay out of which one you'll enjoy more, regardless of skill).

Now, the fight scenes are very gory and very violent, so if you're put off by that, you'll want to stay far away from Arena. This is a film rated R partially for "strong brutal and bloody violence throughout." That's not to say that they're particularly fun or interesting, just that they're violent and gory. Bloody comes out of any limb, bones are snapped, and for the most part, you get to see all of it, in the best special effects that a $10 million budget can render.

Yes, this is a direct-to-DVD movie with a small budget and a simple premise. Does that mean I should expect less? All I wanted to be was entertained, and that didn't happen for the most part. Even many of the fight scenes aren't that fun because they take place in a montage where all you see are the kills, with nothing leading up to those. There are some fun concepts -- each battle takes place in a different time period, using that setting as a backdrop and a restriction on the weapons one could use -- but during the fights we actually see, this doesn't really factor in all that much.

Being in direct-to-DVD films sometimes gives the actors the excuse to not put their A-effort into the project. That can probably be said about a large portion of those on-screen in this one. Even Samuel L. Jackson, who is almost always so enjoyable to watch, is less than enthusiastic about this role. He hams it up a little, sure, but he's more lifeless than you'd hope for. I did appreciate seeing Johnny Messner as his right-hand man, if only because Messner deserves to be in more movies.

Arena had the potential to be a fun B-movie. It had the low budget, the simple but silly premise, and an excuse to give us over-the-top fight scenes that would be so ridiculous that we'd have to have a good time. All of that is wasted, and Arena wound up being a very dull experience. It's not worth watching, and feels very much like Death Race, save for a less charismatic lead and more nudity and gore.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Tue Feb 05, 2013 9:56 pm

Like Crazy
Like Crazy is a sweet, honest love story that feels about as real as one in a movie can. That is to say that we believe in everything about these characters, but there's still a small level of movie-gloss that we can't shake. Maybe it's how otherworldly attractive they all are, or perhaps it's just because we're always aware that we're watching a movie, but for the most part, these are real people who have flaws and strong points just like a normal person.

It helps, I think, that Like Crazy was filmed without a script. All of the dialogue in this film has been made up on the spot, or perhaps in rehearsal sessions. The actors had to think it all up on the spot, drawing on their past relationships, or maybe on the ones they wish they'd had. Whether or not there was a general story arc that director/co-writer Drake Doremus wanted to follow is unknown, but if the actors steered the film in the direction they wanted, they did a fantastic job, even if they do meander a little bit. That's fine; so do real romances.

The main romance featured in the film is the one between Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones). He's working on a degree designing furniture, while she's only in America for school, and per the restrictions on her student visa, has to leave as soon as school is over. They become a couple soon after their initial meeting, and, after overstaying her visa, Anna finds herself back in England, unable to travel to America to meet her love. Much of the rest of the film deals with their struggles while apart, as well as the attempts to bring her to the United States.

This is a film that details every up and down that this relationship faces, and shows us each moment in great depth. We focus more on the negative than the positive, which might feel emotionally manipulative to some, but because we get to know these characters so well and they feel so real, that thought never crossed my mind while watching it. I just wanted to see everything work out for the best, although what was the best was something I couldn't figure out for the majority of its running time.

Each of those two characters, while separated, enters a relationship with another person. For Jacob, it's his assistant for the furniture company he works at, Sam (Jennifer Lawrence), while for Anna, it's a neighbor, Simon (Charlie Bewley). Of course, each of the two leads doesn't tell the other, at least, not right away, and there's some genuine tension whenever one of them gets suspicious because you're not sure if you want the reveal to happen, or if you'd prefer to see the secrecy prevail.

Like Crazy is an emotionally troublesome movie on a few levels. For one, you're never sure what exactly you want for these characters, and that makes you feel torn for a lot of the picture. The film wants you to focus on the pair's relationships, as it's given the most time and feels the most genuine -- not to mention that whenever Anna's parents appear, they take far more to Jacob than to Simon -- but it doesn't paint the side-relationships in a negative light and with all the ups and downs in the main one, can you really be sure what's best? I couldn't be, which led to a somewhat difficult watch.

The times when the movie is sweet definitely make up for the points when it's down on itself, as they feel rewarding just seeing these characters finally be happy, if only for a brief moment. Their irrationality is frequently to blame for the negative points, but then, humans act irrationally often and their mistakes are at least their own downfall. It's not someone else that separates them; they're behind it and have to deal with the consequences of their decisions.

You can get the impression at times that you're watching a documentary when watching Like Crazy. The handheld camera, the clear improvisation -- sometimes there are even line flubs quickly corrected that are left in -- it all helps add to the authenticity of the production. If it weren't for the somewhat recognizable names that you'll see as you watch it (each actor has been in a couple of films you might have seen), you might think it was all for real.

