Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
ListsAn error has ocurred. Please try again
Breaking Bad: Pilot (2008)
A Great Pilot and a Solid Short Film in Its Own Right
What can you say about Breaking Bad that hasn't been said before? It's one of the greatest television shows of all-time, if not the greatest. It's funny, dark, witty, intelligent, nuanced, unpredictable, complex, and features one of the greatest characters ever created for television in Bryan Cranston as Walter White. However, with all that said, was Breaking Bad always this great of a show? Did it start out as another clichéd "good, law abiding citizen forced to a life of crime through bad circumstances" drama? Let's take a look, shall we?
Breaking Bad tells the story of Walter White, a mild-mannered chemistry teacher struggling to pay his bills and provide for his family at the age of 50. He has a wife named Skyler, a son with cerebral palsy, a second part-time job working at a car wash, and a brother-in-law cop who greatly overshadows him. However, when Walt learns he has lung cancer, he decides to use his knowledge in chemistry to cook crystal meth with former student turned drug dealer Jesse Pinkman.
For first time viewers, the pilot of Breaking Bad can feel a little slow at first. We are shown through the life of Walter White prior to his meth-cooking career for the first half or so and it takes quite some time before anything really exciting happens but yet, the episode is never boring. Because not only does the first half do a good job displaying the unpleasantness in Walter White's life, but also has a good sense of humor about it.
We are shown that he is a tired, worn out man that never gets a break in life through stuff like him working at a job he hates, not getting appreciated for it, being treated like crap by his boss etc. It's all pretty standard stuff, but the scene that cements his place is a scene where Skyler attempts to give Walt a handjob. While at first, it seems like just a scene used for the sake of a raunchy gag, it actually sums up how the character feels better than words ever could. It shows that Walt isn't feeling like a man, how he feels inadequate about himself and how he isn't behaving like how a man should. On top of that, it's a genuinely funny scene and there's a very amusing payoff to it.
Once he decides to start cooking meth, the episode takes on a much faster pace with action, thrills, and suspense. This part is genuinely exciting because the pilot was a little slow at first which makes this incredibly satisfying to watch. During his first adventure in the meth underworld, he gets his identity mistaken for a cop, is forced to teach his successful formula to others, and ultimately embarks on a supposed chase through the desert with two supposed bodies in a RV.
The story is so well paced and structured to the point where it could easily be a short film on its own. We see a character go through an arc in a 60 min runtime with a beginning and an end. He starts out as a weak, inadequate individual but finds himself again at the end of the episode at the expense of his morality. Even if there was no continuation for this episode, it's still a solid short film in its own right.
Vince Gilligan is the main reason this episode(and the rest of the show, for that matter) works. His directing here is excellent. Not only pacing his story well and delivering a satisfying conclusion, but also using appropriate and clever stylistic flourishes. For example, during when Walt discovers he has cancer, Gilligan doesn't use any melodramatic music to punctuate it. Instead, he uses an ambient sound effect that drowns out the dialogue and shifts the camera from a close-up of the doctor's mouth to a mustard stain on his jacket. It sounds odd but it's a really effective way of showing Walt simply not giving a sh!t to hear this news since he didn't feel he was alive anyways. The cinematography and music choices were also excellent.
I haven't talked about the acting yet and while all these actors would go on to prove themselves as excellent dramatic actors later down the line, the two standout performances in this episode are Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. Cranston perfectly portrays a man stuck in a life he despises and feels inadequate of perfectly but also can portray the character's excitement and joy when he breaks bad. Aaron Paul doesn't do that much in this episode but he's instantly funny and likable as the weak and scrawny drug dealer Jesse Pinkman. Even though he's only in the last 30 or so minutes, he and Cranston have an instant chemistry on screen. It's also nice to see Gilligan cast someone who wasn't overly attractive as Skyler White with Anna Gunn(though, she really isn't ugly like some would say).
Overall, this pilot is a great start for a great series and works well on its own as a short film. 10/10
Just a Dumb Gimmick with Even Dumber Social Commentary
Unfriended is the type of movie that represents everything wrong with horror films today. Gimmicky, not scary, trying too hard to be contemporary, lacking in memorable scares or imagery, relying too much on jump scares etc etc etc. It's the exact same bullshit you get from the Paranormal Activity films, but while those movies get thrashed by the critics, this somehow got a halfway decent response. The most common praises I hear from it are stuff like "Unfriended is refreshing and subversive." - Mark Moron, The New York Times or "Unfriended explores relevant, important issues under the guise of a found-footage film. " - Stephanie Stupid, Variety. Yet, I found the film to be exactly the opposite of what it's been praised for. Let's take a look at it, shall we?
The plot of Unfriended tells the story of Laura Barns, a teenage girl having committed suicide out of sheer bullying and harassment she received due to an embarrassing video of her being posted online. After her suicide, a group of teenagers begin receiving messages from a mysterious Skype user known as billie227 during one of the online chats. At first, they try to simply hang up and ignore the user, only then to realize any and all attempts to cut contact is ineffective. Billie227 then begins to interrogate the group over their involvement with Laura's suicide and killing them off one after another as they slowly reveal each other's sins and crimes.
In terms of providing scares, Unfriended simply doesn't work. The film is presented completely in the POV of one of the character's monitor screens and while it's an interesting idea at first, it ultimately just doesn't work and cuts off any potential suspense the story could've had. The fact is, while experiencing something like this would be pretty terrifying in real-life, it just really isn't all that scary in a movie. Having a killer threatening and interrogating these kids through online messaging just doesn't have the same effect of having an actual actor performing dialogue in front of a camera as we have no sense of the character's appearance or personality which makes him or her just a blank slate in the end and not really one that will resonate with you. An audience needs something visual for something to stick with them, and there's nothing more dull than watching text on screen for half the movie. Just imagine if instead of Anthony Hopkins delivering the memorable dialogue in Silence of the Lambs, we just got a guy messaging someone those lines the whole movie. Kinda ruins the effect, doesn't it?
Like a lot of recent horror films, the majority of scares in this are simply jump scares. I will give the movie this, though, at least it had the guts to have an R-rating but other than that, yeah, it's just another film that tries to scare you with loud noises. What happens every thirty minutes is that one of the characters will be killed off in some over-the-top, gory manner accompanied by a loud noise. The kills themselves are just rather silly(I cracked up at the guy putting his hand into a blender) and feel out of place in an otherwise serious movie.
The gimmick of having the whole movie taking place on a monitor screen is just distracting on many occasions. Often, there's simply too much on screen for the viewer to focus on at once and because we need music on occasion to adjust atmosphere, billie227 often makes the computer play music for no apparent reason other than to add some irony to the scene. That was just fwcking stupid and I won't even bother with how logic is thrown out the window just so we can have the whole movie be set in the computer as that would take up the whole review.
But Unfriended isn't just trying to be a horror movie, it's also trying to tackle the modern issue of teenage cyberbullying and while it's a relevant topic to discuss, the film does so in the most dumbed down, simplistic way possible. One of the biggest problems is that the movie completely misrepresents bullying. Not that I'm an expert in teenage psychology, but as a young man myself, I think it's safe for me to say that the film gets the issue of bullying completely wrong. It's revealed in the film that the video leaked online was one of Laura passing out after getting wasted and then pooping herself and while it's certainly embarrassing, the kids in the film literally say "Kill yourself." over it! I know teenagers can be pretty big a$$holes but don't they typically make snarky remarks over it rather than simply telling someone to go kill themselves over something like that? Also, while we don't see much of Laura herself, the little snippet we saw, already made her seem just as unlikable and bitchy as the rest of the characters in the film, making even her unsympathetic.
The rest of the characters are equally unlikable, which wouldn't be a bad thing if they weren't so stereotyped. There's the bitchy blonde girl, the funny fat guy, the somewhat more responsible girl etc etc. They are also dumb to the point where it's hilarious. These characters are all just ridiculous and it makes the movie hard to take seriously on any level. On a side note, the girl who plays Blaire is absolutely terrible(there were actual people laughing at my screening, no joke).
In the end, Unfriended is terrible. It doesn't work as a horror movie and it doesn't tackle a serious subject matter effectively. Other than the occasional effective jump scare, and the fact that one of the actresses showed a little bit of cleavage at the beginning, there is nothing worth watching here. 2/10
Headey's Performance and a Few Interesting Episodes Can't Save Poor Writing and Uneven Acting
When it comes to entertainment, I'm usually someone who blends into the crowd in terms of what movies and shows I like. There are some exceptions, of course but generally, when everybody likes something, I like it too. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is one of the very few instances where I say to myself "How can people like this?" While the show has its fans, I found it boring, uninspired, poorly plotted, unevenly acted, and just poorly written and here's why.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles takes place five years after the events of Terminator 2 and ignores Terminator 3 out of its continuity with John and Sarah now living a seemingly normal lifestyle. However, Sarah and John are still on the run for blowing up Cyberdyne in T2 so they leave Sarah's fiancée, Charlie and move to New Mexico. As John tries to move in to a new school, this random hot babe called Cameron keeps making moves on him for no apparent reason until the next day, where one of his teachers is revealed to be a Terminator sent from the future to assassinate him and Cameron is revealed to be another cyborg protector from the future. Together, Sarah, John, and Cameron travel forwards to 2009 to stop Skynet once and for all.
Before I rip into this show, let's talk about the good things in it. Lena Headey makes an excellent Sarah Connor. While she doesn't have the intensity of Linda Hamilton, she plays the part of a mom having the burden of saving the world and raising mankind's destined savior believably. Her character also feels naturally developed from the first two films. She's not the paranoid wreck of T2, as she did learn that there is hope to be found in the future of mankind, but she still remains the strong, determined warrior of that film, just with a sense of optimism. I actually wouldn't mind seeing Lena reprise her role in Terminator: Genisys.
The show also has the occasional interesting episode. While I can't say I'm a big fan of the way Cameron's written or the actress playing her, Summer Glau, the episodes revolving around her are generally the most interesting and compelling. I'll also admit that the show gradually got better. Season 1 pretty much sucked but Season 2 did get better, the stakes got higher, the characters had more interesting conflicts to deal with, and the show's mythology did expand in ways never shown in the films. It's just a shame the show never made it to a third season as it did show potential in its second season. The music in the show also has its moments.
But while the show has those things, the bad ultimately outweighs the good. For one thing, John is an a$$hole in this show. He's whiny, never listens to people, condescending when he speaks, and is just a jerk overall. He always complains about how he can't have a normal life, always acts like a condescending prick to people whenever he's in a bad mood, and always breaks down emotionally like a baby whenever something bad happens. It's not that I can't understand his situation, but the guy is so unlikable to the point where I never wanted him to succeed or rise up to the occasion at all. He's a douche.
The plot is just all over the place. There's often way too may plots and sub-plots going on and a lot of them don't even get any good payoffs. One of the best examples is the episode Allison from Palmsdale. In that episode, we learn about Cameron's past and how she was a resistance fighter named Allison who was used as the design for Cameron. I thought that was gonna be a massive thing for the season, something that could make the "love story" of John and Cameron more interesting. But nope, it has no impact on any of the characters, not even Cameron.
The show is also just really boring. A lot of episodes just feel like filler with a lot of meandering about with the plot and little things of consequence happening and the side characters just aren't interesting.
The rest of the characters aren't any better. The character of Cameron is a mess, period. She has no consistency whatsoever in her writing. Sometimes, she seems to be able to fake an emotion to get by a conversation. Other times, she's dumber than a bag of rocks. It's really inconsistent and it's not helped by Glau's even more inconsistent performance. There are times where she nails playing the dichotomy of Cameron and Allison and she's particularly good in her crying scenes, but other times, she just looks like a depressed teenage girl. She always keeps her mouth open and makes this derpy look on her face that REALLY takes you out of her performance. She's just not very convincing as a Terminator. Her physical performance is also quite poor at times.
Derek is just bland. The guy has no personality and is basically a blank slate. Even when he finds out his resistance girlfriend lied and manipulated him, he still has nothing going on in his face. Brian Austin Green might as well have been drugged while acting.
The Terminators just suck here. Garret Dillahunt nails playing the A.I. John Henry, but as the Terminator, Chromartie, he's so mediocre. Shirley Manson is just a terrible actress. She does get the emotionless part of a robot down, but she's boring as hell! Just 'cause you're playing a robot, doesn't justify wooden acting. The guest star Terminators are just generic, cardboard cut-out villains. The dialogue is also incredibly heavy-handed and forced at times.
In short, while Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles has some redeeming qualities, the show ultimately just doesn't work. 5/10
Carlito's Way (1993)
A Bit Familiar, but Still Entertaining
Carlito's Way is basically the thematic and stylistic sequel to Scarface. Not only does the film have a very similar aesthetic look to Scarface, the film basically tells the inverse story of that film, what if he tried to change? Scarface was about a man who thought he had it all and overestimated his own intelligence and luck which ultimately led to his downfall whereas Carlito's Way is about a man KNOWING that he can't survive in the violent world of crime and trying to escape it.
