Friday, February 26, 2010

Shutter Island

Scorsese's first feature-length film since "The Departed" finds itself wallowing in the shoes of a meaningless and predictable thriller. DiCaprio plays U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels, who's investigating the disappearance of a dangerous mental patient (Mortimer). Accompanied by a new partner (Ruffalo), Teddy begins to question whether they're investigating an escapee or if the patients and staff on Shutter Island are involved in a conspiracy that will hinder their investigation and even their safety. The film neither starts nor ends on a high note, there is no peak in this "thriller", and the clichéd choppiness of the filming in order to create a sense of delusion ceases to impress in the slightest. From the beginning, you know how this one will end. The splendid acting by all actors, including even those who are portraying minor characters, is grade A; and the claustrophobic mood of being stuck on the beautiful, but creepy, Shutter Island is where Scorsese's talent can be seen. There is also some noteworthy scares.

The Machinist

Bale shows his determination at being a method-actor, in this delusional thriller by Brad Anderson, by losing a record-breaking sixty-three pounds (Bale wanted to lose more) in order to render the appearance of a man who hasn't slept in over a year. Trevor Reznik (Bale) is an industrial working insomniac whose grip on reality is slowly deteriorating and struggles to find answers to such mysterious events that begin to unravel in his everyday life: hangman post-it notes on his refrigerator, a new coworker named Ivan (Sharian) that seems to bring doubt every time he appears in Trevor's life, and a waitress (Sánchez-Gijón) who has befriended Trevor and also has a strikingly familiar relationship with her son Nicholas (Moore) that Trevor had with his mother. An overall original, interesting and thrilling film; with Anderson creating an uneasy mood of paranoia and distrust. The film tends to linger for a little while after it has made its point.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Shield

A cleverly written crime-drama about the officers in The Barn (a rundown Los Angeles police station), finds itself a bit redundant at many points in its seven season, yet ceases to lower the adrenaline rush. Michael Chiklis steals the show as the memorable (yet at times, over-the-top) Vic Mackey, who runs the Strike Team, a tactical unit of three other detectives, when behind closed doors are all corrupt. Throughout the series we see how the Strike Team dodges bullets from deadbeat criminals and cooks up excuses to get around close-calls with the honest officers. The grittiness camera-work creates realism, but its far-fetched story-arc makes everything a bit contradictory. While intense and fulfilling upon first watch, it's hardly worth re-watching since each episode is mainly buildup after buildup to a climatic season finale. Unlike a lot of endings, though, it closes most of (if not all) open doors and loses any mercy it once had for its characters, making it one of the greatest series finales of all-time. The whole series is worth the watch, just to see its satisfying and unforgettable conclusion.


The story of three grown sisters (Adams, Boyle and Stevenson), their parents (Gazzara, Lasser) and the colorful (yet dark) characters that find their way into each of the five Jordan family members' everyday life. The five main characters are somewhat of an oasis in the film, being the most normal and least dark of all the other characters, which gives us breathing room to absorb the sinister characters that surround them. Funny, disturbing and eye-opening; the concept, character interaction and dialogue are wonderful. While unpleasant and, at many times, vulgar; in the end, it is a truly remarkable film.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"Death Note"

Light Yagami, an intelligent high school student, embarks on a crusade of secrecy after finding a notebook known as the Death Note, which gives him the power to kill anyone when their name is written inside of it. He attempts to rule the world, killing criminals by writing their names in the Death Note. A Shinigami (a "death god") possess a Death Note and can only be seen by a person who uses it. Ryuk is Light's Shinigami, and the two (neither friend nor foe) journey together as Light attempts to take out every bad guy and ultimately by God of a new world. But trouble arouses when a brilliant detective, known as L, takes on the case and begins to outwit Light. A triumph in the manga world. The show always keeps its audience on edge and their ceases to be a dull moment. Merciless to the end, the characters are very three-dimensional and the story is satisfyingly unpredictable. In a tale with such a controversial main character, it finds itself explaining (or justifying) things through dialogue instead of action, which kind of feels like we as the audience are being underestimated. Perhaps maybe some of us are, as there tends to be a line between the fans who support and who are against Light Yagami. A truly powerful series.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"The Wire"

