Ace in the Hole (4/20/12)

Ace in the HoleMovie Ninety

Ace in the Hole is a unique noir from the legendary Billy Wilder starring  Kirk Douglas that takes no holds barred against the media’s mentality of getting a scoop.

In the film, Chuck Tatum (Douglas) travels from New York to New Mexico as his career is faltering. He gets the story of a lifetime one day when he learns of a man trapped in a cave collapse. Tatum manipulates the story, which gains huge nationwide interest, and controls the media circus for profit until Tatum’s luck runs out.

I will admit that it took me quite a long time to warm up to Ace in the Hole, which disappointed me. I’m a huge fan of Wilder’s work, having already reviewed Some Like it Hot and The Seven Year Itch this year, I am also a fan of his darker films. It’s not to say Ace in the Hole is a bad film, it’s not at all but it is perhaps too slow to gain momentum. I also found Kirk Douglas to simply be wrong for the role of Chuck Tatum, he simply isn’t slimy enough.

Regardless of my initial hesitations with Ace in the Hole, the second half of the film had a hold on me. We can guess that things are not going to end well for Tatum, but watching the events unfold is much like a train wreck. Ace in the Hole is certainly something I could watch again at some point, but it is not at the top of any of my ‘favorites’ lists.

I give it 4 mean looking Kirk Douglas’ out of 5.

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The Thin Blue Line (4/20/12)

The Thin Blue LineMovie Eighty Nine

The Thin Blue Line is an atypical documentary about the murder case of a police officer where events portrayed are in the past and reenacted for the film, but the details slowly unravel and show the facts have changed.

The focal point of the film is Randall Dale Adams, who was falsely accused and sentenced to death for the 1976 murder of a police officer. The crux of the case came from the testimony of a young drifter named David Ray Harris. The film begins with interviews from the two men and then builds the rest of the evidence from the case as well as the background of area and the people. We soon start seeing a picture of injustice.

Normally, I balk at documentaries that force a viewpoint on you and show a biased set of actions but The Thin Blue Line seems to be mostly unbiased, actually. My initial concerns were soon gone as the film progressed. The interesting thing about the film, looking back now, is that this was all done before DNA evidence still. I’m sure there are countless wrong convictions, some of which have since been overturned with new DNA evidence, but that isn’t the case here. The new evidence is a clear showing of a lack of wanting a conviction for the wrong person.

For those of you that prefer reading to viewing a movie, I was very much reminded of the nonfiction John Grisham story The Innocent Man. It’s a similar case of small town injustice in the legal system.

While The Thin Blue Line is a bit dated, it’s very interesting. I love documentaries that still let you decide things for yourself without being too slanted and I have never seen quite a film such as this. Immediately after watching, I took to the Internet to find out more, a sign that the film did its job.

I give it 4 spilled milkshakes out of 5.

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Attack the Block (4/19/12)

Attack the BlockMovie Eighty Eight

Attack the Block is a modern sci-fi/horror movie with a comedic sense out of the UK that is more charming than some similar movies that have come out of Hollywood, but still falls a bit short.

When Attack the Block was released it seemed to surprise everyone that viewed it since it came out of nowhere. When I first read a review of it I had never even heard of it before and I was instantly curious about it. Fast forward to now and I’m sad to say I don’t believe Attack the Block truly lives up to the hype. It’s not a bad movie by any stretch, it does what it sets out to do quite admirably, it just felt a bit shallow to me.

The plot kicks in right from the start. A woman is walking home and is greeted by teenage thugs, but while they are mugging her a meteor-type-thing falls into a nearby car. An alien appears, the thugs kill it and go on about their thuggish ways. Then more aliens appear, but this time they are even meaner and bigger and they mean business. It’s up to this group of street toughs to save the world.

Some things that didn’t work for me would be the kids and the lack of any backstory or explanation. These kids that mug a woman in the first few minutes of the film are the heroes? Sure, the woman becomes their ally later, but how many other women have they mugged? The main guy, Moses (John Boyega) is an unwilling hero, but I didn’t find him particularly likable or anything. Also, the aliens come and go without any reason. That isn’t a fault, per se, in fact it helps keep the movie focused, but I would have liked to know a bit more. The aliens themselves are really neat looking, and for a low-budget movie like this the special effects are pretty good.

I certainly didn’t hate Attack the Block, I did enjoy it but there was nothing that really grabbed me. I watched it and was interested, but once it was over I was fine with that. Sci-fi/horror buffs or fans of Nick Frost will probably enjoy watching it, but it’s not the genre’s savior film like I would have liked it to be.

I give it 3 “those aren’t eyes” out of 5.

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Shame (4/18/12)

ShameMovie Eighty Seven

Shame is a film I would recommend everyone to see. It’s certainly not easy to sit through, but it is absolutely mesmerizing.

