Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Pink Panther

Gimmicky and overlong crime-comedy about the mysterious jewel thief, The Phantom, attempting to steal The Pink Panther, a valuable pink jewel. Sellers steals the show as Insp. Jacques Clouseau, the man in charge of finding The Phantom, who's not only held back by the cleverness of the thief but also the clumsiness of himself. Niven is fun as the lead role, but takes up too much screen-time with an uninteresting back-story involving his affair with Clouseau's wife (Capucine) and his punk nephew (Wagner). Many characters grow more and more cruel, selfish and unlikable towards an ending that is more slapstick than witty. Sellers and the Switzerland setting are huge pluses in a heavily dated comedy. A bit of a dull start, but worthy of continuing to A SHOT IN THE DARK which came out only three months after this film's premiere!

Little Fockers

Third installment to a series that was just hanging by a thread at the end of the second film. An unnecessary installment with Byrnes (De Niro) questioning Greg (Stiller) as a father, and also a husband… again! The story revolves around the little Fockers (Baiocchi and Tahan), but there's very little development and involvement from either--all we know is that they're (stereotypically) polar-opposites. Owen Wilson gets an undeserved third billing, and offers nothing new to the story nor his character. At one point Greg asks Kevin (Wilson), "What are you even doing here, Kevin?!" Perhaps the writers should have taken this question literally. Hoffman and Streisand are unneeded, but at least they offer some meaningful continuity. Danner and Polo are great as the supporting characters; perhaps that's the key, they were the two best characters because they weren't an overdose. Alba plays the totally unfunny Andi Garcia (like the actor; ha, ha, ha; not!) who is really there just as eye candy. Dern's appearance is sadly pointless. The film gets much funnier at the end, but still a worthless Holiday film.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Honest Man: The Life of R. Budd Dwyer

James Dirschberger's feature-length debut is an astounding portrait of R. Budd Dwyer, the Pennsylvania State Treasurer who committed suicide during a press conference in 1987. For the last 23 years, Dwyer's final moments have been talked about much more than his productive life; so much that it actually has become somewhat of an internet meme despite the event taking place years before people even knew what the internet was. Just three years ago, if you put Dwyer's name into a search engine, all you'd find were suicide related results. Even now it's somewhat difficult to find a picture of Dwyer without the .357 Magnum revolver in his hand… or, in his mouth.

Dirschberger attempts to do the man justice by creating a film that covers more of Dwyer's life than his death. In uncovering Dwyer's life, Dirschberger has brought to light many things that were shadowed during Budd's fight for innocence. The film becomes a tale of an honest man driven to the breaking point.

The 75 minute documentary covers a lot of the man's life and also the story behind the guilty verdict. Dwyer upstaged many of his achievements in life by the way he died, but he made us care enough to look deeper behind how and why he was found guilty… and, even prosecuted in the first place. What's most impressive about the film is that it gives Budd a second chance; it looks deeper into the CTA scandal and it doesn't allow the suicide to center around the plot like some sensationalizing news style article.

To exclude Budd's suicide would deny the impact the CTA scandal had on him, and to include it in its entirety would make the audience focus too much on his death which has already been done for too long. Dirschberger compensates by including the suicide, but taming it down so Budd's story can appeal to more people than just the gorehounds and the morbidly curious.

Interviewees include everyone from family, friends and colleagues to William Smith, the man whose testimony convicted Dwyer. It's a story so controversial and easy to misunderstand; hats off to the crew of "Honest Man: The Life of R. Budd Dwyer" for making all the right moves.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


"Dilly" stands out on Band of Horses third album INFINITE ARMS for one simple reason: it's easily the catchiest song. That doesn't mean it's the best song, it doesn't mean it's a good song. It just means that this is the one song off that album that you can listen to once and have it stuck in your head for days and days. The song seems to be more of a songwriting experiment rather than selling out. To support the argument that BOH hasn't sold out is this very unforgettable music video. The desert setting and the violent climax makes the video appear to be archive footage from an old biker film from the '70s; something that has inspired the works of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Pleasant to the ears, and gripping to the eyes. The absence of the band members makes it have an even more raw and amateurish feel, and that's something BOH fans will commend.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Paranormal Activity 2