Set in Baltimore, with story lines of crime and law intertwined with each other. The show mainly follows Jimmy McNulty (West) and his fellow detectives and superiors; as well as street level drug dealers of the Barksdale Organization, led by Avon Barksdale (Harris). Corruption becomes a subplot and seasonal theme including: the city port (Season 2), the political scene (Season 3), the school system (Season 4) and the media (Season 5). Praised for its realism, which includes some slow spots as well as the killing off of its most well-developed characters at random points in the series. While things slow down and speed up at many points of the series, there ceases to be anything remotely uninteresting. The amount of characters that come and go become very overwhelming to the point that you stop becoming shocked when a character is written off. It's lack of a main character and it's predictable finale are flaws, but easily overlooked by intriguing story lines.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Stepfather

Update of the 1987 film of the same name, with Walsh taking the title role. Walsh's stepfather is just as charming and just as convincingly psychotic as O'Quinn's was. The film starts out very promising, with a smart story and plenty of scares and creeps; but it begins to deteriorate when the hero (Bagley) is introduced, and who is even more unlikable than the purposely unlikable stepfather. The dark mood continues and the film remains watchable, until the middle of the film has passed and you realize that there's nothing building, only just an approaching climatic sequence which will probably be sudden, dull and disappointing. And as predicted, it is. Like "Disturbia" in a lot of ways, and shares similar pros and cons. Walsh doesn't really escape Dr. McNamara, but the passive-aggressive personality works well in this film. O'Quinn declined a cameo appearance.

"The Sopranos"

"The Godfather" of television, but aside from it's acclaim and mobster characters, the two are nothing alike. Tony Soprano is forced to go to a psychiatrist after a series of panic attacks. His psychiatrist learns that Tony is actually part of two families -- in one family he is a loving father yet not-so-perfect-husband, and in the other family he is a ruthless wiseguy. After analysis, Dr. Melfi concludes that Tony's problems actually derive from his mother Livia, who's suspected to have borderline-personality disorder. Gandolfini is rightfully praised as the main character; yet Bracco and Marchand aren't nearly as recognized for their equally and talented performances as the psychiatrist and mother, respectively. Falco, Imperioli and DeMatteo are acclaimed for their brilliant supporting roles. Van Zandt (from the E-Street Band) plays his first and only role as Tony's best friend, and is quite convincing and latching. Chianese, the only recurring actor to have actually appeared in a Godfather film, plays Tony's uncle and on-and-off nemesis. Many fans also enjoyed characters played by Pastore, Ventimiglia, Curatola, Proval, Pantoliano, Lip, Sciorra and Buscemi. Tony's children are "okay" but not notable (with the exception of Iler's stunning performance in the third-to-last episode, "The Second Coming"); Sirico and Schirripa are unconvincing and over-the-top, but the show is too strong for them to hold it back. Even as the show continues for over six season, it ceases to have a dull or predictable moment.

The Dark Knight

Nolan returns to the helm of what many consider the perfect Batman film. Bale, Caine, Oldman, Freeman, Murphy and McFarlane all reprise their roles spectacularly and flawlessly without upstaging one another nor their performances from "Begins". Holmes is replaced with Gyllenhaal, who look nothing alike, but the story itself is too strong to be setback by a recast. Heath Ledger portrays the most chaotic and theatrical -- yet most convincing, memorable and realistic -- Joker to date. The Joker is as amusing as he is intimidating, and will stop at nothing. Ledger's role isn't as pronounced as Nicholson's was in the 1989 film, which is actually a stronger move because it avoids any upstaging. Hans Zimmer's wonderful muddling score just adds to The Joker's prominence. Eckhart makes Harvey Dent his own. Nolan succeeds in continuing an absolutely plausible take on a renewed Batman series… it's almost too real for some people. It's conservative undertones can be excused for its moral depth.

Halloween II

Like many sequels, it's inferior to the previous film. Like many directors who return to make a sequel, they've developed a major ego since between the first and second installment was made (you'll notice the same with Tim Burton in the Batman series). Like many sequels, the story miraculously isn't over despite the feeling of closure at the end of the last film. The film picks up where the first one left off (or ENDED, actually), and spirals down to every stereotype a sequel has — even silly dream sequences that really aren't necessary… but Zombie will do anything to a story, even ruin one like he did with this, as long as his untalented wife gets a role in the film. All the survivors from the first have changed in character so greatly for the worse, you begin to wish they won't be as lucky this time around as they were in the first film. Taylor-Compton made a great up-and-coming Scream Queen in the first, but in this one she is just dreadful; screaming for the sake of screaming. McDowell is more theatrical in his performance as Dr. Loomis, which is completely out of character of any version of Loomis from the previous films, even McDowell's previous performance. The only thing worth seeing is the creepy beard that hangs out from under Michael's mask, and eventually his face (obscured by shadows though). In the director's cut, you hear his first line; which is a milestone, but almost not even worth it.