I watched writer/director Steve McQueen’s (no, not the Steve McQueen from The Great Escape) previous film, Hunger late last year and found it to be both horrific and beautiful. The acting is some of the finest in cinematic history and instantly shot Michael Fassbender to the top of my greatest actors list. There is a particular shot in that film that lasts for close to 18 minutes and is chock-full of complex dialogue that is probably more dialogue than the rest of the film combined. It’s absolutely amazing. Shame also has several very long shots and some equally awesome moments that show McQueen really can capture lightning in a bottle twice.

For Shame Michael Fassbender plays Brandon, a sex addict living in New York. Soon after, his sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), visits him and throws his world off kilter. Brandon and Sissy have a relationship that could safely be called “totally messed up”. Brandon clearly has a problem having her around and it seems that could be due to past events we are unaware of, or because it brings his addiction to the forefront of his mind. As the two interact, we find out more about them and their personal issues.

We are never given reasons behind Brandon’s addiction we are only shown it exists and how he deals with it. We see how it negatively affects his life and on a particularly self-destructive bender, we see how sick he truly is and he gets no pleasure from this, only pain. Michael Fassbender is absolutely resplendent in this role and you really sympathize with Brandon’s plight. Carey Mulligan also gives an amazing performance. The beauty in every shot is stunning at times, despite some of the ugly things happening on screen. Steve McQueen is new to filmmaking, but he has proven that his name means quality.

Shame is strictly for adults only. It’s NC-17 rating strikes me as a bit odd since I didn’t think the material was overly graphic, certainly not nearly as much as In the Realm of the Senses. That said, however, the subject matter is also very adult. I’m sure many kids (when I say kids, I mean teens) would see this film for the sex alone and not really grasp the point. Shame is very adult, but it’s not as gratuitous as I was expecting. Michael Fassbender was absolutely robbed for the best actor Academy Award.

I give it 5 singing Carey Mulligans out of 5.

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Wings of Desire (4/16/12)

Wings of DesireMovie Eighty Six

Wings of Desire is a stunningly beautiful cinematic experience from writer/director Wim Wenders. The film is literally poetry in motion.

There are many reasons we watch movies. Sometimes we want to see explosions and action and just want to be entertained without having to really think about the film we’re watching. On the other side of the spectrum, we have films like Wings of Desire that push us to think and demand our attention and consideration. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the mindless action movie, but to me they simply aren’t nearly as memorable.

Wings of Desire is about two immortal angels (Bruno Ganz and Otto Sander) that watch over Berlin. They cannot be seen, except by young children, and the only interaction with people is a comforting hand on a shoulder or a hug. One of the angels, Damiel (Ganz) falls in love with a beautiful acrobat (Solveig Dommartin) and makes the decision to become mortal to be with her.

While the film is primarily black and white, which is to show the dull world from the eyes of the angels, there are several color scenes and things become color after Damiel becomes mortal. As the angels listen to the thoughts and feelings of the humans they watch over, the dialogue could literally be taken as poetry.

I cannot recommend Wings of Desire enough, it is honestly one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. It knows when to be lighthearted but it also knows when to be absolutely serious. My only complaint is that it does not have a definitive conclusion and sets itself up for its sequel, Faraway, So Close and call me cynical, but I can’t imagine that film being nearly as magical as Wings of Desire.

I give it 5 Berlin walls out of 5.

Addendum: Adding this beautiful art for Wings of Desire that I just discovered minutes after finishing this post.

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7 x 7 Link Award

7x7 Link Award

Welly well well well…

It seems I’ve been put up for two of these 7×7 Link Awards from two very talented, handsome individuals. So, first off, huge thanks to Mark ( and Cinemaniac ( I started this blog on March 3rd, so I’ve been at this for a little over six weeks and I am absolutely in love with it. My original goal to watch 300 movies this year is something I am still striving for, but simply writing my thoughts on the movies I watch is rewarding enough on its own.

Here are the rules I’ve conveniently copy/pasted from other blogs

Rule #1: Tell everyone something that no one else knows about you.

Rule #2: Link to one of the posts that I personally think best fits the following categories:
Most Beautiful Piece,
Most Helpful Piece,
Most Popular Piece,
Most Controversial Piece,
Most Surprisingly Successful Piece,
Most Underrated Piece,
Most Pride-Worthy Piece.

Rule #3: Pass this award on to seven other bloggers.

Something no one else knows about me:
I’m lactose intolerant. Actually, I’m not sure what people DO know about me so allow me to introduce myself. My name is Andy, I’m 29 years old and living in the Chicago area. I’ve had a lifelong love affair with movies and I have always wanted to track what I watch in a year, and this was a logical next step above that. In addition to movies, I am a huge video game fanatic, I enjoy music, and bicycling. I’ve been married for about two and half years. I have a miniature poodle named Lebowski.