Prequel to the 2007 (2009 nationwide) smash horror hit, this time concerning Katie's (Featherston) sister Christie (Grayden) and her family. Many scares, perhaps more, to get your heart pumping and keep you on the edge of your seat; but its sadly obvious that this follow up has gone Hollywood. Where the cleverness of the original is absent here is within the story, not the scares; is it that appropriate that the story from the first has to tie in with this one, and it can't be its own story? If not, why? Something Paramount and the filmmakers probably won't be able to answer. But if you're out for some scares, you'll find plenty in this flick.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Splendid Lynch-like short about a man held captive by surrealistic imagery. It's impressive that such a film can make the viewer appreciate what a moviegoer generally takes for granted when watching a Hollywood feature--camera angles, set design, sound. "Smoke" has it all and then some. Unfortunately, the film begins to wonder into a collage of vivid shots instead of progressing a plot. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you have to do it. Less sights and more story would've given this one a boost. Regardless, a well-done little picture. Anyone who can appreciate how to bring such dreamy-nightmarish happenings to life will love this one!

Friday, November 5, 2010


Third installment, easily inferior to the first two, is a massacre--literally and metaphorically. John Kramer (Bell), now on his death bed, is having second thoughts about his apprentice Amanda (Smith). Despite his pain and weakness, he still has one more test to give as Jigsaw. If you look closely, you know this isn't the last installment. One of the film's biggest weaknesses is that the story arcs as if it's concluding, a completely unnecessary action since just by watching the film you know it's not "the final chapter". Bahar Soomekh wins the title for the worst acting of the series. The film can sort of be commended as one of the most ruthless of the franchise, but still weak in comparison to some of the films that followed and definitely the ones the preceded.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Saw IV

John Kramer (Bell) is dead, but Jigsaw is still alive, and Detective Rigg (Bent) is being tested. Did the torture need to continue? No. Fortunately, this outing isn't nearly as big of a waste of time as "Saw III"; in fact, it's actually quite good in comparison to the third installment. The fans will probably love this one. Plenty of twists and interesting traps to go around, plus an interesting backstory with John Kramer and Jill Tuck (Russell). This film has the most returning characters (not counting archive footage) of all seven films. Some plot holes and continuities are patched up--others are created (hint: brother of Mark)--but if you're willing to move on you'll be wonderfully grossed out.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Saw VI

After the series suffers its worst with "Saw V", the sixth installment lifts the franchise back up to its peak with a slam dunk of a film, this round about settling the score with a shady health insurance company. Useful reprising characters back for more than just a cameo to be killed off, and new characters that seem to be somewhat likable even though the audience just met them. Mandylor finally shows us some talent with Detective Hoffman, who actually has expression in this one! Hoffman has now come to be a memorable villain of his own rather than just a cheap copycat following in Jigsaw's footsteps. Characters and story are terrifically developed in this outing, including John Kramer's (Bell) flashback storyline despite being dead for three films.

Saw V

The most useless installment of the series, and includes the least amount of twists. Fails to justify its existence or its contribution to an already overlong franchise. Violent for the sake of being violent--nothing else seems to drive the story, and there doesn't even seem to be much of a story. So, Agent Strahm (Patterson) suspects Detective Hoffman (Mandylor) is Jigsaw, and we know this series doesn't know when to stop--hmm, I wonder who's going to win? The film's most interesting line, "You were supposed to be the hero!" fails to have the impact it's supposed to. They should have made the characters played by Mike Realba and Al Sapienza, two very talented actors, more useful.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Saw 3D: The Final Chapter