Al Pacino plays a Puerto Rican ex-con named Carlito Brigade who gets out of prison after serving five years of a thirty-year sentence due to technicalities with the help of his lawyer, David Kleinfeld(played by Sean Penn) in 1975 New York Spanish Harlem. Carlito tries his best to stay away from his past life of dealing drugs so he works at a nightclub to make enough money to retire in the Caribbean. But sooner or later, Carlito is dragged back into a life of crime, murder, and betrayal.
Carlito's Way is certainly not a bad film. It has some good performances, the direction is great, the cinematography is often beautiful to look at, and the film is entertaining from start to finish. But what makes the film good but not great is its familiarity. Not only does the film feel exactly like Scarface, the story just feels very familiar. It's the classic story of a criminal trying to redeem himself but the film never puts any interesting spins on the concept. It basically just boils down to him not wanting to be part of crime anymore, then he's forced to do a job for someone, then he's forced to use violence and break the law again. The film's story is never as engrossing as I wished it to be, because it just feels so familiar.
But even though the story is a bit familiar, this is an undeniably well- made movie. For one thing, the direction is highly energetic. As usual, De Palma directs the film with a stylized feel that makes the film have a very larger-than-life, cinematic feel. It's as if De Palma KNOWS that it's just a movie and doesn't really care about realism and while a lot of people like to complain things that are "unrealistic" these days, I think De Palma's direction actually works in the film's favor. The emotions of every scene are always brought to the forefront with a somewhat melodramatic score by Patrick Doyle and some showy camera-work. Some may say this makes the film lack subtlety, but I think it makes the film much more entertaining than had if he went for a "realistic" approach.
De Palma's direction really shines during the final chase sequence. The camera-work is incredibly fluid with an excellent use of long takes following Carlito around as he's being chased in the train station and the whole scene is flawlessly edited and incredibly suspenseful. Doyle's score adds to the tension as well. This scene alone, makes the whole film worth seeing at the cinemas.
The cinematography by Stephen H. Burum does an excellent job conveying both the gritty, crime-ridden environment of Spanish Harlem and the high-end style nightclub where Carlito works. The scenes at the night look JUST like Scarface, with a disco, neon, purplish look to the whole thing.
While this isn't a particularly challenging role for Pacino, he once again, does a good job and is a complete bada$$ the whole film. Penelope Ann Miller is OKAY in the role of Gail, Carlito's love interest, but I feel this role could've been given to a bajillion other actresses at the time. But for me, the biggest scene stealer is Sean Penn as David Kleinfeld. Penn is just great to watch as this coked-up, sleazy lawyer. He easily has the most energy out of everyone in the cast and is the most interesting character of the film. John Leguizamo is fun as a young, up-and-coming gangster not unlike Carlito in his early years.
If there's any gripes I have with the film, outside of the fact that it feels too familiar, it'd be Carlito's downfall. While it's well-written for the most part, I feel his first act of violence in the film where he shoots up some drug dealers in a set-up deal his cousin brought him to, comes too soon in the film. Carlito just shoots them off and there's that, no repercussions whatsoever. Now there is something I like to this, which is how quick the violence escalates in the film. It keeps the pacing nice and brisk but at the same time, I feel his downfall would've had more impact if it was a straight-forward downward spiral. Instead of starting out peaceful, then violent for a bit, then back to peaceful a bit, and then back to violence.
Overall, while Carlito's Way's story may feel a bit familiar, De Palma's direction, the performances, the cinematography, and the overall entertainment value still make for a decent film. As long as you don't expect the brilliance of Scarface, you'll enjoy it. 7/10
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
A Gripping, Powerful Film With an Amazing Lead Performance from McConaughey
Dallas Buyers Club is one of those movies that could've easily turned into a schmaltz-fest had it fallen into the hands of a lesser director but thanks to a restrained, low-key style of direction from Jean-Marc Vallee, we get a powerful, gripping drama about the redemption of a man with AIDS. But why does it work? Let's find out!
Dallas Buyers Club tells the true story of Ron Woodwoof, an electrician and rodeo cowboy living a wild, crazy life in 1980's Dallas loaded with drugs, sex, gambling, and rodeo riding. Woodroof is a true Southern man, he is racist and homophobic and is not afraid to show it. It all changes one day, when he is diagnosed HIV+ and has only 30 days left to live. At first, he is in denial about it, but after doing a little research, he starts to believe that he really does have AIDS and tries to seek help at the hospital, only to have Dr. Eve tell him that there's no FDA approved drugs for HIV at the moment. So he bribes a hospital nurse for a drug called AZT to treat his condition but the drug ends up deteriorating his health instead. So he goes to a Mexican hospital where he is treated with two non-approved drugs, ddC and protein peptide T and they actually end up working for him. So he imports these drugs into the U.S. to sell them for other HIV patients.
Even though this has been stated a thousand other times in other reviews, I feel like I still have to say it, Matthew McConaughey is amazing in this film. His arc in the film going from a xenophobic, carefree rodeo cowboy to a caring, compassionate man who wants to help people of all races and sexuality is both touching and believable. He starts out actually quite unlikable in the film with his coke snorting, prostitute banging, money gambling lifestyle where he doesn't seem to give a sh!t about anything in life and has this bigoted worldview around him but throughout the film, we see him slowly change into a different person in a believable way. He develops a friendship with a transsexual named Rayon, he starts giving his drugs out for free(taking in membership fees instead), and starts doing it with CARE for people rather than just out of money. His standout scene is when he breaks down in his car, contemplating killing himself, it's a really powerful scene and towards the end of the film, you really do become attached to this character because of McConaughey's amazing performance.
But McConaughey's performance isn't the ONLY thing that's driving the film, it also has a lot to do with the direction. As stated before, this film easily could've been a schmaltz-fest, but Vallee goes for a very low-key, realistic style of direction that makes the drama have more impact than had if he gone all out with schmaltz. Vallee's direction is very minimalistic, he doesn't tell you how to feel for each scene, he just lets you experience it. There's no sappy score playing in the background, no super dramatic character moments, no emotional speeches, and no scenes that really try to tug at your heartstrings, the emotions in the film are very restrained. When a certain character dies in the film, he just dies. We never see him make any final words to Woodroof or have any character cry dramatically over his body. We DO see how people are affected by this but it's done in a realistic fashion where the tears are rough and angry. This may make the film sound COLD, but it actually makes the film ultimately more touching because it makes you feel like you're really taking a peak into someone's life and not watching a fabricated movie version of it, even though the film is highly fictionalized.
Another strength of the film is the script. A lot of movies featuring characters fighting against a system often portray the authority as very one-dimensional and cartoonishly rotten. Here, the writers were smart enough to treat the story with respect by portraying the authority realistically. They're not mustache-twirling villains, they're simply people who disagree with Woodroof's way of thinking and thinks that only drugs approved by the FDA should be allowed for public use. While we tend to side with Woodroof, the FDA never does anything that makes them really evil and make you hate them. I'm glad the writers didn't divulge into cliché Hollywood stereotypes of authority.
I've already praised McConaughey's performance but the rest of the cast is equally excellent. Jared Leto completely loses himself in the role of Rayon, leaving no trace of the actor behind. Not only does the makeup look convincing on him, he also walks, talks, and ACTS like a real transgender! If someone just came across a sneak peek of this film on their TV, they'd probably think Jared Leto really was a transgender in this film. I've heard a few people complain about Jennifer Garner's performance in this and while I'm generally not a fan of her, she actually does a good job in the film as Dr. Eve. Her conflicts with the system is actually believable and her romance with Woodroof is surprisingly effective. They have good chemistry on screen and their relationship together doesn't deride on silly Hollywood romance clichés.
Overall, Dallas Buyers Club is a gripping, powerful film with an incredible lead performance, restrained yet effective direction, a smart script, and a great supporting cast. 8/10
Weak Script But Fun Action
The Lost World: Jurassic Park is another unnecessary, cash-grab sequel to a highly successful film. Even though many of the cast and crew return, such as Spielberg, screenwriter David Koepp, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, John Williams, and editor Michael Kahn, it really is an inferior film. I think Spielberg and Koepp came into it with the right intentions but somehow, nothing just seems as magical as it was the first time. But does that make The Lost World bad? Let's find out!
The film follows Dr. Ian Malcolm after the events of the first film where he has now publicized the incident at Jurassic Park with a strong lack of belief from the public. John Hammond then contacts Ian to travel to Jurassic Park site B, Isla Sorna, where the dinosaurs were first engineered but have now run amok due to a hurricane destroying the containment facilities, to document the dinosaurs with a team in their natural habitat to get public support against the site from being exploited by InGen. Ian initially refuses, but decides to go after hearing his wife, Sarah, is already there. Meanwhile, they come across InGen mercenaries capturing dinosaurs there for another park being built in San Diego.
The most noticeable problems with The Lost World are the characterizations and the "been there, done that" feel. The film's characters, are either blandly uninteresting, or annoying and stupid. While the first film didn't have exceptionally well-written characters, they were all well-defined and likable. Here, the characters are all just so weak and forgettable. While Goldblum is generally likable in the film, whenever he has a dramatic moment, he seems tired and uninterested. Julianne Moore is OKAY as Sarah, but she doesn't make much of an impression and her character is pretty fwcking stupid in places when she fearlessly gets up close to the dinosaurs to observe them and hangs blood stained shirts in a tent that end up attracting the dinosaurs. Vanessa Lee Chester is simply awful as Kelly, Ian's daughter. She embodies the annoying, irritating kid character everybody hates such as Jake Lloyd's Anakin Skywalker and the way she's written isn't much better. They have this little sub-plot about her and Ian not spending enough time and how he's never much of a dad to her and Ian goes through an arc in the film learning to be a better father. I really don't like this sub-plot because it's so cliché and overdone these days and it feels like such artificial drama. It really comes across as a cheap way to add an emotional core to the film. I cringed every time she's on screen. The rest of the actors, such as Vince Vaughn, Peter Postlewaite, Richard Schiff, and Arliss Howard are OKAY in their roles, but again, don't make any sort of impression whatsoever. The only real character I liked, was John Hammond once again played by Richard Attenborough. Even though it's only a bit part, Attenborough is extremely compelling to watch and is easily the best actor out of the whole film.
The film also doesn't feel fresh. While the plot isn't an exact copy of the first film, a lot of the scenes come off as a lame attempt to give you that "wow" factor from watching the original but since we've already seen this before, it just doesn't have the same impact. For example, remember the iconic "Welcome to Jurassic Park scene." from the first film? Well, here, they try to do a similar thing with Ian and Sarah looking in awe of these Stegosaurus's but it just doesn't wow like it did the first time. Especially since the Stegosaurus's are some of the weaker effects in the film. They also do a similar scene where a T-Rex puts his head through a tent with the people inside it trying not to make a sound to avoid his awareness JUST like the scene with the kids in the car with the T-Rex outside from the original. These scenes just feel like lame attempts to emulate the first film and lacks impact as result.
But if I were to say I didn't enjoy this film, I'd be lying. While it's certainly not a great film in terms of characterization and a lot of the scenes DO feel like cheap knock-offs of the original, this is an undeniably entertaining movie. The dinosaurs are just as cool as they were in the first film with slightly improved special effects. The action scenes, while a little implausible in places, are nonetheless, very well staged and often have good suspense to them. My favorite scene's probably the T-Rex's rampage through San Diego, that was awesome.
Overall, if you can get past the weak characterizations and the "been there, done that" feeling, you'll enjoy this film for its outstanding action sequences. 6/10
A True Horror Classic
Alien is a film that survives on the strength of its atmosphere, chills, and unpredictability. Without those things, the film might not be remembered for anything other than for being the starting ground for Sigourney Weaver. But since we have a haunting atmosphere, effective scares, and an unpredictable screenplay, we get one of the most iconic horror films ever made. But what makes these things in Alien work? Let's find out!
The plot of Alien follows a commercial towing spaceship by the name of Nostromo being sent to investigate a shipwreck on a mysterious, foreign planet where they encounter a strange alien being that attaches itself to one of the crew members faces with no way to get rid of it. It eventually detaches itself from his face, only then to have a creature violently burst out of his chest, killing him in the process. It then grows into a bigger alien who silently picks off the crew members one by one.
The main strengths of Alien are the atmosphere, chills, and unpredictability. This film features an incredibly haunting, eerie atmosphere that just intrigues you from beginning to end. The visuals hook you in from the moment the movie starts with these slow pans of different areas of the ship and the slow reveal of the movie's title. With the complete lack of sound and slow cuts, it gives you a sense of isolation and dread right away. Then, they approach the mysterious planet and we get some truly unique-looking visuals that look just as strange and alien to us as it does for the main characters. The camera-work is very creepy with the way it lingers on certain things without any reasoning in the film to do so, leaving us very lost just like the crew members themselves. The film DOES simmer down the eerieness a bit when they go back to the ship but once the alien pops out of Kane's chest, it goes back to being unsettling again knowing that it could pop out anywhere in this dark, claustrophobic environment. I could go on and on about how effective the atmosphere in the film is but to sum it up, it's one of the key factors to the film's success.