Most Beautiful Piece
To be honest, I don’t consider anything I’ve written to be beautiful but the most beautiful movie I’ve written about is most certainly Baraka. Watching and then writing about Baraka was bittersweet because I watched it the night my father passed away. Movies are an escape and I wanted to be engrossed in something beautiful. Baraka was perfect.

Most Helpful Piece
Again, not really sure if my blog could be considered helpful…Man, this is tough. I’m sure I’ve recommended movies that people haven’t seen, so I suppose recommending an amazing movie would be considered helpful. In that regard, I think my review of Letter Never Sent is my most helpful. I got very little feedback on it, so that’s another reason why I’m bringing it up again here. Seriously, this movie was phenomenal. See it. 

Most Popular Piece
I haven’t been doing this for very long so I’m afraid I’m not terribly popular…Yet. One day, world. One day…Anyway, to date my most “liked” and commented review was for Memento. As of this second it’s sitting at 16 likes and 32 comments which I’m pretty pumped about. I do a little dance in my head every time anyone likes one of my posts so this is pretty awesome. Oh, Memento is pretty awesome too. Coincidence? 

Most Controversial Piece
There are two reviews I did that I could consider controversial, one of the films I liked a lot and one I thought was fairly mediocre. The first movie was The Adventures of Tintin which I enjoyed a bit but found it kind of dull. Others seemed to enjoy it quite a bit so I’m not sure if I should give this one another shot or just wait for the inevitable sequel. The film I loved but others did not was Gladiator. The great things about movies is that we can all take away a different experience, so I’m glad to have some differences of opinion that have been civil.

Most Surprisingly Successful Piece
Without a doubt, my first successful blog is also the one I am the most surprised by. When I watched Troll Hunter I had no idea I would like the movie. I also had no idea so many other people would be interested in it. Troll Hunter is a fine film, don’t get me wrong, I just didn’t think it had the appeal. Chances are, this may have been the first blog of mine you read.

Most Underrated Piece
I’m going to go back to one of my early reviews for this, since I was literally an unknown when I wrote it. The 1933 version of King Kong is one of my absolute favorites and I quite like my review of it. I don’t really have anything else to say about it but please read it. In fact, you can find all my old reviews linked in the monthly recap pages linked at the top of the page. I’ve been meaning to go back to all my old reviews and add links to explain my rating, that’s one thing I started doing after I had already written like 40 blogs to help explain what the hell I was rating. 

Most Pride-Worthy Piece
Honestly, if I can’t choose Memento again because of its popularity I’d have to choose my blog about the Ebertfest line-up. I am incredibly excited to be going to Ebertfest (5 more days!!!). I didn’t actually contribute a lot to the post, I mostly copied it from Roger Ebert’s own site but I’m just proud that I’m getting to go this year with my good buddy Julian.

As for the seven bloggers I’d like to pass this on to…It’s really tough to pick just seven but here they are in no particular order:

If you aren’t on that list, do not despair. I still love you and your blog. Really, I do.

So to wrap up this enormous post (I really didn’t intend for it to be this long) I would like to say THANK YOU and thanks for reading, commenting, liking, tweeting, and just visiting my site.


Memento (4/14/12)

MementoMovie Eighty Five

Memento is the type of movie that plays with your mind so much that you may want to immediately watch it again as soon as the credits start rolling. After their success with the Batman franchise, I think the Nolan brother’s other films  have gotten the proper attention than when they were released.

There is literally no other film like Memento and there are few who could write or direct a film as interweaving without making a total mess of things. The continuity alone could destroy a film like this. Luckily for us, Memento may be confusing to follow but it is a taut psychological thriller.

The film happens in reverse order and are spliced between a scene that happens in regular time. The two timelines eventually become one at the film’s climax. The main character, Leonard (Guy Pearce), sustained an injury and has a condition that prevents him from retaining any short term memories. He does, however, remember everything that happened up until his injury, including the rape and death of his wife. His mission is vengeance for his wife, but his condition makes this tricky. He keeps notes and Polaroids to help as well as tattoos, but we soon learn his methods are not perfect and the people around him may be deceiving him on purpose.

When a film has a reverse sequence of events it is usually hard to surprise the audience, but Memento does. Information is slowly trickled to us and things begin to make sense for us, but it’s easy to forget some things that just happened, much like Leonard’s condition.

While not a perfect film, Memento makes it hard to dislike. What could easily feel gimmicky or cliche is done with care and will likely leave you second guessing everything you are seeing happen in front of you. Few films can present everything in a manner that shows but also deceives without going over your head. Be sure to pay close attention when watching for all the clues.

I give it 5 Memento timeline explanations out of 5. (spoiler warning for those that haven’t seen the film)

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