The seventh and last installment lays down all its cards... or at least the rest of its cards. The series certainly went out with a bang to say the least. Fans and/or gorehounds will love it, and there's enough entertainment for some of those who aren't overly familiar with the series or forgot a thing or two in the previous six films. It is possibly the most appealing "Saw" film, knowing that it's ACTUALLY the finale. But where does that leave us with quality? For a ninety minute film with numerous returning characters and just as appealing brand new characters, not to mention the burden of trying to keep originality with a redundant back-story, "Saw 3D" does pretty good given the obstacles it's forced to work with. What most people will probably criticize is the lack of twists and turns that made us love the original so much... but lets be honest, has there even been any jaw dropping twists in the series since "Saw IV" or even as far back as "Saw II"? It's up for debate, but the story in the seventh installment is pretty straight forward and that may let some people down. Given that it's a seventh film in a series with impressive continuity, "Saw 3D" is actually a really great film for what it is.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Skilled thief DiCaprio gets what he needs by infiltrating his targets' subconscious. Can be a special-effects mess at times, but Nolan is able to execute the difficult task of keeping the audience on the same page as the plot despite the complexities of the storyline… unlike other sci-fi/action-thrillers (cough, MATRIX, cough). DiCaprio leads a cast of fellow young A-listers, and the actors don't crowd each other even though a lot of the characters don't actually have to be there (hush, hush; we'll pretend JGL actually serves a purpose here just because he's so cool). In Nolan we (continue to) trust… even when it comes to sci-fi.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

Sequel to the 1977 smash hit follows Luke Skywalker (Hamill) training to be a Jedi from the lovable new character Yoda (Oz), while his friends are pursued by Darth Vader (Prowse/Jones), who himself has a life-changing secret. More epic and easily one-ups "A New Hope", not just with effects and designs, but also story; with all the characters becoming much more three dimensional, plus the introduction of numerous new character that add spice to the overall series. Easily one of the greatest sci-fi films of all-time, as well as one of the greatest sequels of all-time.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Aguirre, the Wrath of God

Werner Herzog's answer to the search for El Dorado is "Aguirre: The Wrath of God", with Klaus Kinski as the title character leading an expedition to "the golden city". Both Herzog and Kinski at their best--that alone could be an argument to support that this is a perfect film. Kinski lives up to his intense reputation, never delivering a dull moment. Herzog achieves so many difficult filmmaking obstacles. Everything about this film is beautiful. From the film's opening shot of the expedition hiking their way down the mountain, you know you're watching one of film history's most generous and sincere masterpieces. Absolutely brilliant.

Clerks II

Dante (O'Halloran) and Randal (Anderson) are back in this long awaited sequel to the 1994 cult-classic; but unlike the original, "Clerks II" is in COLOR and takes place at the fast-food joint Mooby's. The story is carried by Dante and Randal's strange, yet appealing and revealing, philosophies that charmed us in the amateurish first film. The film pays homage to the preceding movie, but some of its gags seem to work differently in this picture; some for better, others for worse. Kevin Smith took the story in the appropriate direction; many techniques differ, but its necessary due to the obvious success the original had (it doesn't make sense to continue filming a low budget picture when you have the money to make a big budget one). Nice to see Jay and Silent Bob up to their old tricks, and keep an eye out for a cameo by Smith's mother reprising her character as the Milk Maid at the tail-end. Dialogue and attitude starts off totally juvenile, but the film takes a turn in the right direction--far from perfect, but an overall excellent comedy.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

George Lucas' groundbreaking saga starts here, a epic space opera about rebels trying to save Princess Leia (Fisher) from the tyrannical Darth Vader (Jones/Prowse). Fun story with many of film history's most beloved characters; not to mention the impressiveness of its success and inspiration. However, the story-arc seems so light-weight knowing what follows in sequels "Empire" and "Jedi", and the absence of Yoda, Palpatine, Admiral Piette and Lando Calrissian certainly make you realize how dull this film is in comparison to the following two when you re-watch it. The most interesting conflicts of the series happens in the sequels, making "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" the least intense and impressive of the original trilogy.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Matrix Revolutions

Third installment came out the same year as the second installment, demonstrating right for the get-go that both sequels are completely unnecessary and inferior. This one tries too hard with the SFX and thrills, and it's understandable because the story lacks any reason and sense. Hugo Weaving was spectacular in the original as Agent Smith, but in this one the Wachowski brothers literally multiply the character infinitely; a desperately cheap attempt to outdo what worked so great for the original. The Wachowski brothers filled a void that separate nerds from tough guys when the original came out in 1999; but in 2003, the canyon reopened. Terrible. Just terrible.