This is also a pretty terrifying film. While it takes its time to build up its scares, when it strikes, it always works. They build those moments up for SO long, when it happens, you often don't expect it so it scares the sh!t out of you. The alien itself is terrifying in its design and conception. It has a very black, gooey look in close-ups with an extra set of teeth inside its mouth which is pretty freaky, but in long shots, it has an oddly phallic, almost fetishistic look to it. In fact, the way the alien is written has a kinda rapish feel to it the entire time. Think about it, he grabs you when you least expect it, causes you to pass out, and then impregnates you while you're unconscious. I know this sounds really strange and some of you are probably gonna call me a sick pervert for thinking something like this but I think this was the filmmaker's intention, because it adds a disturbing edge on a psychological level and it makes the film scarier than had it just relied on loud noises to scare you like a lot of horror films today.
But my favorite thing about the film has to be its unpredictability. Even though this is pretty straight-forward plot, the way it develops is very unpredictable and intriguing. For example, when the alien first bursts out and grabs onto Kane's face, it feels so unexpected because has been very quiet and slow up to this point, so it completely surprises you and makes you interested to see the rest of the film. When Kane's taken back to the ship, everything the alien does is surprising. When one of them tries to use a saw to cut it off his face, it bleeds acid. Just when it gets off Kane's face and he seems just fine, all of a sudden, an alien POPS right out of his chest! And if that's not enough, there's a plot twist that the ship's science officer, Ash, is an android! It turns out that he's been sent to bring the alien back to the crew's employers to use as a weapon. That itself is fascinating and it makes the film's universe feel a whole lot bigger. It's these things that keep the film consistently interesting.
Lastly, I want to point out the film's performances, effects, sound design. While the characters in the film have been criticized by some critics for not having much personality, I thought they were all well- defined and they all felt like real people to me. They're not technobabble-speaking geniuses from Star Trek, they're just like normal folks delivering a package by boat. The standout performance is Sigourney Weaver as Ripley. While she doesn't develop into an action hero yet(that happens in the sequel), Weaver has a believable authoritative presence on screen. When she's taking charge of what to do about the alien, you buy it. But she can also sell being scared and paranoid in a claustrophobic environment with a deadly alien around convincingly. It's a very tough balance to strike but Weaver pulls it off well. The film also won an Oscar for special effects and it definitely deserves it. The miniature and model work for the Nostromo looks incredibly convincing and all the alien effects have an organic look that can't be replicated in CGI. The sound design is very eerie with a discomforting silence for the majority of the film but also some really strange, unusual sounds for the alien that sound incredibly disturbing.
Overall, Alien is a classic with a haunting atmosphere, effective scares, an unpredictable screenplay, a strong lead performance, and some excellent technicals. 9/10
Sien lui yau wan (1987)
A Chinese Ghost Story is the first of a trend of supernatural horror/thriller/romance/martial arts/comedy films made in Hong Kong. It was incredibly successful in Asia and is one of the most iconic Hong Kong films ever made, easily up there with films such as A Better Tomorrow and Infernal Affairs. It's hard to review a film that's already received so much praise and accolades and not let that cloud your judgment but with that said, this is a really fun movie!
The plot follows a timid debt collector by the name of Ning Choi-San, whose job requires him to travel to rural areas around ancient China. He arrives at a town but fails to find a place to stay so resorts to staying in a deserted temple, where he finds the beautiful, seductive ghost named Nip Siu-Sin, who he eventually falls in love with.
What works about A Chinese Ghost Story is its blend of horror, romance, action, and comedy. Hong Kong films are notorious for being uneven in tone, they often blend a bunch of different tones in one movie. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't but here, it completely works. We have the over-the-top horror, the extremely sappy romance, stylized action, and tongue-in-cheek humor and they all compliment each other extremely well. The reason it works is because everything feels consistently exaggerated and blown out of proportion. If we went from realistic, human drama to over-the-top horror, the change in tone would feel very abrupt but since everything feels very over-the-top and unrealistic, it feels like you're just being immersed into the film's world.
The film's romance is extremely sappy and melodramatic but it works because the story IS a melodrama. The concept itself is very melodramatic in the first place so the filmmakers just went with it and made it as sincere as possible. The actors do it with the utmost passion that you can't you help but appreciate them for it. The romantic moments in the film are often very funny and affectionate and even touching on a few occasions. You can get away with a lot of silly stuff in your movies if you do it with sincerity and this film is a perfect example of that. The action is very creative and fun to watch throughout and the horror, while not exactly scary, makes you feel like a kid again while watching it with the goofy-looking creatures, foggy scenery, and overall spooky atmosphere, it's all good fun. The comedy is probably gonna be the most divisive thing for Western audiences. Hong Kong Cinema has a very BROAD sense of humor that won't necessarily appeal to everyone but I myself, found it amusing throughout and it never goes overboard, it always comes organically into the script and it never feels disruptive of the overall flow of the film.
The cast is surprisingly effective in this zany, over-the-top world created by Ching Siu-Tung and Tsui Hark. Leslie Cheung plays Ning Choi- San as a bumbling bafoon who makes a complete fool out of himself in every scene and we love him for it. Cheung is very funny throughout but he also handles himself well in the dramatic elements, his love for Nip Siu-Sin is incredibly genuine and heartfelt. Joey Wang is incredibly sexy as Nip Siu-Sin but also a believable sympathetic side as well. But for me, the biggest scene stealer is Wu Ma as swordsman Yip Chik-Ha. His character is fascinating throughout as his motives are very opaque and confusing throughout and we don't really know how to feel about him. But he's also shown to be a bada$$ swordsman and a sympathetic character as he's a loner who doesn't belong in neither the world of the living or the dead. The rest of the cast is good too, although Lau Siu-Ming does look a little goofy as the tree demon but that's about it as far as complaints go in the acting department.
Lastly, this is a pretty well-made film for an 80's Hong Kong production. The cinematography has a great, spooky look to it with a lot of blue backlighting for the night-time scenes and the camera-work is very inventine and dynamic with a lot of effective POV's for the tree demon. The special effects, while a bit cheesy and fake today, are nonetheless, really cool to look at and fun to watch.
Overall, A Chinese Ghost Story is a over-the-top fun with a sappy yet sincere romance, fun action, spooky horror, amusing comedy, an effective cast, and solid production values. 8/10
Rodriguez at his Best
Robert Rodriguez, what happened to you? You're clearly talented. You have more imagination and creativity than the majority of filmmakers working in Hollywood today. You're not afraid to go ALL OUT with your style to make the movies you want to make without worrying about what the critics would think. And you know how to do a lot of cool stuff with limited budgets. So why do you subject yourself to making garbage kids'movies like Spy Kids and poor imitations of exploitation films like Machete? However, when Rodriguez was good, he WAS good, and Desperado is probably him at his best.
The plot of Desperado follows the character of El Mariachi after the events of the first film where he is now going after Bucho, the mob boss of Moco, the mobster who killed the woman he loved, Domino in the first film. Along the way, he comes across a woman named Carolina, a kid playing guitar, an assassin named Navajas, and many more on his quest to end Bucho.
From a pure storytelling and scripting point of view, Desperado probably isn't a very good movie. Rodriguez, even in his heyday, has never been a particularly strong writer. He's always been a style over substance guy and this film's script clearly shows. Now I'm not saying the script sucked because the characters lacked depth or there isn't enough meaning and subtext because not every film needs to have those things, but as in it's a little lazy in its construction.
For one thing, the character motivation of El Mariachi is really kinda vague and confusing. He wants revenge on the man who was the boss of the guy who killed his love, whom, really can't be held accountable for what happened and probably doesn't even know why someone would go on a vendetta against him like this in the first place. The film also doesn't really make this clear to the audience until the very end so a lot of the time, you'll just be confused as to why he's after him in the first place. It's even one of the FAQ's on this site. So in terms of character motivation, this film is a little weak.
There's also some things in the film that just come out of nowhere, with no decent buildup or explanation. Midway through the film, El needs help to fight off Bucho's men so he calls up two friends who both have their own guitar-based weapon which is a really cool scene, but those guys are just randomly introduced into the film with no buildup whatsoever. They were never mentioned beforehand so it just comes across as a bit of a deus ex machina.
There's also an incredibly stupid twist at the end of the film where it's revealed that Bucho is actually the Mariachi's brother. Outside of the fact that it's incredibly cliché to have the villain be somehow related to the hero in an action movie, there's also no real purpose to this. It's just a cheap excuse for the Mariachi not to kill Bucho at one point in the film when he has the perfect chance to. It doesn't even add much internal conflict for the characters as he just shoots him at the end anyways without any regret or guilt over doing so. So yeah, it's a pretty dumb twist.
But while the film has those flaws, this is an undeniably entertaining movie. Robert Rodriguez may not be a great storyteller, but in terms of action, he's off-the-chart. This film has some really creatively staged, memorable shootouts that are clearly influenced by the works of John Woo, but have a certain exaggerated, almost comic-book-like quality to them and a sense of humor that make them incredibly fun to watch. Nobody in this film just falls down when they get shot, they either get riddled with bullets or they fly across the room while getting shot. There's also a lot of grace and choreography going on here, with Antonio Banderas jumping all-around and shooting people in all sorts of creative ways such as hitting a fan on the ceiling for it to drop on someone or kicking a guy across the room and then UNLOADING his pistols on him. The only thing that disappointed me, was the final confrontation, which was JUST the Mariachi shooting Bucho and then... the end. But overall, the action was pretty sweet.
While Rodriguez isn't exactly Shakespeare, he DID manage to write some memorable scenes here. The opening scene has this great, spaghetti western feel to it with Steve Buscemi telling the story of how he came across the Mariachi in a bar in this exaggerated, stylized way with a lot of slow-mo and stylized lighting used for the Mariachi's entrance, it's a really fun way to open the movie. The camera movement is very dynamic throughout, and the action is FLAWLESSLY edited. He even squeezed in some memorable dialogue here and there with Tarantino telling an elaborate pee joke in a cameo midway through the film.
The performances are a little uneven here, but Antonio Banderas STEALS the show here as El Mariachi. While Carlos Gallardos did a good job playing an innocent man on the run in the first film, Antonio is easily the more charismatic lead. He's more bada$$, he's funny, he's witty, and he's surprisingly believable in the action scenes. But Selma Hayek is a little bland as Carolina, the love interest for El. She looks nice but she doesn't have much personality beyond that. Joaquim de Almeida is a really generic, 80's/90's action movie villain and that's all there is to him. He's efficient, but not particularly memorable. Steve Buscemi does a good job as El's accomplice and I wish we could've seen more of him.
Overall, while Desperado isn't a particularly well-written film, the film makes up for it with an incredible entertainment factor. 7/10
Les Misérables (2012)
Spectacular Performances Overcome Too Much Singing, Too Much Plot, and Some Flawed Technicals
Am I the only guy who's willing to admit that I like musicals? Granted, I'm not a HUGE fan of musicals, but whenever I see a good one, I appreciate it. For me, a good musical shouldn't use a story as the backbone for the songs, but instead, use the songs to enhance the story it's telling. Sadly, a lot of musicals put too much emphasis on the musical aspect, but not enough on the actual story. Hairspray is a good example of this. It's a fun movie, but the story felt like a preachy anti-racism PSA and it tackled the subject a little too simplistically for my tastes. Does Les Miserables fare any better? Let's find out!
Les Miserables follows convict Jean Valjean in released on parole in 1815 France by prison guard Javert after serving a nineteen- year sentence for stealing a loaf of bread. Because of his status, he fails to find a job anywhere and is driven out of every town he visits. One night, he is offered food and shelter by a bishop only then, to find the authorities catching Valjean stealing his silver in the middle of the night. However, the bishop lies for him and spears him extra time in prison. Touched by his kindness, Valjean breaks parole and starts a new life under a new identity.
Les Miserables is a hard film to critique. It tries its best to stay faithful to the original Broadway musical while adjusting things here and there to make it more cinematic but for the most part, it stays incredibly accurate to the original play. Stage and film are two incredibly different mediums so if I criticize a certain aspect of the film, I'm almost ALWAYS criticizing the original play as well so it's kinda hard to criticize the filmmakers on this film. However, since this is an ADAPTATION, things SHOULD be changed so if there's an aspect in the film that doesn't work, I guess I'll criticize the filmmakers for it since it's THEIR job to change things up to make it work better as a film.
What works about Les Miserables, is the story of the journey and redemption of Jean Valjean. Hugh Jackman in this film, gives the performance of a lifetime in the role. His journey is incredibly moving as Jackman displays a strong variety of emotions here. From the despair of being an unemployed, homeless paroled convict, to the determination of wanting to turn his life around, to the care and affection he feels toward Cosette, to the guilt of being a wanted man who can't see Cosette getting married, it's all done with sincerity and believable emotion.
