From Hell (11/11/12)

From HellMovie Two Hundred Fifty Nine

The hunt is on for an investigator to find the identity of Jack the Ripper in From Hell.

After the kidnapping of a prostitute in London, followed by the murder of another nearby, Mary Kelly (Heather Graham) and her peers find themselves part of a large conspiracy and manhunt for the killer. Inspector Frederick Abberline (Johnny Depp) becomes involved and through his opium binges, gets visions of the case. Several more prostitutes are brutally murdered and Abberline suspects the killer is medically trained, and involves a royal family physician, William Gull (Ian Holm). Soon, Abberline finds the hunt for Jack the Ripper is more intricate than he imagined.

While I’ve never read the graphic novel that From Hell is based on, I honestly can’t say that I would look forward to it. I was always put off by its length (nearly 575 pages), despite my interest in the Whitechapel murders and Jack the Ripper. From Hell is a serviceable movie, though it plods along for far too long in the middle and by the end, the pacing was ruined and I didn’t care so much about the outcome. Even though I had seen this film before, I had forgotten the finer details of the plot, including most of the ending.

One thing that really stood out in From Hell is the widely varying accents of the actors. While some of the actors are, in fact, British, Depp and Graham are obviously not and they both choose very awkward manners of speaking. While this isn’t the type of detail that would normally ruin a movie for me, I found myself disinterested in the plot and focusing on their forced accents. At least it made From Hell go by quicker.

Still, as far as Jack the Ripper movies go, From Hell is one of the better ones I’ve seen. While the Whitechapel murder cases are famously unsolved, From Hell does have a sound theory on who the killer was. It’s a theory that makes a lot of sense, but is brought down a bit by the rest of the movie. From Hell is definitely recommended for Jack the Ripper fans, but looking at just the movie, without the lore, it’s bland and uninteresting.

I give it 3 substituting absinthe for opium out of 5.

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Do you buy or rent movies? (Friday Question Fun)

Friday Question Fun

Since I think this is strictly a US thing…for those of you outside the US, the day after Thanksgiving most stores have huge sales/promotions in an effort to kick off holiday shopping called Black Friday. Malls become filled with pushy shoppers, streets become littered with idiotic drivers, and wallets become empty and abused. But man, some deals can be had!

So the question this week is split:

Do you normally buy or rent movies?

If you are in the US, what Black Friday deals are you taking advantage of?

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Planes, Trains & Automobiles (11/18/12 & 12/28/12)

Planes, Trains & AutomobilesMovie Two Hundred Sixty Five and Two Hundred Ninety Nine

An ad executive desperately tries to get home to Chicago from New York in time for Thanksgiving in Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Two days before Thanksgiving, Neal Page (Steve Martin),an ad executive, is in New York on a business meeting trying to catch his plane back to Chicago to be with his family. While trying to snatch a cab from a sleazy lawyer, someone else gets in and Neal chases after it, startling the passenger. At the airport, Neal arrives at the gate just in time but the flight is delayed. While waiting, he sees the man that stole his cab and finds out his name is Del Griffith (John Candy), a shower ring salesman. Neal is annoyed by Del but after a string of bad luck and misfortunes, the two stick together trying to get back to Chicago.

I skipped ahead to make sure this one got published in time for Thanksgiving. I hate summarizing comedies because it’s impossible to make a movie sound funny in a paragraph talking about the plot. Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a film that is funny regardless of the season, but there aren’t a ton of Thanksgiving movies out there so why not watch it around this time of year? The ‘everything that can go wrong, will go wrong’ series of events always has me in stitches and individually, Martin and Candy are two of my favorite comedic actors, so naturally, together they are a riot.

There are scenes in Planes, Trains and Automobiles that make me laugh uncontrollably every single time I see it. It’s not that the moments are a surprise, they are just completely hilarious to me. The series of events that befall Neal and Del is always a bit of a surprise to me since I never quite remember the exact order of everything, which helps keep Planes, Trains and Automobiles fresh regardless of how many times I’ve seen it. As with most other John Hughes movies, Planes, Trains and Automobiles has a heart to it between all the comedy and if you’ve never seen the film before, the ending may surprise you.

A while back, I wrote about another Hughes/Candy film, Uncle Buck, where I state that it’s my second favorite Candy film after this one and watching Planes, Trains and Automobiles again solidifies that point for me. Hughes had such a talent for writing and directing and he and Candy worked amazingly well together. Not only is Planes, Trains and Automobiles one of the finest films of both their careers, it’s one of my favorite comedies ever.

I give it 5 “those aren’t pillows!” out of 5.

Happy Thanksgiving!

PS – It kills me to write out the title of the film with an Oxford comma

[Update] I was lucky enough to get to see Planes, Trains and Automobiles at a midnight showing in a theater and it was better than I imagined. The owner of the theater even got dressed up as Del Griffith (check out my Facebook page for a picture). While my eyelids started getting heavy after their car burns, the whole movie was a joy to see in the theater. Candy and Martin’s expressions and movements were somehow exaggerated and I thought the film was even funnier than normal. We had a great time.

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Decalogue V (11/11/12)

Decalogue DekalogMovie Two Hundred Fifty Eight

The Decalogue is a series of ten films loosely based on the ten commandments.

At a glance, it would be easy to write off Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Decalogue as religious propaganda or something similar, but that does not seem to be the intention. This is not a heavy handed approach to religion, or even morality. Though there are ten films in the series, each film does not explicitly follow a single commandment. In fact, the series focuses more on people than religion. The films are simple but powerful and though originally shot for Polish television, they are shot beautifully. The quality of the picture is not amazing and the translation seems a bit loose at times, but once you find yourself wrapped up in the story, you likely won’t even notice these things.