Zombie delivers a satisfying installment, which is actually a mixture of both remake and reboot. The film becomes an in-depth look at Michael Myers, from a child to a monster. The middle of the film is almost a shot-for-shot remake of the 1978 film, à la the remake of "Psycho", except it actually works in this film. The history of Michael Myers is tied up neatly in a nice little package, instead of plot-device after plot-device like the old series ended up doing. Where the film falls short is an unnecessary outdrawn ending, which makes the actual remake section of the film look like the middle child of three films crunched into one. As usual, Zombie doesn't disappoint in the gore or scare department, but things become a bit of overkill as the film nears the conclusion. Not "overkill" as in that it goes too far, but rather "overkill" in that the violence and scares become so repetitive that you become immune to it by the film's end. A real treat (perhaps a trick to some) for Michael Myers fans.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Batman & Robin

In order to cash in while Batman was still hot, a fourth installment was whipped up with plenty of campy dialogue, corny action sequences and lazy story lines to criticize a decade later. Even the title of the film itself couldn't be more unoriginal. Clooney replaces Kilmer who replaced Keaton — couldn't you tell this was a lost cause? Schwarzenegger gets top billing (à la Nicholson in the original), but the interesting casting and live-action adaptation of Mr. Freeze is too laughable and unrealistic to even deserve the slightest compliment. Even the rest of the all-star cast, especially Thurman as Poison Ivy, is too unbearable to watch. Schumacher has even gone on record to apologize for this disaster of a film, acknowledging that an extra year would've made a huge difference — and his self-awareness earns him some sympathy. Just look, each of the previous Batman films had a three year gap between… except this one. It was rushed… probably due to greed. This is what happens when greed takes over an art form, and watching as the film crumbled one horrible scene after another is somewhat satisfying because you're watching a money-hungry production plummet.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Hurt Locker

Two men (Mackie and Geraghty) question their loyalty to their Army bomb squad when a reckless Sergeant First Class (Renner) takes over in the final five weeks of their tour in Iraq. A gripping story and a talented cast. But you have to wonder where the film is going. There are no memorable characters like Brando's Col. Kurtz from "Apocalypse Now" or Emery's Gny. Sgt. Hartman from "Full Metal Jacket", which is fine if you have an untold story… but even the film fails at that. There's nothing notable about this story or its characters. What this film contains are your average Joes, in everyday war situations. One can argue that there's nothing wrong with that. But you have to wonder, why not just make a documentary instead? In fact, the film may have been perfect had it been a documentary. But it wasn't. Instead, they waste three strong actors by giving them bland characters and (worst of all) pointless cameos from A-list actors that didn't move the story along at all. So what it has come down to is that it's documentary-like… except it's actually just another filmmaker's interpretation, which we've all seen before.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Mrs. Doubtfire

You know when you read something like, "Fun for the whole family", and you're like, "Yeah right"… well, this film actually is. The kids will love the talented Williams playing a divorced father who disguises himself brilliantly, convincingly and humorously as an old English nanny; while the grown ups will be shocked at how crude the film actually gets, but can't resist laughing and continuing to watch. The film disguises R-rated-like humor by mixing in family fun… which could be criticized, but shouldn't because it's actually fun and harmless. Brosnan and Field are wonderful as supporting characters, and the two actually are memorable in their performance despite being upstaged by Williams at his best. The three children are strikingly convincing in their roles and cease to fall into the category of painfully cutesy brats that Hollywood typically casts. The story is long but solid; the climatic sequence is saddening but genius and true. Despite Williams having to be so theatrical in the title role, the film itself seems a bit modest. This should be at the top of every critic's list of "greatest family films".

Monday, February 1, 2010


Shaffer adapts his play into film, which chronicles composer Antonio Salieri (Abraham) and his plot to ruin Amadeus Mozart (Hulce). Historically inaccurate, but then again… it's not a biography. Even though Salieri knows Mozart is a genius, his jealousy craves the ranting towards Mozart's music, such as the Emporer's (Jones) criticism of one of Mozart's pieces having "too many notes". It appears Forman and Shaffer should have taken their own advice, as the film starts to drag significantly during the second half, mainly due to drawn out opera scenes. As the film comes to an end, the viewer can't help but feel satisfied by, not only a well-told story, but also (and more importantly) the brilliance of music contained in the film. Hulce was extremely critical about playing music, with musical scholars complimenting that every note of music matches that seen on screen, which is both a film and musical triumph!