The rest of the cast is mostly solid. The performance that's been getting the most fuss about, Anne Hathaway as Fantine, is excellent. She really sells the despair and sadness of a woman forced to pleasure men for a living and the makeup artists did an excellent job of making a woman as sexy as Anne Hathaway appear rusty and unappealing. Eddie Redmayne has the right dashing persona and looks as Maurius. Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen offer some nice comic relief as the Thernardiers. And Amanda Seyfried is EFFECTIVE as Cosette, despite my disinterest in her character. The only real flaw in the cast, is Russell Crowe as Javert. While Crowe LOOKS the part, his singing is just incredibly bland throughout and he only seems to have one tone in his voice. But overall, a solid cast.
The sound mixing in the film is also very impressive. A lot of the songs have this big, powerful operatic sound to it and all the different actors'singing voices merge together flawlessly. I highly recommend getting this film on blu-ray if you own a blu-ray player.
However, with all that said and done, what DOESN'T work about this film, is the singing. It's not that the singing ITSELF was bad, it's just that there's too much of it. Nearly every single line of dialogue is sung, which works on stage, but on film, it comes off a little distracting and it makes the emotional moments lose a bit of impact because we've been sitting through singing the entire time so songs like I Dreamed a Dream or Javert's Suicide lose a bit of impact. If I had to rewrite the film, I would've kept the important, emotional ones such as Valjean's Soliloquy or Do You Hear the People Sing? but cut out ones like Fantine's Arrest or Suddenly.
Another problem is the amount of plot going on in this film. While Valjean's quest for redemption is a compelling one, he feels pushed to the side a bit in the second half with a bajillion characters coming in and coming out of the story. Some of the sub-plots were intriguing such as the revolution and Fantine's turn to prostitution but the love story between Marius and Cosette is really kinda shallow and cliché and uninteresting and it's made even worse with the unnecessary third wheel that is Eponine. I wished the film could've had more focus on Valjean and less on the supporting characters in the second act.
There's also some technical flaws with the film. The cinematography is just TERRIBLE in this film. There are FAR too many close-ups and uses of the fisheye lens and the use of shaky-cam is just inappropriate.
The production design also looks a little cheap and phony in places. A lot of times, I felt more like I was at a crappy soundstage than I was in 1800's France. There's also some lousy CGI crane shots on occasion that took out of the film.
But overall, Les Miserable's strong performances overcome those problems for me so I'll give it a 7/10.
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
The Amazingly Soulless Spider-Man
I guess it was inevitable that the Spider-Man franchise would get rebooted. I mean, Spider-Man 3 generated a huge backlash with things like "emo Peter", not much Venom, too many characters etc. Things weren't any better behind-the-scenes as Sam Raimi left due to differences with the studio and thus, causing the cast to leave as well. So as a backup, Sony decided to completely REBOOT the franchise with a new director, new cast, and an all-around new vision to keep the rights to the character. So, is The Amazing Spider-Man really... amazing? Let's find out!
The plot of The Amazing Spider-Man is basically a re-telling of the origin but in this version, Peter Parker is a socially-awkward teenager with a past hidden from him as his parents mysteriously left him one night in the belonging of Uncle Ben and Aunt May with no explanation whatsoever. He goes to Oscorp one day to try to find some stuff regarding his parents after finding a briefcase in his house with info on them leading him there, where he ultimately gets bit by a genetically-enhanced spider that ends up giving him superpowers. At first, he uses it irresponsibly, but after Uncle Ben dies because of Peter letting a thief escape, he decides to use his powers for good and fight crime known as Spider-Man.
While The Amazing Spider-Man isn't a terrible film, it is, however, a soulless film. The movie feels like a business decision on Sony's part and not a story a writer and director wanted to tell. But first, let's get the good stuff out of the way, shall we?
The cast is mostly solid. Garfield is very convincing as the socially-awkward Peter Parker, his constant stuttering and twitching make you believe that a guy like him would get picked on in high-school. But as Spider-Man, he came across as a really obnoxious, unfunny douche. I know this is faithful to how he acts like in the comics but this constant cracking of lame jokes and puns just don't work on FILM. Emma Stone is typically likable here as Gwen Stacy and her chemistry with Garfield is excellent. You really believe these two in a relationship together. Martin Sheen does a great job as Uncle Ben, with a believable concern and care for Peter. But Sally Field just doesn't work as Aunt May, she comes across as an annoying nag rather than a moral guidance for Peter. But everyone else was good in the cast.
The film also LOOKS quite good. Spider-Man looks better than he ever has on film. The way he swings through New York and does all his acrobatic movements are very well-done. The scene that showcased this the best was probably the scene where Spidey swings through multiple cranes set up for him to get to Oscorp, that was a fun scene. While the action doesn't exactly rival The Dark Knight Rises or The Avengers, they WERE good and a lot of it felt like watching a comic-book on screen. Especially the fight with the Lizard in the school hallway.
But while the film has those things, it ultimately feels soulless. What I mean by this, is that, the story just doesn't need to be told again. This film basically follows the same structure and many of the same plot points of the 2002 film and that's NOT the way to do a reboot. The point of a reboot is to tell a story that hasn't been told before under a new timeline. When you just re-hash what was done before except make a few tweaks so it could be labeled a reboot and not a remake, it just comes across as a business decision, and not a story with any flesh and bone. And since we all know this story point by point by now, the impact of seeing things like Spidey swinging on web or using his spider-sense for the first time just doesn't have much of an impact now.
The one element they incorporated from the comics that was absent from the Raimi films, was the whole mystery behind what happened to Peter's parents. While this sounded good on paper, the film never goes anywhere with it after setting it up and now that the sequel has come out and we learn that the whole mystery basically amounts to "Oscorp = bad", it makes this even more disappointing.
While Stone and Garfield really do have good chemistry on screen, the way their romance is written and developed, leaves a little to be desired. For one thing, it's REALLY cliché. The script ticks all the boxes of a generic high-school romance. First, they have an awkward conversation in the school hallway, then they have an awkward date, then they kiss. It's also rushed. They look as though they're ready to have spider-sex right after their first date.
Even WORSE, is the villain. I know this sound really controversial but I thought the Lizard was one of the worst villains in a comic-book movie. Yes, he was that bad. Why? Well, for one thing, he doesn't fit in the film's tone. This film takes a somewhat more SERIOUS approach with the Spider-Man origin and it shows with the color palette(which was unnecessarily dreary) so a villain like this just feels out of place. Another problem is that they try too hard to make him a "complex" and "sympathetic" villain. They try to parallel him missing an arm to Peter missing his parents which doesn't work, because the circumstances are just far too different. And to top it all off, his motivations are really rushed. His switch from noble scientist to savage beast is done in like, a minute. So yeah, he sucks.
Overall, while The Amazing Spider-Man is certainly flawed, it could've been forgiven if the film just wasn't so SOULLESS. And that's really why the film didn't work, it was JUST a business decision. 5/10
Rear Window (1954)
Stylish Direction, Witty Dialogue, Memorable Characters, and a Suspenseful Climax Make For a Hitchcock Classic
When it comes to filmmakers, very few have made as much of an impact as Alfred Hitchcock. He was the Master of Suspense, as he was called. He's influenced filmmakers across the board, from Steven Spielberg, to Christopher Nolan. He's also some of the most famous films ever made and one of them, is Rear Window.
The plot of Rear Window is very simple. Basically, a professional photographer by the name of L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries breaks his leg while getting an action shot at an auto race so he spends all his time observing his neighbors through his rear window and one night, after witnessing some mysterious acts from a man who lives across his apartment, he begins suspecting the man to be a murderer. At first, he tries to warn a detective, but the man doesn't believe him so it's up to Jeff to solve it on his own with his fiancée.
Rear Window is a perfect example of a movie that survives on the strength of the direction. Normally, a film where you watch a guy watching someone through his window would be very boring, but Hitchcock's directing makes for a very witty, entertaining film with a strong intrigue throughout and a very memorable finale.
The first thing that makes Hitch's directing special, is the way he puts us into the perspective of the main character Jeff. The camera in this film rarely ever leaves Jeff's apartment, we see the neighbors just like how the character sees them, through a window. And their dialogue always sounds as though we are REALLY hearing them from such distance by having more echo than the characters'voices in Jeff's apartment. The sound design also makes the neighborhood feel very alive by having numerous sounds in the background at once such as car horns blowing, birds chipping, pianos playing, people singing etc. The sound design also gets SCARY at times when we hear sounds of Thorwald presumably killing his wife. These things are probably not things you'd think about on a first-time viewing, but they help put you into Jeff's perspective perfectly.
But outside of the gimmick of a film being entirely set in one room with a character looking out a window, the film also has a very strong, witty script that keeps the film entertaining from beginning to end. The characters in the film(even the neighbors) all have distinct, memorable personalities that keep the film afloat when it gets talky and the way they bounce off each other is very witty and memorable. The performances, themselves, are excellent. The performance of the actor playing Jeff is very important, because not only is he the audience surrogate, he's also the character whose perspective we see through from beginning to end and yet, Jeff is never BORING. Jeff is always interesting and compelling to watch because James Stewart is just such a likable, charismatic actor. He's funny, he's relatable, you care for him, he's great. Grace Kelly on the other hand, is simply STUNNING as Lisa Freemont, Jeff's fiancée. Her beauty and well, GRACE, perfectly contrasts with Jeff's adventurous attitude. And Thelma Ritter very likable and has excellent chemistry with Jimmy Stewart in the role of Stella, Jeff's nurse.
We also have Judith Evelyn as Miss Torres or, as Jeff likes to call her, Miss Lonelyheart, a sad, lonely woman without a lover. This character doesn't have any lines but Evelyn manages to make her a very sad and sympathetic character without ever saying anything. Lastly, there's the murderer himself, Lars Thorwald, portrayed by Raymond Burr. Thorwald is a villain that really depends on the actor's look. He needs to have an intimidating, scary look to make for a memorable villain. Luckily, Burr pulls off this intimidating look on his face the entire time to make for a scary villain.
The film also has a great, suspenseful climax. It involves Lisa basically sneaking into Thorwald's apartment to find evidence but as she's doing so, Thorwald comes right back to his place. The entire time, you're just BITING your nails in suspense because Jeff is not an action hero. He can't even walk, so we feel just as helpless as he does and we're just hoping that Lisa gets lucky the entire time. Although, there were some silly moments at the end such as Jeff using the flash on his camera to slow down Thorwald from getting to him by temporarily blinding him in the dark each time and the dated fast-forward editing and front projection shot of Jeffrey falling out his window.
But overall, Rear Window is a great film with stylish direction, witty dialogue, memorable characters, and a great, suspenseful climax. 8/10
Dead or Alive, You Shouldn't See This
When I first heard they're remaking RoboCop, I was not pleased. Because there's really no need to remake RoboCop. It was a smart, clever film that had a surprising amount of nuance while having kick-a$$ action. So I didn't care for the idea behind it and after seeing the trailer, nothing changed my mind. But is the remake as bad as I thought it was gonna be? Let's find out!
This RoboCop follows Detriot policeman Alex Murphy who gets critically-injured after a criminal implants a bomb on his car. He survives, but just barely, so a multinational conglomerate named OmniCorp steps in by putting what's left of him in a robot body to continue serving the force as RoboCop. However, Murphy is challenged by the fact that he's still part-man as he still has all the emotions of a normal human being. So OmniCorp resorts to shutting off his emotions to get him to function the way they want.
I am gonna get this right out of the way, I fwcking HATED this movie. This really wasn't good at all. But before I tear it apart, what's good about it? Well, most of the actors outside of Joel Kinnaman as RoboCop, give decent performances. Gary Oldman has empathy and compassion as Dr. Norton, a scientist with a good heart working under a ruthless corporation. Michael Keaton does well as the heartless CEO of OmniCorp, Raymond Sellers. And Jackie Earle Haley offers some nice comic relief in a mostly humorless film as the military trainer, Rick. Not all the characters(such as Murphy's wife, who just cries the whole film or Murphy's partner in the force, Jack Lewis, who barely gets anything to do after the first 10 minutes) were written well, but none of the actors outside of Joel were bad, they all did fine enough jobs.
Some of the designs were good. I liked ED-209's redesign and RoboCop's grey suit, was a nice update. Not a fan of the black suit, though. The CGI was well-done throughout and the fight at the end with RoboCop facing off against the ED-209s was kinda cool. And... that's about it.
What bothered me about this film, was how little credit the script gave to the audience. There is absolutely no subtlety at all to this film. All the themes and messages the filmmakers want you to walk away with after seeing this are constantly shoved to your face and down your throat. For example, the film touches on how using automated military forces to oppress foreign countries is barbaric and uncivilized in a sub-plot, and this wouldn't be necessarily a bad topic to discuss, except for the fact that they LITERALLY spell out the whole message behind this sub-plot towards the end with Sam Jackson saying "Some of you may even think that using these military robots makes us the same, bullying imperialists that our forefathers were trying to escape." And most of the dialogue from the Omnicorp folks is about the moral implications of what they've done to Murphy. It's like the writers thought their script was so deep and nuanced that... they have to outright EXPLAIN it to the audience. Here's an advice for any aspiring filmmaker, don't have all your dialogue be ABOUT the themes and messages you're trying to get across. It doesn't make your writing sophisticated, it just makes you look pretentious and distrusting on your audience's IQ.