The Matrix Reloaded

2003 sequel lacks all energy that made the 1999 blockbuster a success. The story continues, but does it need to when it's this bad? Even the returning characters are as two dimensional as the new characters. Zion, a home that Morpheus (Fishburne) talked about like it was a place of beauty worth dying for, is disappointingly nothing short of a ghetto. To top that off, when we're introduced to a rundown Zion, we're also given an unnecessary lengthy corny passionate love-scene between Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss. The only thing worth noting in this sci-fi failure is an impressive highway action sequence, as well as the inclusion of eye-candy Monica Bellucci—but even the beauty of Bellucci and the excellent SFX of the highway scene are hardly worth the watch.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Fourth installment deals with an older Jones (Ford is old too) battling Soviet agents while trying to uncover the mystery behind the crystal skulls. Mutt Williams (LaBeouf) accompanies Jones to Peru to find answers, including one from Williams' mother who's hiding a painfully obvious and predictable secret. Even after a nineteen year break, Idiana Jones seems tired, while Karen Allen returns to be as annoying as Capshaw was in "Idiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (instead of being just straight up dull like she was in "Raiders of the Lost Ark"). All new characters are far from colorful. Too many sequel clichés to be fully entertained—Jones is a down-and-out has-been (eerily similar to "Rocky V" and "Rocky Balboa") who reunites with an old love-interest (so old, she's got bigger bags under her eyes than an insomniac) that we didn't know ended so bitterly (kind of like Dewey and Gale from "Scream 2" and "Scream 3"). More annoying than its predictably, corniness and clichés are actions sequences that were cheapened by CGI. You figure if another Indiana Jones was worth doing, they would've put in a little bit of effort.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Sequel to one of the greatest sci-fi/horror films ever made—a genre so difficult to execute so wonderfully—comes along and sucks out any horror aspect that made "Alien" so fantastic. Instead, James Cameron replaces Ridley Scott in the director's seat and inserts sci-fi clichés and predictable thriller aspects, resulting in this overlong and unnecessary picture.

Cameron seems to spend a good length developing characters that are either unlikable and just there for the sake of dying, with a total disregard for driving the story forward. Even in comparing character development to "Alien", the sequel proves weaker. "Alien" was able to develop deeper and realistic characters in a much shorter timeframe, and didn't need more characters than the story required.

Anything new to Cameron's picture is nothing more than convenient plot-devices, thus lacking any shred of cleverness. Aside from Weaver's presence, the film hardly reminds us of the original. The film leaps too forward without any respect for its roots, totally lacking gratefulness.

At no point in the film is it easy to actually point out how "Aliens" is a necessary/needed follow up. The film may very well have worked better as it's own with all new characters and no continuity to "Alien", but it simply just doesn't work as a follow up; which is actually disappointing because if you want to look at what a "good" sequel is, Cameron accomplished it with "Terminator 2: Judgment Day". Everything on which the story stands relies on "The Terminator", however it doesn't need the "remember when"s to move forward. With "Aliens", the story itself is not heavily relied on by "Alien", and again, pretty much Weaver is our only feeling of continuation. And again, given the fact that it's just a small and irrelevant reminder, the movie simply doesn't work as a sequel but rather a film of it's own. The fact of the matter is, it's not a film of its own; "Aliens" is a sequel, and it simply wasn't done right.

Was it entertaining? Sure, whatever. But upon examining filmmaking basics, however, the film fails at the follow up aspect story-wise and goes way off in a direction of its own. That's not a bad thing if it's an original movie. It's not even a bad thing for a sequel of the film shows heavy purpose in the decision to ranch off.