Decalogue V

We see a young, aspiring lawyer named Piotr (Krzysztof Globisz) is taking the bar exam. Cut to Warsaw where a young man, Jacek (Miroslaw Baka) is wandering around looking for an empty taxi stand. He pulls awful pranks on people as he wanders around, asks for a photo of a young girl to be enlarged, gets a bite to eat while looking at some rope and a large stick in his bag. He finally finds an empty cab on the street and lies to a couple that wishes to share the cab. The cab driver (Jan Tesarz) has spent the morning doing nothing but ogling a young girl and driving off as a joke when people are about to get in his taxi. Jacek tells the driver to drive to a secluded area where he brutally kills him for seemingly no reason. Jacek then ends up facing the death penalty, futilely represented by Piotr.

I had a hard time with Decalogue V even though it is the only film that seems to take a firm stance of what is right and wrong. While neither the cab driver or Jacek are shown to be good people, the lawyer makes his point that all life is sacred and he does not agree with the death penalty, which is obviously Kieslowski’s view as well. It’s not that I disagree, it’s just that the film makes both the killer and the victim completely unlikable making it more difficult to choose a viewpoint. Even though the cab driver is not a good person, his life still has worth as a human being, right? That is the purpose of Decalogue V. This film starts off particularly confusing since it introduces three seemingly unconnected characters, but it soon makes its point apparent but never hits the same marks that past films in the series do.

I give it 4 out of 5.

Decalogue V was extended and remade as the film A Short Film About Killing.

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Mallrats (11/10/12) – Nostalgiathon

MallratsNostalgiathon 2012 badge

Movie Two Hundred Fifty Seven

In Mallrats, after being dumped by both of their girlfriends, two friends head to the mall.

TS Quint (Jeremy London) and his girlfriend, Brandi Svenning (Claire Forlani) are about to head to Universal Studios where TS plans to propose when Jaws pops out of the water. Instead, Brandi has agreed to be on her father’s game show, “Truth or Date”, and breaks up with TS. Meanwhile, Brodie (Jason Lee) gets dumped by his girlfriend, Rene (Shannen Doherty) for being too juvenile. The two friends meet up and Brodie decides they should go to the mall for solace. At the mall, they discover that “Truth or Date” will be filming there later and they ask Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) to ruin the stage in an effort to win Brandi back.

Throughout my freshman and sophomore years of high school, Mallrats was practically on a repeating loop so I have decided it was perfect to cover for Nostalgiathon. The dialogue was reenacted countless times and entire scenes could be staged at the drop of a hat. Mallrats had everything a teenager could ask for – comedy, action, romance, magic-eye posters, sex, comic books, NHL All Star Hockey, etc. Mallrats not only delivers on all those fronts but everything Jason Lee says in the film is pretty much Oscar-worthy… OK maybe that’s going too far.

In high school I was only on the cusp of being a movie nerd but I did notice some Mallrats deficiencies. Even though nearly every line feels like it was written down and spoken, if that makes sense. Kevin Smith is a talented writer and comes up with great dialogue, but in Mallrats, it feels very scripted. Also, Jeremy London bugs the hell out of me, he always has. Even though Smith is lauded as a great director, his work lately has not been so hot and I think he has a talent, but his direction in Mallrats is nothing spectacular. Still, Smith knows his audience for Mallrats and delivers on all the dick jokes you could want.

Mallrats is easily my favorite Kevin Smith movie and it probably always will be. It hasn’t aged particularly well, it has a very mid-90s vibe to it. Plus, who remembers chubby Ben Affleck these days? I likely won’t be watching Mallrats again anytime soon, but it was nice to be able to watch it and still be able to mime the dialogue in my head as the movie played out.

I give it 4 “it’s not a schooner, it’s a sailboat”s out of 5.

If you’d like to participate in Nostalgiathon, feel free! More details can be found here.

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DVD Court: Nov. 20

Here’s the DVD Court for the week. I can’t believe I almost forgot about it… Well, actually that’s not true. The only new release worth mentioning this week is Expendables 2 and I don’t care about that movie at all. What I do care about is the Tarantino XX blu-ray boxset that I happen to be watching right now. Yes, it’s awesome.

What are you picking up this week? Any good Black Friday deals?

Life of Pi Preview

Life of Pi is opening tomorrow and it is sitting pretty at Rotten Tomatoes with an 84% “fresh” rating. Originally published as a novel, Life of Pi is about young boy that survives a shipwreck along with a Bengal tiger. Here is the official synopsis:

Genre:Adventure-Drama in 3D
Release:November 21, 2012
Director:Ang Lee
Screenplay by: David Magee, based upon the novel by Yann Martel
Producers: Gil Netter, Ang Lee, David Womark
Cast:Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Tabu, Rafe Spall and Gérard Depardieu
With LIFE OF PI, director Ang Lee (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) creates a groundbreakingmovie event about a young man who survives a disaster at sea and is hurtled into an epicjourney of adventure and discovery. While cast away, he forms an amazing and unexpectedconnection with another survivor…a fearsome Bengal tiger.

While I never finished reading the novel, I still keep it on my shelf in hopes of making my way through it. I plan on seeing the film and I hope that it sparks my interest in the source material.

I’ve been offered to show off some off some of my favorite official pictures from Life of Pi, click on them for full size – and don’t forget to watch the trailer!

Behind the scenes:



Ang Lee on the set:


Movie stills:


*note* this is sponsored post, but the opinions held within are my own