The drama was just poorly handled. Murphy's arc is a mess. He goes from being a normal guy with a cyborg body, to an emotionless drone, and then back to human. What's the point of having him change like this? Why not just have him go from robotic to human? Kinda like that OTHER film? And every time there's a dramatic scene, the score goes all sappy and the actors make it feel like a soap opera. I mean, come on, this is RoboCop! I know you need drama in it but did it have to be done like this?
This movie wasn't even entertaining. It takes an HOUR for him to become RoboCop and even when he does, there's barely any action going on and the little we get is so banal and forgettable. In this version, Murphy can actually run and jump which you'd think would make for some cool action scenes, right? Wrong! 90% of the action were just boring shootouts with no tension, no suspense, and no impact because of the lack of violence. I never worried for RoboCop's life because even though that they mentioned he CAN be killed if the enemy has enough heavy firepower, there's never a moment where he SERIOUSLY gets his a$$ kicked to the point where he looks like he could die. Why can't they have him fight the ED-209s a little longer and have them bust him up bad? 'Cause then, I might actually care. And there's no impact to the fights because there's no violence. The reason the original's action was memorable was not because of the masterful staging, but because it was gory and brutal. It made up for his lack of speed and agility perfectly. There's no excuse for the action being so forgettable in this when they have a budget of $100 million and a RoboCop who can run and jump.
Lastly, Joel Kinnaman was just bad in the title role. As Murphy, he was boring and dull and as RoboCop, he's either just as boring, or he's trying too hard to act sad and tortured. He has to shout his balls off every time there's a dramatic scene, leaving no subtlety to his performance. He wasn't even very authoritative. In short, he sucks and comparing him to Peter Weller from the original is like comparing a pistol to a tank. No comparison.
Overall, RoboCop is terrible. The script has no subtlety, character development is poor, the direction's melodramatic, the action was forgettable, and Kinnaman just sucks. 3/10
Stylish and Interesting
When it comes to spy cinema, Americans generally know it through franchises like James Bond, Mission: Impossible, the Bourne series, and... Spy Kids. Those films generally paint two portraits of the spy life. Either glamorous and exotic, or intense and brutal. Nikita is an interesting film in the genre. While it certainly leans more towards the latter, it's one of the very films in the genre that both shows a realistic depiction of spy life but at the same time, stylizes it. But does Nikita work as a film? Let's find out.
The plot follows a teenage junkie by the name of Nikita, who gets arrested one night after partaking in a drug store robbery that goes horribly wrong where she murders a policeman in cold-blood, making her guilty of serving a life sentence. However, the French government fakes a suicide for her to become a spy/assassin.
What's interesting about Nikita is its look into the life of a spy. This isn't James Bond, there's no gadgets, no witty one-liners, and no larger-than-life villains. What we have INSTEAD, is a look into a woman being turned by the French government from a teenage junkie to a dangerous killing machine. Nikita is a woman who starts out with no meaning in life as she hangs around with junkies and is addicted to drugs herself but after she's trained to be a spy, she becomes a lethal killing machine but in the meantime, becomes refined, mentally stable, and even attractive. What's interesting about this is the MORALITY. On one hand, she MURDERED a policeman, so she deserves punishment but at the same time, once she gets out of spy school, she cares and appreciates not just for her life, but also for society and towards the END, she ditches her mission and runs away to leave the life of a spy. The film's message can be pretty much be chalked up to "everybody deserves a second chance" and it's delivered beautifully because it's not RAMMED down your throat with lines like "Maybe Nikita, deserves another chance. Maybe, she never deserved this in the first place." which would have dumbed down the entire movie.
Outside of the morality behind the film, Nikita is also very stylish. Director Luc Besson directs this film with a strange mix of realism and style but somehow, it works! This movie has its fair share of brutal realism with scenes like "the Cleaner" using acid to melt down the bodies of those he killed or Nikita trying to break out by threatening her supervisor, Bob, at gunpoint but there's also scenes of style such as the speech her instructor, Amande tells about femininity and the means of using it or the scenes of Nikita training comically in spy school. The reason this works is because neither styles go too far, so they end up complimenting each other and creating its own style rather than making for something inconsistent and jarring. The cinematography by Thierry Arbogast is also quite good at creating this gritty, stylized look.
But with all that good said, this is not a perfect movie. One of its biggest flaws is the confused timeframe presented in the story. The movie spans over years of Nikita training to become a spy but the way it's edited makes it feel like only a few weeks/months have gone by so when one of the heads of the organization says "Nikita has been training here for six years.", you'll just be left sitting there like "Wait, it's been six years?"
Another problem is the character of Marco. He's just really bland and uninteresting throughout. He's supposed to be the man who wins Nikita's heart and make her appreciate life more but the thing is, while he seems like a really nice guy, his interactions with Nikita aren't very interesting. He questions her here and there about things like why she never has friends or family over at her place or why she spends so much time in the bathroom ignoring him but it never amounts to anything more than that. I would've liked to see him actually get MAD at her at one point and have an argument play out, I think that would've been a little more interesting.
The last of the major problems is the score by Eric Serra. It just sounds incredibly bland and sterile throughout. There's some scenes in the film where I literally felt like ripping my HAIR out because of how mind-inducingly dull it is. Although, I did like the music when "the Cleaner" was taking care of business.
However, those problems aren't NEARLY strong enough to ruin the film because of the excellent cast. Anne Parillaud gives a truly spectacular performance as Nikita. Her change from teenage junkie to refined assassin is very believable and all her conflicting emotions about being a spy feel very real and believable. Tcheky Karyo plays Bob fascinatingly with a polite persona but with an underlying intensity that makes you really think and question his feelings towards Nikita effectively. While I thought his character was a little bland, Jean- Hugues Anglade does the best he can as Marco and remains likable the entire film. Lastly, while "the Cleaner" doesn't get a whole lot of screen time, Reno stands out as a cool and bada$$ character in the film.
Overall, while it has some issues regarding the timeframe, the character of Marco, and the score. Nikita is still an interesting character study with stylish direction and an excellent cast. 8/10
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Disturbing yet Entertaining
When it comes to horror films of the 90's, I can't think of many films as iconic as The Silence of the Lambs. While there were certainly other iconic horror films at the time such as The Sixth Sense and Scream, the one thing The Silence of the Lambs did that those films didn't, was win the Oscar for Best Picture. Not only that, but it also won for Best Actor for Anthony Hopkins, Best Actress for Jodie Foster, Best Adapted Screenplay for Ted Tally, and Best Director for Jonathan Demme. It also became the fourth highest-grossing film of 1991. So with all that, you expect something special, right? Well, is it? Let's take a look, shall we?
The plot follows a young FBI trainee by the name of Clarice Starling who is pulled from her training academy to interview Hannibal Lecter, a former psychiatrist and incarcerated cannibalistic serial killer to find another serial killer by the name of Buffalo Bill under the order of Jack Crawford. After some interrogation and investigation, Bill abducts Catherine Martin, one of the U.S. Senator's daughter. Leaving it up to Starling to find Bill by dealing with the darkest of all minds, Hannibal Lecter.
The appeal of Silence of the Lambs lies in its mix of realistic depictions of police investigation and serial killer antics while retaining a cinematic panache to keep things entertaining. The film depicts its police investigation very realistically with a great attention detail to the dead bodies and the way the main serial killer Buffalo Bill operates is actually pretty realistic. His motives are very opaque, never completely clear to the audience, just like how serial killers are to people in real-life. He's trying to make a dress with a woman's flesh throughout the film because he thinks he's a woman but you never get why he wants to kill people. You have to pay full attention to see what's behind his head. But at the same time, the film doesn't feel TOO realistic to the point where it's boring and dull to sit through, there's still a certain entertainment factor to this film. For one thing, the film is scary. While this isn't exactly the type of horror film you can have a good time with when you call over some friends while having a few beers, it still has plenty of good scares to keep you entertained from beginning to end(especially towards the end).
But I think the main reason why this did so well was because of the characters. While most horror films would feature the serial killer as the most interesting character of the film while the main character is as dull as a rock, this film did something a little different. Clarice Starling in this film is equally interesting as the serial killers themselves because she's not just some girl who just happen to become a target for the killer somehow but instead, she's ASSIGNED to find the serial killer herself and actually has a personality and she actually goes through an arc. She starts out haunted from her childhood memory of seeing lambs being slaughtered so she feels guilty about seeing such a thing happen but not doing anything about it considering her dad was a cop and hears sounds of lambs screaming in her dreams but she overcomes this towards the end when she saves the senator's daughter and kills Buffalo Bill. And thankfully, they got a great actress to play this part, Jodie Foster. Foster has a believable intelligence to her that helps you buy her matching wits with Hannibal Lecter. It's great that the filmmakers chose not to cast the most attractive actress but instead, the one that could act.
The rest of the characters are equally good. While Hannibal Lecter is certainly not a realistic portrait of a serial killer, he works well as this great, unstoppable force of evil that Clarice has to match wits with to find Buffalo Bill. Anthony Hopkins gives the performance of a lifetime here with all his creepy stares, sinister line deliveries, and wicked intelligence. Ted Levine is equally creepy and unsettling as Buffalo Bill, but in different ways. He feels a lot more like a realistic serial killer with his strange sexuality and cross-dressing habits. Scott Glenn is also convincing as the authoritative, determined Jack Crawford. Lastly, I want to mention Brooke Smith as Catherine Martin, the girl kidnapped by Buffalo Bill. I love how she starts out extremely terrified when she's captured just like anybody would but I like how her character actually tries to escape by threatening to kill Bill's dog if he doesn't let her out. Smith's fear and determination is very believable throughout the whole film.
Overall, The Silence of the Lambs is a chilling, disturbing film that also has some excellent performances to spare. Great film. 10/10
Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)
Funny and Witty with the Right Amount of Heart
I'm gonna get this right out of the way, I have never seen a Seth Rogen comedy nor a Kevin Smith film prior to this. Zack and Miri Make a Porno is my big introduction to both Seth Rogen's jerkoff comedy films, and director Kevin Smith's work. Before, I only knew Rogen based on films like The Green Hornet and Kung Fu Panda and I've never seen a Kevin Smith film before. But after checking this out, I'm glad to say that I'm interested in checking out MORE of their work.
The plot of Zack and Miri Make a Porno follows two roommates in Monroeville, Pennsylvania named Zack Brown and Miri Linky. Despite both being employed, they haven't paid their utility bills in months. After going to their high-school reunion, where Zack finds out one of his former classmates is now a porn star, Zack decides to do it as well with Miri and a few friends'help.
The thing that surprised me most about Zack and Miri Make a Porno is how unapologetic it is with its content. At first, I thought this was gonna be, at BEST, a PG-13 film that only makes tame references to sex and not show much but instead, the film goes all-out with excessive profanity, graphic sex depictions, and lots of nudity. There's many scenes in the film where your jaw will just DROP from what you saw on screen and depending on your sense of humor, you will either chuckle your balls off, or you'll just be incredibly offended and grossed-out. It's certainly not a film for everyone. However, since I don't mind dirty humor every once in a while, I actually found the film quite funny.
Even though the language is very profane, there's a wit and charm to the way the characters deliver them. They don't just say "Fwck!" or $hit!" again and again, they get creative with them and make up something witty and clever instead. Some of the funniest moments for me was when they come up with porn parody titles, which include Dawn of the Dick, Star Whores, and Fwckback Mountain. The sex scenes, while graphic, have a lot of good physical comedy to them and there's even one that works as a dramatic, intimate scene that also feels realistic. And while the nudity's not entirely necessary, it makes the porn in the feel all the more authentic.
While Zack and Miri is not a DEEP film, it does have heart and characters you can latch on to. Seth Rogen plays Zack Brown as a bit of a juvenile moron but he clearly has a heart and you can buy his love for Miri at the end. Zack could've been one of those characters who started out funny, but who's schtick just got old midway through and it probably would have if he was the sole protagonist but since has someone to bounce it off with, he becomes lot more likable. Elizabeth Banks portrays Miri as the straight man(or woman in this case) of the duo and she's likable in her own right. Banks feels very normal and genuine on screen here and it makes you buy her being friends with someone like Seth Rogen when she looks like a model. But she also has funny moments of her own such as when she tries to seduce her former classmate Bobby, who turns out to be a gay porn star. The love story between these two work because the way they're written make them don't feel like traditional rom com characters. They actually sound more like bros hanging out instead because of the way they talk to one another and the fact that they actually TALK about whether one of them wants to have sex with the other and having it take place like a normal conversation is actually pretty refreshing. I also love how there's no clichéd "misunderstanding" situation when Zack mistakens her of sleeping with Brandon. Any other movie would have had this as a huge problem in the story but here, it's done and over with very quickly and they play it up more for comedy. They're relationship is what ultimately carries the film and because of the solid performances the actors give and the refreshing writing, it works.
The rest of the cast is pretty good as well. There's not a WHOLE lot to say about them, as they're mostly just there for comedy but Craig Robinson, Jason Mewes, Traci Lords, Katie Morgan, Ricky Mabe, and Justin Long were ALL hilarious, especially Justin Long as gay porn star Brandon. His deep voice with his straight face when reading out porn titles is just comedy gold.