After watching "Aliens", if the question rose: "Why does this particular story need to be a follow up to 'Alien'? What is it about 'Alien' that this film needs to be in the same continuity?" The answer is that it doesn't. "Alien" was a successful film, therefore the studio can have a head-start at making another film by throwing in meaningless nods and references to the successful film preceding it in hopes that this film ("Aliens") will be just as successful. Cameron probably wouldn't even be able to give a solidly confident contradiction to this claim.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Matrix

The Wachowski brothers deliver a tasty sci-fi thriller that everyone from bully to nerd can't resist. Reeves, who makes his one dimensional acting work here, plays a computer hacker who is believed to be the coming savior of a futuristic simulated reality controlled by artificial intelligence—Hugo Weaving almost steals the film as one of these sentient machines. Chong, Fishburne, Moss and Pantoliano all do an excellent job as the supporting cast of this classic joyride. However, the remainder of the rebellion is extremely underdeveloped, but the pros of the film are so great that they overshadow such a flaw.

The Invention of Lying

Cute but pointless comedy set in a world where people don't lie, about a writer who learns how to lie and uses it for his personal gain. Gervais is funny, but the role is so interchangeable that it doesn't make a difference who plays the main character—the same goes with the rest of the characters. This flaw could pass if the story is strong enough, but even that barely grips onto any conflict and is more of just a wallow in the main character's own self-pity and regret. Yet it's a comedy that isn't afraid to be serious when it needs to be, and the mood works.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Indiana Jones is back for a third round, battling the Nazis again while tracking down his father (Connery) who suddenly went missing while searching for the Holy Grail. Ford, Elliot and Rhys-Davies all reprise their roles from "Raiders", but this time their performances seem to have better chemistry with each other. Sean Connery nearly steals the show as the arrogant and gruff Professor Henry Jones, Sr. Doody makes a better love interest and has more to do with the story than just the token girl that Allen and Capshaw unfortunately got stuck with. From the opening scene with Phoenix portraying a young Indiana Jones, to the climax at the Canyon of the Crescent Moon, this is easily marked as the peak of the series. Absolutely stunning.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

The second installment in the Indiana Jones series and prequel to "Raiders of the Lost Ark" has as many pros as it does cons. The action sequences are much more explosive and thrilling, but this outing doesn't seem to have a heart (no pun intended). It was thrilling for the sake of being thrilling, with very little relevance to the story. Annoyingly no other reprising characters aside from Ford, who is still the awesome archaeologist, on an adventure to return a sacred precious stone that was stolen from a village that believes evil spirits have taken their children away from them. You can see where this story tries to prevent itself from falling after slipping on a banana peel, right? And its self-awareness of the dreadfully annoying love interest (Capshaw) and sidekick (Ke Quan) doesn't pay off in any way. From the start, the film is doomed (again, no pun intended) during the opening credits playing over a corny Capshaw performing Cole Porter's 1934 classic "Anything Goes", its presence in this film unnecessary in every single form. But this film is saved by the beautiful setting of Indian, and a ritual scene about an hour into the film which caused so much controversy that the MPAA created PG-13!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Raiders of the Lost Ark

The first installment into the Indiana Jones Series, which follows the archaeologist/adventurer to Nepal and Egypt for the search of biblical artifact The Ark of the Covenant. Groundbreaking picture; a roller coaster ride of a movie, with premium action sequences—but it fails to give the viewer any room to breathe. Ford is absolutely wonderful and irreplaceable as Dr. Jones, but neither Allen or her character Marion Ravenwood can earn the same keep as the main character. While the film succeeds in fun and thrilling entertainment, there's no excuse for the action in your climatic sequence to be far more inferior than the nail-biting close-calls that preceded it. Denholm Elliott and John Rhys-Davies are SO underused.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Wrestler

After being forced to retired, wrestling star Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Rourke) finds difficulty in building and rebuilding a life outside of the ring. Rourke fits the role perfectly, and is one of the best performances of his career. Tomei and Wood are also great in their supporting roles as the lover-interest stripper and Robinson's distantly neglected daughter, respectfully. It may be all six "Rocky" films rolled into one, but it's certainly touching to say the least. The ending may not be the most original, but there was no better way to end this story. Aronofsky makes another classic.