The success of a movie like this one is based on its actors, and it's a good thing that the filmmakers hired good ones. Felicity Jones is the breakout star here. A relative unknown to many American audience members, she shows herself to be an expressive actor whose facial expression can break your heart if it wants to. Anton Yelchin is more of a known name, but shows off a sensitive side after appearing in blockbusters like Terminator Salvation and Star Trek -- and also marks the second film in 2011 in which he has a relationship with a character played by the Oscar-nominated Jennifer Lawrence.

Like Crazy is a very emotionally taxing film if you get drawn in. I have to say that I was; the almost documentary style and strong cast made me feel like everything in the film was truly happening. Once I was fully engaged, nothing but the end credits could take me out. It's a sweet movie that always feels real, detailing the ups and downs of a relationship, always making you question what the best result would be for its characters. After watching, I'm still not sure.
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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Xandy on Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:07 pm

Seriously review Singham.


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Re: Marter's Reviews

Post by Movie Martyr on Wed Feb 06, 2013 9:33 pm

Adaptation
One of Adaptation's many layers is about its own creation. If that doesn't make sense yet, it might by the time the film draws to a close -- although it's entirely possible that it won't, too, and I think that's okay. In the credits, we're told that the screenplay is written by Charlie and Donald Kaufman, who are both in the film and both played by Nicolas Cage. However, Charlie Kaufman is a real person. In the film, he has a twin brother. In real life, writing the film's screenplay, Kaufman was flying solo. Begin to work through this.

The basic plot involves Charlie (Cage) working on a screenplay, attempting to adapt Susan Orlean's novel, The Orchid Thief. Orlean is in the film, played by Meryl Streep. We follow two storylines, really. The first is in the present, with Charlie's attempts to write the screenplay -- which end up being the movie we're watching, somehow -- and of Orlean's journey in writing an article for the New Yorker on an orchid enthusiast named John Laroche (Chris Cooper), which would eventually become the novel that Charlie is attempting to adapt.

That's not even getting close to the crux of it, but words can barely even begin to scratch that. I can see how Kaufman, the real man, could struggle to write that adaptation, or even to write the screenplay about his struggle with writing that adaptation. Still with me after that line? I hope so, because if you can follow the text, you shouldn't have too much trouble with the movie. At least, not until it starts to get really weird, but that's a subject to be discussed after Adaptation has been seen, preferably more than once.

Getting past the obscure narrative and structure, there are some very big and important ideas brought across by Adaptation. While it's weird and obtuse and you won't see anything like it ... ever, really, it also has a real heart, and it stops itself often enough to remind you of this. There's a very key scene late in the film when Nicolas Cage gives an inspiring speech to Nicolas Cage about self-esteem and carpe diem and all that good stuff, and it's actually quite impressive and thought provoking. Adaptation might not change your life, but it has that potential.

All you had to do to get me to say this movie is to tell me that two Nicolas Cages are on-screen at the same time for more than a one-off gimmick. Cage is the kind of person who can pull this off, and seeing him act alongside himself for numerous scenes is worth the price of admission alone, regardless of whether or not you're going to dedicate the brainpower to completely understanding the film as a whole.

There's also an aspect to the film in which it pokes fun at itself, at other screenplays, and at the entire film industry for coming up with generic material. It even inserts a writer who preaches to aspiring writers to turn in the most generic of screenplays, as that's what will get you the money. Using a narrator -- which this film does -- is criticized, and so is the self-indulgent behavior of inserting yourself into the story -- even if you're the main character and you only realize that you're doing this part way into a movie that's starring you. Still following?

Intentionally or not, Adaptation eventually degenerates a little bit, having a minor shootout and chase scene, which wind up being the parts of the film that drag the most. They're the least interesting, for one, and I don't think they're the type of scenes that director Spike Jonze (who collaborated with Kaufman for Being John Malkovich, also an absurd film) does well or enjoys. He likes making your mind work, and those scenes don't accomplish that end.

The other times that it doesn't work is when it tries to be too clever, or too self-aware. Generally, this results in laughter, but it sometimes lingers on a point of this nature, or attempts to think it through too hard, and it begins to draw our attention away from the characters or narrative, making us focus on whatever area of the screenplay was deficient. I don't know. If I see a spelling mistake in this review do I point it out and say "Hey, look at that spelling mistake. Isn't it neat how I left it in there?" No, it gets fixed and I move on, which is what Adaptation doesn't do.

This isn't one of those Nic Cage-led productions in which our star gets to overact and show off. Here, he's restrained and equally effective at playing the neurotic Kaufman as the outgoing one. Meryl Streep is in top form, too, going through the biggest (and most shocking) transformation. Chris Cooper is also fun to watch, playing a hillbilly missing his front teeth, whose passion in life makes him something of an inspiration.

Adaptation is a thought-provoking movie that's either pure genius or a complete mess. Either way you look at it, it's a compelling work that is unlike almost anything out there. It might make complete sense, and it might make no sense. I'm still not sure. It might be both. It gives you something to think about, though, and the narrative rarely comes in front of that. It's funny and touching in its own way, and if Nicolas Cage acting alongside Nicolas Cage can't get you to watch a movie, we can't be friends.
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