But with that being said, there are some minor problems I have with this film. I thought the ending was a little rushed and I would've actually liked to SEE what the characters did afterwards as opposed to just title cards on screen TELLING us what happened. And I do think Zack and Miri's relationship was more interesting before they started filming porn and getting really awkward over each other. I liked how subversive their relationship was before so it was kind of a disappointment that the film had to go through a lot of the clichés we see in this type of film later on.
But overall, this is a funny, witty film that may not be for everyone, but for Seth Rogen/Kevin Smith fan, it's a must-see. 7/10
One of My Favorite Sports Dramas
Sports dramas, what can you say about them? Well, I'm not the biggest of them. For me, the majority of sports dramas are boring, overly- schmultzy, and extremely cliché. I won't say that sports dramas is a sub-genre that I really DESPISE as there are films that I DO like in there but for me, if Hollywood just unexpectedly stopped producing sports dramas in general, it wouldn't be that big of a loss for me. However, there is ONE film in the genre that I happen to really love, and that's Rocky.
If you are one of the five people who haven't seen this film, here's a basic rundown of the plot. Rocky Balboa is a small-time boxer and part- time collector for a loan shark living in Philadelphia. His friends include Paulie, a meat-packing plant worker with alcohol problems and violent mood swings, and Adrian, a shy pet shop clerk who's also Paulie's sister. Rocky seems to be going nowhere in life as he's constantly in need for money, winning fights by the skin of his teeth, and nobody seems to see him as anything but a bum. But when World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed's opponent Mac Lee Green drops out due to an injured hand, Creed decides to pick an unknown local as his opponent and he chooses Rocky because of his nickname, the Itallion Stallion. Will Rocky go the distance and prove to the world he's not a bum? Or will Creed decimate him in the ring?
I think the reason I like Rocky so much is because of hopeful and optimistic it is while still feeling like a real story about real people. A lot of sports dramas feel too sanguine and schmultzy for me to believe that this could happen in real-life but this movie perfectly balances out being optimistic while still having a sense of grit and realism to it that helps us believe in the story. The first half of the film feels very SLOW, and very urban. We get some really LONG takes of Rocky roaming around the streets of Philadelphia that makes the film feel sorta like a documentary in a way and the overall cinematography is very simple and static. This helps ground the film in a realistic style as opposed to it if it was very stylized and creative. They also do a very good job of making you FEEL Rocky's current place in life by having him interact with various people in scenes that don't always have a point in the PLOT, but make you feel just as directionless as Rocky is in his life. When Rocky's preparing for his fight with Apollo, the movie feels a lot more focused in its structure, just like how Rocky now has a purpose in life. The way the film is
But what made this film CONNECT with so many people and become a classic was the characters. Rocky is a very real and relatable character because he's not portrayed as an action hero he later would or even a particularly smart guy, he's just an oaf with a good heart. Stallone could've played him really emotional and whiny the whole time but instead, he keeps most of his pain inside which makes for a much more subtle and nuanced performance. Paulie is many ways, what Rocky could have been if he unleashed his frustrations in violent mood swings. He's often angry and moody because of how frustrated he is with his life's shortcomings and he feels his sister owes him because he's the only person she can communicate with and feels unappreciated by her but deep down, has a heart of gold. This character could've just came off as a huge douche but the way Burt Young plays him, makes him likable despite some major flaws in his character. Adrian is kinda like Rocky in a way as he's often unsure of himself and has self-esteem issues but when pushed by someone like Mickey and loved by Adrian, becomes unstoppable. Just like how she's shy and quiet at FIRST, but once given some love, becomes a very strong and in-control woman and Talia Shire plays her part BEAUTIFULLY. She came off very nerdy at first but she changes believably to a very strong woman by the end of the film. Rocky's trainer, Mickey, is very gruff and blunt about his thoughts and feelings a lot of the times but he's also the father figure to Rocky as he's the one who motivates him the most when he needs it outside of Adrian and his gruffness can be interpreted as "tough love". All these characters were very likable and compelling in their own right.
And then, there's the score by Bill Conti, which has now become a part of any gym trainer's MP3 playlist and for good reason too. The music in the film is very powerful, it starts out being very subdued and sad when Rocky's aimlessly wandering through Philly but then it becomes bombastic and triumphant when Rocky's getting ready for the big fight. It has this sorta brass fanfare sound to it that fits boxing very well and the softer piano pieces perfectly compliments Rocky's downbeat lifestyle.
Lastly, I want to touch upon the final fight. Whereas most movies would try to make this scene as exciting as possible. Here, Rocky just ENDURES the entire fight and doesn't do much damage to Apollo until the very end where he manages to bruise his ribs. He doesn't even win the fight in the end, Apollo won due to a split decision. I love that Rocky doesn't win at the end because he doesn't HAVE to, he already proved that he's not a bum and that's what the whole movie's about. The script's very consistent in this sense.
Overall, Rocky is well-directed, well-written, has great characters, and has a great score. It definitely deserves its status as a classic. 8/10
Terminator Salvation (2009)
Just Like a Machine, Technically Well Made, but Heartless
I remember watching Terminator Salvation right when it came out with the film leaving me very cold and empty after watching it. I didn't hate it, didn't love it, it just left me cold. After revisiting this film a few days ago, things haven't changed.
Plot: In 2003, death row inmate Marcus Wright signs his body over to Cyberdyne Systems for medical research after execution. A year later, Skynet becomes self-aware and destroys much of humanity. 14 years later, John Connor discovers human prisoners and schematics for a new type of Terminator yet to be known to him. Meanwhile, Marcus suddenly wakes up and finds himself lost with no idea what happened to him but meets a young Kyle Reese and a mute little girl, Star. After hearing a radio broadcast from John, they go together to try to find him but Kyle and Star end up getting captured by Skynet, so Marcus ends up going instead with a resistance fighter by the name of Blair. But when they get there, Marcus accidentally steps on a mine and gets smoked but survives due to having robot parts inside him, he didn't know he had before.
The first big problem with Terminator Salvation is the story. It seems like the writers have no idea how to progress John's character, or expand the mythology of the Terminator universe. John Connor in this movie basically has NO development whatsoever. All he does is deliver exposition about the plot and occasionally get into an action scene. He basically has no place in this movie's script whatsoever other than that he's John Connor, so the audience expects to see him. The plot itself also feels like filler, without much of a point to the overall outcome of the series. It's like the writers have no idea what to do after T3 so they just said "Eh, who cares, let's just write a story that has little to no consequence so we can continue to write more of these and make a bajillion dollars." The best example of this is the 30 minutes of the film where they discover a radio signal that can shut down Skynet's machines but midway through the film, they... never bring it up again. If you want to follow the mythology of the Terminator series, missing this film wouldn't be that big of a deal.
The characters and the actors playing them in this movie are a mixed bag. Christian Bale just plays John Connor as a generic action hero, while speaking in his trademark Batman voice. He doesn't have much personality beyond that, he's just really bland. The only moment where he gets to shine is when he delivers a speech at the end. Marcus is supposed to be the emotional center of the film as he's the character who goes through the biggest arc but the problem is, Marcus is really unlikable. I'm not sure should I blame the script for this, or Sam Worthington's performance but either way, Marcus just came across as a huge douche the way he constantly shouts at people around him for no good reason and generally acting like a prick. I actually wanted to see Arnold rip his heart out, THAT'S how unlikable he was. Moon Bloodgood did a fine job as Blair Williams, even if she looked a little too clean and model-ish to be a soldier. But the best character has to be the young Kyle Reese, played by Anton Yelchin. I really BELIEVED this guy to be the younger version of the hero of the first film, Yelchin did a spectacular job mimicking Biehn's mannerisms but also playing his character differently enough to convince us that he's a younger version.
The tone of the movie is another problem. While I like how much more SERIOUS this film felt when compared to T3, which felt too jokey and almost like a PARODY of Terminator at some points, they also go way too far with it and end up creating a really dull film. No matter what kind of movie you're making, you need moments of humor and emotion in your film to make it feel real but this film just had this constant moody tone to it that made it feel as inhuman as the robots in the film. There's practically never a moment for you to take back and laugh a little and there's not a whole lot of human emotion felt in this film. Compare that to the first two films which, were action-packed movies, but also took time to have some levity and human emotion with scenes like the Terminator learning to smile in T2, or Kyle revealing to Sarah that he came back not because he was ordered, but because of love. Scenes like this make the action more exciting as the story feels real and it connects with the audience on an emotional level as well so when the big car chases DO come in, the audience is genuinely invested as opposed to just "Explosions! Awesome!"
If there's anything redeeming about the film, it'd be the technicals. The cinematography has a very gritty, greyish look to it that helps sell the despair that the characters are feeling and the special effects are surprisingly convincing. They made good use of both CGI and animatronics for all the different Terminators and the way they blend together is very smooth and seamless. The action feels appropriately gritty and brutal while not showing a whole lot of blood. And props to McG for not using shaky-cam like so many rubbish action directors working today.
Overall, Terminator Salvation just seems confused. The writers seem to have no idea how to continue the story so they just end up creating a filler story. It's a good film on a technical level but it lacks heart. If you just want an action movie, you'll get it. But if want you something more, then keep on looking. 4/10
The Punisher (1989)
Miscast Lead, Lackluster Action and Flawed Pacing Hurt What Could Have Been an Excellent Action Film
With Marvel's success with all their big name superheroes recently, one character that's remained out of the spotlight is the Punisher. There's been multiple attempts at introducing the Punisher to a mainstream audience(this film, the '04 Punisher, and Punisher: War Zone) but for whatever reason, none of these attempts have completely worked as none of them made much money and they don't fare any better with the critics either. It seems like the Punisher character will, at least for now, remain only as a fan favorite character of Marvel and not a multi- million dollar movie franchise like Batman or Spider-Man. But does Marvel's first attempt at introducing the character to a wide audience work, or does it deserve to be... punished? Let's find out!
The plot starts off with Frank Castle already being the Punisher, the most wanted and mysterious vigilante of the city. Frank became the Punisher due to him losing his family to a car bombing by notorious mobster Gianni Franco, causing him to begin his war on crime. Over the past five years, Frank has weakened so much of the mob, Franco decides to come in and take control. This, however, has attracted the Yakuza. Lady Tanaka, the leader of the Yakuza, decides to take over all the mob families and their interests by kidnapping their children and holding them for ransom.
What this film does the best, is its portrayal of the Punisher. While Dolph Lundgren was very miscast in the role, the way The Punisher himself is written is very interesting. This film surprisingly doesn't portray the Punisher as a full-on hero nor an anti- hero either. Instead, they make him out to be this very GREY moral figure that the film never completely makes its mind on whether or not is he the good guy. Sure, he kicks a lot of a$$ throughout the film but he's also shown to be a bit of a sociopath as he shows no mercy at all to crime and considers anyone who's even ASSOCIATED with the mob deserving of death. This makes him a very extreme and dangerous individual who's not even sure himself that he's doing the right thing and that's what makes his character fascinating. On one hand, we can sympathize with him and understand where he's coming from but on the other hand, he's a sociopath and his simplistic black and white view of the world certainly isn't completely true. Thankfully, the film ends on a very ambiguous note, leaving the audience decide on their own whether or not is he the good guy.
The film also has pretty stylish direction for what is, essentially, an 80's B-grade action flick. The director of the film is Mark Goldblatt, who's well-known in the industry as editor for films such as The Terminator, True Lies, Terminator 2, Starship Troopers, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and many more but he's not too well-known as a DIRECTOR but I think he did a pretty solid job on this film. He told the story in a very dynamic way with very dynamic camera-work and a very brutal, gritty feel but didn't go too far with the violence like in Punisher: War Zone, it felt more realistic than comic-bookish. I think he should have been given more chances to direct after this film.
The score by Dennis Dreath is typical 80's action movie music and it's awesome. I love the theme for the Punisher, it sounds very tough and menacing and it fits the character very well. The score also helped heighten the excitement with the action scenes which, to be honest, weren't anything special.
The action for the film just felt very weak. There's some cool hand-to- hand combat scenes here and there and seeing traditional blood squibs is always better than the digital crap we get today but the problem with the action in this movie is that it's all really forgettable. A lot of it's really short, and there's not a whole lot of exciting stunts being pulled off. All the Punisher does, is run right into enemy fire and mows them down with a machine-gun Rambo style. I would've liked to see a bit more strategy with the Punisher's killing methods and some more dangerous stunts but, I guess the action in the film's acceptable for a movie made with $9 million dollars.
The pacing of the film is another problem. It moves a bit too fast for the audience to know Frank well as a character. I like what they did with him but I think they could have done more had if the film slowed down a bit and focused on HIM a bit more as opposed to the action or the other characters.
The cast in the film is mostly pretty good, but Lundgren just seems really uncomfortable in the part. He seems far too lumbering and brutish for a guy who's supposed to be a very sharp, calculated assassin. I think the part should have been given to someone like Bruce Willis or Mel Gibson instead. Louis Gossett, Jr. is very believable as Jake, the cop Frank used to befriend. I buy his previous friendship with Frank very well. Jeroen Krabbe does a good job playing both Franco as a silmy mobster and a family man. But for me, the biggest scene stealer was Kim Miyori as Lady Tanaka. She came off genuinely sinister and evil but also with a sense of intelligence and manipulation. And plus, she's kinda hot. The rest of the cast did fine.
Overall, The Punisher is certainly not a perfect film. Its action is underwhelming, Lundgren is miscast in the lead role, and the pacing's a little off. However, because of how interesting I found the Punisher to be as a character, and how stylish the direction was and how cool the score was, I'd say... give it a watch. Just don't expect a masterpiece. 6/10
Cliché, Not Scary, And Dull
Okay, before I tear this movie in half, I'd like to address that I already knew what type of movie this was before I even saw it. I already know that it was just gonna be some cheap studio hack film that was made to appeal to teenagers by casting one of the hottest young actresses right now and keeping it PG-13 to ensure them kiddies can go see it. But with that being said, I expected this film to be at least moderately ENTERTAINING. Not mind-blowing, but ENTERTAINING. But what I got instead, was one of the dullest, most clichéd films I've seen in a long time. It REALLY sucked, and I'm gonna tell you all about it.
The plot starts off with a little girl named Carrie Anne killing her mother and father in the middle of a stormy night(that's nice) and then, flash forward four years later, a divorced doctor by the name of Sarah Cassidy and her 17-year-old daughter Elissa move to a small, upscale town where their house is right next to the where the opening massacre took place. Elissa meets Ryan Jacobson, the brother of Carrie and they gradually develop a romantic feelings for one another. Sarah ends up going AGAINST them being in a relationship together so they start seeing each other in secret where Elissa gets to learn more and more about Ryan's disturbing past.
I'm gonna get this right out of the way, House at the End of the Street is fwcking boring. There's barely any suspense or tension throughout the majority of the first half of the film so you end up just being bored as you have to watch this sh!tty teen drama with some of the most clichéd writing imaginable. There's the little drama about Sarah being recently divorced and Elissa and her trying to cope with it, there's the relationship being forbidden by one of their parents, and there's the whole "social outcast" angle with Ryan. Now I wouldn't have minded some of these clichés if the characters felt like REAL people but the thing is, they don't. We never get to know any of these characters and the dilemmas they go through well at all so whenever there's a dramatic scene and Elissa says something like "Just because you had a bad relationship doesn't I mean will!", it just comes across as generic, lifeless drama made to just fool you into thinking the movie's smarter than it really is. So even if this wasn't a horror/thriller film, it still would've sucked because it's just clichéd and lifeless.
But if this movie had any sort of good suspense or scares in it, I would probably give this film at least a 5 but the problem is that, not only do they come in way too LATE in the film, they're also REALLY weak. The way this movie tries to scare you, is so textbook and formulaic, it might as well have been renamed "Horror Filmmaking for Dummies: The Movie". They use every cliché in the book, and I mean EVERY cliché. From jump scares, to shaky-cam(fwck shaky-cam), to a character wandering around in the dark trying to find the killer, and probably the most embarrassing of them all, the killer popping up for one last scare after they were supposedly killed. I mean, come on! Scream already made people aware of this cliché 17 years ago! When that scene came on, I actually bursted out laughing because of how dumb and expected it was. THAT'S how embarrassing it was.
If there's anything DECENT about the movie, it'd be the cast. While this film doesn't make full use of Jennifer Lawrence's talent as an actress, she does do the best she can and is clearly above starring in these types of films. Let's just hope she never stars in a film like this ever again. Elizabeth Shue, again, does her best in a film like this. Max Thieriot is GOOD as Ryan, but he's too damn creepy-looking at the start of the film for us not to suspect him when surprise, he's the villain of the picture. I feel like this character should start out feeling more like a regular guy than such a creep. The best character to compare him to is probably Norman Bates from Psycho since it's clear the writers took some notes from Hitchcock's film in creating their character but the thing they seemed to forget about, is making him a normal guy from the start. In that film, we have no reason to suspect Norman at first because of how unimportant he seemed from the way Perkins played him but here, the first time we see him, he's already made himself look like the bad guy because of the way he's shot and the music accompanies the scene.
I also thought the twist was... a fairly good one. I'll give the movie props that I DIDN'T see it coming but it would have worked even better if I was intrigued by the mystery THROUGHOUT the film as opposed to it getting sidetracked by sh!tty drama. I don't know, I feel like I would have given it more praise had if it was part of a better script.
Overall, House at the End of the Street is exactly the type of movie you'd expect from a title like that. It's clichéd, generic, lifeless, and frankly, dull. That's probably the worst thing you could say about a horror/thriller film in my book. Still, I'd guess it's watchable if you happen to be a big fan of Jennifer Lawrence but... you definitely have better alternatives. I'm gonna give it a 2/10.
Entertaining but Soulless
When it comes to sequels, third's not always the charm. In fact, it rarely is. For some reason, Hollywood can SOMETIMES get #2 in a series right but rarely #3. And Terminator 3 is, considered by a lot of people, not to be an exception to that rule. Fans seem to generally hate this one, calling it the first nail in the coffin for the franchise with Terminator Salvation being the next. But is it really as bad as people have claimed? Let's take a look and find out!
The plot takes place seven years after the second film where Sarah Connor has died of leukemia and John now lives off the grid, like a homeless bum. Even though they destroyed Cyberdyne Systems and supposedly stopped Judgment Day, John still feels unsafe and paranoid that it'll eventually come and he'll have to fight for the fate of mankind. It turns out that Judgment Day was never stopped, only postponed as two Terminators come back in time, one to assassinate John, and one to protect him.
I remember reading somewhere that Linda Hamilton was offered to reprise her role as Sarah Connor in this film but declined and called the script "soulless" and that pretty much sums up the entire film for me. While it's not as bad as a lot of sequels out there, or even that bad of a film in general, it just feels soulless and empty. Terminator 2 was really the finale of the franchise. They destroyed Cyberdyne and basically prevented Judgment Day from ever happening so there really was no need for a sequel at all.
Speaking of T2, this film is also severely lacking in creativity. It basically rehashes all the same plot points of T2 except without Sarah Connor, and contradicting the message in that film(more on this later). Now, you could argue that since T2 borrowed a lot from the first Terminator as well, it's not that big of a problem but the thing is, T2 developed the characters further, it expanded the universe, and it explored the themes of the first film deeper. This film doesn't do any of that, it just uses all the same concepts and ideas except now, the message of the second film about how humanity isn't doomed by fate and how we can change it, is now replaced with "it's destiny". It could have been an interesting concept to explore, about how humanity is destined to destroy itself someday, but it just feels like an excuse to continue the franchise and make more money in this case.
Okay, so I just basically tore up the film in the two last paragraphs but why don't I hate this film? Well, plain and simply, it's entertaining. While it's certainly not as thought-provoking as James Cameron's films, it still works as an action movie. The fights between the Terminators are brutal, fast-paced, and intense. There's a scene where they fight in a bathroom and they smash literally EVERYTHING in that room. It's so over-the-top, it actually becomes sort of funny at points. The pacing was fairly quick, never leaving the audience bored much and there's some decent suspense throughout(nothing compared to the first two, though). The film also LOOKS quite good. The cinematographer, Don Burgess, did a good job recreating a similar look to T2 and while the CGI isn't quite photo-realistic, it was used REASONABLY and there was a good use of both practical stunts and animatronics as well so I won't fault it too much for that.
The cast is just sorta hit-and-miss here. Arnold is more emotionless this time around, no longer the caring father figure to John and it works since John is no longer a kid. Nick Stahl oddly plays John whinier as an adult than Edward Furlong did as a child but nonetheless, Stahl does a good job playing a man trying to escape his own destiny. Claire Danes does OKAY as Kate Brewster, but her character was just sort of bland and uninteresting throughout to the point where her performance was ultimately forgettable. Kristanna Loken is again, sorta bland and forgettable, which is a shame considering that she's the main villain of the film. She just lacks any sort of menace and isn't in anyway intimidating throughout the entire film and it really feels like she only got cast for the sake of sex appeal.
Director Jonathan Mostow seems capable but he lacks the attention to detail James Cameron has and he doesn't seem to put the same level of nuance in his film. He just seems more interested in getting us to the next action scene and less interested in the human elements that made the first two films so fantastic. But the thing he seems to struggle with the most is humor. This film just goes way too far at times to the point where it feels like downright parody. Do I even HAVE to mention the part where Arnold gets his clothes from a male strip club? Thankfully, the humor gradually died down and became more subtle as the film went on.
Overall, if you just want a fun, brainless popcorn flick that just happens to be a Terminator film, you'll enjoy it. But if you really want something meatier and more intelligent, than you should probably look somewhere else. This is just another Hollywood cash-grab sequel. Nothing more, nothing less. I'm gonna give it a 5/10.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
A Funny, Energetic Ride That Will Keep You Glued to the Seats till the Very End
It's always funny to me how, so many people think that Scorsese only makes mafia and gangster flicks but when you actually look at his filmography, only like, 10% of his films revolve around gangsters or the mafia. Scorsese's recurring theme in his movies doesn't seem to be crime, but characters dealing with guilt. Whether it be Charlie from Mean Streets, Jake LaMotta from Raging Bull, Henry Hill from Goodfellas, or even Frank Pierce from Bringing Out the Dead. Since he's explored this theme so many times now, can Scorsese still deliver? Let's find out!
The plot follows Jordan Belfort, a rich, highly successful stockbroker who starts out working a low-level job at an established Wall Street firm where he quickly becomes attracted to the world of stocks but loses his job due to Black Monday. Then, he starts his OWN brokerage firm titled "Stratton-Oakmont" with his new friend, Donnie Azerto and from then on, the company skyrockets to the top by doing pump and dump scams and they live in a world full of sex and drugs while the FBI is hot on their trail.
The thing that surprised me most about this movie was how FUNNY it was. When you think of Scorsese, you usually don't think of things that are funny but this movie is so over-the-top, it's hilarious. Every character in this movie is portrayed in an over-the-top fashion, they all do things you don't expect any normal human being to do. They have sex in the office in front of everyone, they get their dicks sucked in public, and they do more drugs than you could ever dream of in your wildest imaginations. This makes for a very funny and entertaining film because as you watch it, you can't help but laugh at how absurd it is but also fantasize about living the life these guys are living in.
But while this is a comedy film, it also has a lot of heavy drama in it. This movie has a bit of a bipolar tone to it, one minute you might be laughing hysterically, and the next minute you might drop your jaw from being incredibly shocked at what you just saw. For example, there's a scene where Jordan gets so overwhelmed by the huge amounts of Quaaludes he took, he falls right down to the floor and can't walk and there's a lot of physical comedy in this scene as Jordan tries to make it down a set of stairs and we're laughing and enjoying ourselves for a while but then, all of a sudden, we see Jordan's baby daughter walk into the room, seeing her dad all high on Quaaludes and to quote RedLetterMedia, it feels like a punch to the gut and that's what the whole movie felt like to me. One minute there's laugh-out-loud comedy, next minute, there's heavy, intense drama that might get hard to watch. I'd have a problem with this if it felt very schmultzy and heavy-handed but Scorsese depicts it very raw and brutal so it feels natural and we don't find the shift of tone too jarring to watch.
While Jordan Belfort is definitely a douchebag, DiCaprio surprisingly makes his character very likable for a lot of the film. He has this magnetic charm and confidence to him that makes the audience like and root for him even when he's doing terrible things and there's moments where we see essences of humanity to him such as when he gives his employee five times the money she needed to support her kids which are really important to make his character be at least SOMEWHAT sympathetic but at the same time, he never loses the douchebag attitude that makes you WANT to hate him, but you don't because deep down, we all sort of want to do the things he does throughout the film. Everyone else in the cast was strong too but the only real standouts were Jonah Hill as Donnie Azerto and Margot Robbie as Jordan's wife, Naomi. In this film, I didn't see Jonah Hill at all, I saw Donnie Azerto, THAT'S how good he was. And this has GOT to be the breakthrough for Margot Robbie, who seems very real and natural as someone who tries to TOLERATE her husband's wild behavior, but ultimately gives up as she realizes throughout what kind of man he is.
The editing in this film is incredibly frenetic and energetic. There's a lot of slow-mo, freeze-frames, jump cuts, and there's a lot of moments where they'll make you think nothing went wrong for our protagonist, next thing you know, they cut BACK to show what REALLY happened and this really helps get you into the mind of Jordan Belfort as he's constantly on drugs and not always aware of what's going on.
But despite how good those things were, there are some problems with the film. I've noticed that the script has a habit of spoon- feeding everything to the audience. Now, I understand that not everyone understands how Wall Street works so we need to explain it in a simple way for them to understand but I don't like how there's so many scenes where the visuals speak perfectly for itself but yet, they still have to narrate it for us. Come on Scorsese, we're not that stupid. I also felt that outside of Jordan, Donnie, Naomi, and Jordan's dad, Max Belfort, the rest of the characters just sort of came and went without us knowing them a whole lot. I wished we could've spent more time to know them a little better.
But overall, this is a funny, energetic film that will keep your eyes glued to the screen by either making you laugh your balls off or by making you gasp at what's happening to our characters. If you are a Socrsese fan, or even just a fan of good cinema, you'll love it. 8/10
Batman Returns (1992)
Uneven Storytelling with Great Visuals and a Strong Cast
Batman Returns is an interesting one. It was the second film in the Burton/Schumacher franchise that upon release, scared the crap out of the kids in the audience because of its grotesque, violent imagery and made parents feel uncomfortable letting their kids see it because of the overt sexual innuendo between Batman and Catwoman. Fans seem to generally love it, or hate it. But despite the reputation it held, I still loved this movie as a child. Yes, there were moments that just flat out puzzled me but I still enjoyed it none the less. But as I grow up and mature a little, I see more and more of why this film gets such a mixed reception from the fans. It has some great ideas in there but they just don't quite feel complete in their executions. But does Batman Returns still work as a film? Let's find out!
The plot starts off with Oswald Cobblepot, the infant son of the wealthy Cobblepot family who's born with strange birth defects that make him seem half-man, half-penguin. After eating their house cat, the Cobblepots throw him down to the sewers where he gets raised by penguins. 33 years later, Cobblepot sends his circus gang to attack a corrupt business man by the name of Max Shreck's Christmas festivity where he ends up capturing Max Shreck and threatens to reveal his past sins if he doesn't try to get him back into society. Meanwhile, a shy, socially awkward secretary by the name of Selina Kyle, stumbles upon Shreck's evil schemes and gets pushed out a window for it. After getting resurrected by cats, she goes through a mental breakdown where she smashes up her apartment and takes on her new identity as Catwoman. At the same time, the Penguin fools everybody into thinking he saved the Mayor's baby and runs an election to become Mayor.
Firstly, I'm gonna talk about why do I think so many people love this movie, the style and atmosphere. Like most of Burton's films, this film has this Gothic, moody atmosphere to it that makes it a very fun movie to watch. The production design is stylized and expressionistic, the score is haunting and beautiful, and the sense of humor is macabre and dark. All this makes for a very appealing movie for both the eyes and ears.
But while the atmosphere is great, the storyline is somewhat lost and confused. There's a lot of really cool concepts in this film, but they never seem fully realized and the script ends up suffering because of it. For example, there's the concept of Batman, Penguin, and the Catwoman all being the same deep down as they're all outsiders who put on a different facade to unleash their anger on the thing the thing causes them pain(Batman = crime, Catwoman = women being considered second to men, Penguin = discrimination towards him because of his deformity) but this concept is only brought up towards the end and it feels sorta like an afterthought. They also try to make us sympathize for the villains(with the exception of Max Shreck) which I never did because frankly, they don't come across very redeemable. They just came across as violent douchebags the entire time to me, especially the Penguin, who, even when accepted back into society, STILL decides to get revenge on them and never shows any sign of humanity whatsoever.
But at the same time, Burton comes up with a lot of really great images with these characters. There's so many images in this movie that could easily pass off as a painting and there's some even some really subtle symbolism I've noticed after re-watching it. All this makes me wonder if this movie would've worked better had it been its own art-house film with no relation to Batman whatsoever. And it probably would, as Burton doesn't show a whole lot of interest in Batman anyways since all of the villains'origins were changed drastically from the comics and Batman himself is largely overshadowed by the villains in this film.
Despite those problems, the cast is still great. Tim Burton may not be the world's greatest storyteller, but he's always been able to get good performances out of his actors and this film is no exception. While Michael Keaton doesn't get as much screen time as expected, he still gave a solid performance as both Batman and Bruce Wayne. The casting of Devito is pure genius and I can't imagine anyone else playing the part. And Pfeiffer adds a surprising amount of depth and nuance to her character. But for me, the biggest scene stealer is Christopher Walken as Max Shreck. He's just fascinating to watch as this corrupt, shady businessman who always come across very mysterious and you never know what exactly he's thinking. I want to see more of this guy.
I also thought this movie was quite entertaining. The black humor throughout was funny. While it may be too grotesque for a Batman movie, the twisted atmosphere made it all the more interesting to watch as you don't quite know what Burton's gonna throw at you next. The action sequences were okay for the most part, but there were some memorable moments such as when the Penguin hijacks the Batmobile or the final confrontation between him and Batman.
Overall, while it's not a storytelling masterpiece, the stylish visuals and the excellent cast still make for a very entertaining film. But if you are a fan of the comics, you should probably avoid this one as it is mostly a Tim Burton movie and not really much of a Batman movie. I'm gonna give it a 6/10.
Xi you: Xiang mo pian (2013)
A Fun, If Not Particularly Engaging, Spin on Journey to the West
Man, Stephen Chow hasn't made a film in a long time. His last film was CJ7(2008), a decent but overly schmultzy family film that more or less polarized fans and critics. But after six years in the waiting, Chow finally returns to big screen with Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons. Another retelling of the classic Wu Cheng'en fantasy story except this time, Chow will only be directing, not starring. A first for him. So since this is a Stephen Chow film, there'll be a lot of hype to live up to. Does he succeed? Let's find out!
The story follows Tang Sanzang before he became the Longevity Monk when he was just a demon hunter who holds a special philosophy taught by his master that demons should be spared and taught to be good and not killed. He starts questioning his philosophy and skills as a demon hunter after partaking in a grisly attack on a village by a fish demon where he failed to tame it and a few citizens, including a five-year-old girl, died along the way. Instead, the demon gets taken care of by another demon hunter by the name of Miss Duan, who carries no qualms about killing. After feeling guilty for the deaths in the village and questioning himself whether or not is he right to be a demon hunter, his master sends him out to deal with a pig demon where the job ends up being Miss Duan's once again. The pig demon escapes, however, so he goes on a journey to seek the help of the legendary Monkey King, to take care of the pig demon.
I'm gonna start with the biggest problem with this film, the love story. This movie tries in many ways to re-create the tragic love story of Sun Wukong and Zixia from A Chinese Odyssey(1995) but the thing that makes this love story fall flat for me is that there seems to be no deeper attraction to these two other than what's purely on the surface. I can buy Sanzang being interested in her because she's a kick a$$ demon hunter but I don't buy him being in love with her throughout the entire film because later on, she does some really immoral acts on him just to get laid. There's a scene where she gets her group of demon hunter friends to pose as a gang of thieves forcing him to have sex with her! She also rips his "300 Nursery Rhymes" book, hits him, and magically forces a ring onto his finger, therefore claiming him to be her husband. She just comes across a big b!tch throughout and I don't understand how anyone could like her beyond her looks.
But while the love story doesn't work, the entertainment factor in this film is still terrific. This film features a lot of creative action set pieces with a lot of really neat superpowers that we've never really seen before. I was especially impressed with the fight between Tang Sanzang and the Monkey King towards the end of the film. Not only is it extremely creative and fun to watch, I also like the symbolism of the giant Buddha palm representing how the Monkey King can't escape the grasp of Buddha's hand controlling his fate. It's a clever touch and a nice reference to the Buddhist Palm in Kung Fu Hustle(2004).
But the CGI in this film just looked awful. There's many characters that are completely animated by it and they just looked like video game characters. The skin texture just looked really fake and digital and their bodies never seem to react at all in the light condition they are in. I know this is an Asian production so I can't expect the same level of production value as a Hollywood flick but to be honest, I think both Kung Fu Hustle(2004) and CJ7(2008) looked better! Aren't special effects supposed to get better over the course of time?
While I didn't like Duan, most of the characters and actors portraying them worked for me. While Wen Zhang is obviously trying to mimic the young Stephen Chow, he did do a good job at it so I can't fault him. Although, Chow himself probably would've done better with the comedy. While I don't like the character, Shu Qi played Duan just fine. The three demon hunters(forgot their names other than Prince Important and couldn't find the name of the actors anywhere) were fun to watch but I really didn't feel any sort of contribution to the plot from them whatsoever. If their scenes were cut, the plot would've unraveled exactly the same. Huang Bo is funny as the human form of the Monkey King but when he transforms back into his original form, he played it too much like a typical bad guy to the point where I can't see him developing into a hero if they ever make a sequel(which will probably happen).
The comedy wasn't hilarious, but it did keep me laughing enough to keep watching and I especially liked the joke about Prince Important mispronouncing his name to be Prince Impotent. The fat lady joke with was pretty awful, though. With his recent films, I've noticed that Stephen Chow's legendary status as HK's "King of Comedy" is owed more to the directors and writers he worked with such as Jeffrey Lau and Wong Jing rather than his own screen writing skills. He's not a terrible comedy director, but he needs someone like Lee-Lik Chi or Vincent Kok to craft the jokes for him as his recent films haven't been nearly as funny as his 90's work.
Overall, if you can accept the crappy CGI and unconvincing love story, you'd be pleased with the action, fun characters, and humor JUST enough to get over those flaws. I'm gonna give it a 6/10.
A Unique and Interesting Take on the Superhero Origin Story
Superhero movies, what can you say about them? Every year, we see at least one of them and every time they come out, it's money in the bank for the studios. But with how popular the genre has become, one film that's often overlooked in the genre is M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable. Which is sad because this is actually one of the more thought-provoking and unique films in the genre. So why do so few people talk about this movie after all these years? Let's find out.
Plot: David Dunn is a security guard who becomes the sole survivor of a train accident with no sustained injuries whatsoever. After surviving the train accident, David receives a mysterious note asking him the question "How many times have you been sick?" and from then on, he embarks on a journey with Elijah Price, a comic-book historian and museum owner who suffers from Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a disease that causes the patient's bones to be extremely brittle, to discover that David may be, a superhuman.
The thing that surprised me about this film is how it has its own mythology and how believable and unique it is. This film has the idea that comic-books are basically representations of real-life but that they've been commercialized so they lost some of that truth but the essence is still there. People may not be able to see through walls or shoot fire out of their hands in real-life but people DO have extraordinary abilities that seem out of this world such as David's ability to never be injured or his ability to tell bad deeds someone's done simply by touching their hand. There's a lot of films made about the idea of having a superhero in real-life such as Kick-Ass and Super but I've never seen a film before that suggests comic-books to be real. Also, while the idea of a man being "unbreakable" and able to tell someone's bad deeds just by touching their hand would seem very silly if it was done in the traditional, Hollywood blockbuster way where we would see David do all sorts of crazy stuff with CGI and stuff, Shayamalan presents this idea in a believable, realistic fashion. David in this movie is certainly not a regular human being, but at the same time, his powers are JUST down-to-earth enough for us to buy that someone could possibly possess these powers in real- life. It's a remarkable achievement for a film to make me believe that a guy could possibly possess superpowers in real-life.
There's also lot of philosophy and questions raised in this film. This movie features the idea of destiny in that we're all meant to follow a certain path in life whether we want to or not and it's quite fascinating. This movie features the "born to be the hero" archetype in David with him destined to be a superhero but it also features the OTHER side of the spectrum, the man born to be the villain, Elijah Price A.K.A Mr. Glass. The concept about a man being destined to become a hero is obviously not anything new as we've seen it all throughout film and literature but what makes this different is that this movie doesn't quite present it as simply "Destiny is good, you are meant for great things!". It challenges us by asking "What if you are born a villain?", and this is a great, FASCINATING topic that this movie thankfully delves into quite a lot. It makes you question "Is evil born, or is it created?". And while there a bunch of different ways to look at this film, in my eyes, it's both. Mr. Glass in this film is born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, which causes him to feel lonely and lost as he struggles to find his place in the world but when he finds out he's meant to be the yang to David's yin, he finally knows who he is and why he's born the way he was. While it's not exactly a comforting thing to know, he at least finally knows his place in the world. But on the other hand, it's CREATED because it was Elijah's desperation that led to him to his quest where he initiated acts of terrorism just to find his opposite, David.
Now, let's talk about the acting and the directing. I'll just talk about Willis and Jackson since this film is really just about them. Bruce Willis is excellent here as David. He plays David as someone who is simply lost as to who he is life and who's feeling this constant sadness with that he can't explain and Willis'soft-spoken, brooding personality fits very well into this character. Samuel plays Elijah as a very determined and philosophical figure. He delivers all of his lines with a presence of authority and Sam's voice really convinces you what he's saying, is true. His best scene is towards the end where he breaks down in tears from finding out who he is and this is a very tricky scene for any actor to act out because his character is feeling a lot of different emotions at the same time. But Sam really sells this scene and makes it a really powerful moment in the film.
Shyamalan surprisingly did a very good job directing this film. He gives this film a slow, unsettling mood and it makes the film all the more engaging and interesting as it makes it feel very unpredictable. He used a lot of takes that go on for a really long time and that really helps you get into what the actors are saying for some reason. But one minor thing that bugged me about his direction was his constant use of upside- down shots. I don't know, I just found them sort of distracting.
Overall, the unique mythology, fascinating philosophy, solid acting, and engaging direction all add up to one of the most captivating superhero films ever made. 10/10