Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (7/10/12)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindMovie One Hundred Sixty Three

In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a couple decides to have a procedure to have the other erased from their memory after their relationship goes on the rocks but things don’t go quite as they planned.

After taking an unplanned trip to Montauk, shy, tightly-wound Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) meets Clementine (Kate Winslet), a free spirited woman with bright dyed hair. The two form an instant connection. Later on, after the relationship has soured, Joel finds out that Clementine has had him erased from her memory and decides to have the same procedure to erase her. After things do not go as planned during Joel’s procedure, more is revealed about Joel and Clementine’s relationship through Joel’s memories as another man, Patrick (ElijahWood) tries to take Joel’s place.

After watching Being John Malkovich, I decided to watch another of Charlie Kaufman’s films, this one directed by Michel Gondry. In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Kaufman’s unique sense of humor and penchant for odd stories that are also touching. Joel and Clementine’s relationship is something I certainly identified with, I see a little of myself inside Joel and I’ve known girls similar to Clementine. The procedure to erase certain memories from one’s mind is a very interesting concept that will likely leave you wondering if you would have anyone erased and why.

One thing I’ve found turns people off of Eternal Sunshine… is Jim Carrey. While comedians in serious dramatic roles is not always a good thing, in this case it works quite well. Joel is a somber, serious individual but we do see him joking around too. Carrey is almost totally subdued here and does quite well, perhaps even outshining the always fantastic Winslet. When the film begins to come to its climax near the end, and things begin to get a bit weird, Gondry’s direction really shines. He’s a director I’ve never been overly impressed by but Eternal Sunshine… works well with him at the helm.

I absolutely adore Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind but it’s not a film I could watch very often. That’s not to say it’s depressing or sad on its own but it stays with you long after the credits roll. As a Kaufman film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind infinitely smart and charming and weird but it ranks among one of his best and maybe his most accessible.

I give it 5 Clementine’s hair colors out of 5.

Continue reading

The Rum Diary (7/6/12)

Rum DiaryMovie One Hundred Fifty Nine

Based on the Hunter S. Thompson novel, The Rum Diary is about writer Paul Kemp’s employment for a Puerto Rican newspaper.

Taking place in the 1960s, Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) arrives in Puerto Rico as an American wrtier that has been unsuccessful and gets a job at a newspaper in San Juan. Kemp stays at a hotel where he meets Sala (Michael Rispoli) and also runs into beautiful Chenault (Amber Heard). Later, Kemp meets with Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), a realtor trying to convert Puerto Rico for his own benefit. Kemp moves in with Sala and Moberg (Giovanni Ribisi) and then has to decide whether or not to help Sanderson or side with the locals.

In reflecting on The Rum Diary it’s actually quite difficult to detail the plot for a few reasons; it’s confusing for no reason and it’s also fairly uninteresting. Now, I love Hunter S. Thompson and his work but this movie is disappointing. While Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, also starring Depp as Thompson, was hilarious and perfectly captures Thompson’s gonzo style, The Rum Diary seemingly tries to remove itself from this and focuses on the beauty of Puerto Rico.

I will admit that I haven’t read The Rum Diary, but if it’s anything like the film, I have no interest in it anymore. Perhaps the faults of the film are due to the novel’s, Thompson was young when he wrote it and maybe he had not quite honed his craft. Or perhaps the film is lazy and doesn’t care about telling the story, I’m not sure. The sad thing, is that the film starts off strong and then my attention started waning near the midpoint and then two of the longest hours of my life later, The Rum Diary was over and I wanted to watch Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Of course, The Rum Diary is not a total failure, just a misfire. The acting is all well done, and Depp plays a cool mixture of a suave young guy and threw in a few of Thompson’s traits. The scenery of the island is stunning and is offset by the seedier parts of town which is so contrasting that it’s almost a distraction. If I had the chance to read The Rum Diary, I would certainly take that over watching The Rum Diary again. At times the film had my laughing but for the most part I was staring waiting for the end. Possibly my biggest disappointment of the year.

I give it 3 “try and look normal”s out of 5.

Continue reading

Ultimate Avengers: The Movie (6/27/12)

Ultimate AvengersMovie One Hundred Forty Eight

Earth’s mightiest heroes must team up to defend the Earth in Ultimate Avengers.

During World War II, Captain America fights nazis who end up being aliens. An explosion blows him into the ocean and freezes him. He is thawed out around 70 years later by Nick Fury of SHIELD. Bruce Banner (The Hulk) is working on recreating the Super Soldier Serum that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America, something Banner thinks can help him control Hulk. The aliens, Chitauri, attack Earth and SHIELD assembles Thor, Wasp, Iron Man, Ant Man, Captain America, and the Hulk to fight them off.

If you’re wondering why my synopsis for Ultimate Avengers sounds so dry and lifeless, you probably have no interest in watching this animated film because I treat the story with as much finesse as the film does. For those of us that watched the live-action Avengers on the big screen, the plot here is largely the same only devoid of any life (that’s not an animation pun). Nothing here is new or exciting and even the art style and animation brings nothing new to the table.  That is not to say it’s bad, it’s just uninteresting.

Unless you’re a huge fan of Marvel’s characters or the Avengers in general, see the live-action Avengers instead. For some reason, though sharing much of the plot, the live-action version is much more enjoyable. If you still want an animated Avengers fix, watch the surprisingly good Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes series and skip Ultimate Avengers.

I give it 3 seriously, watch Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes out of 5.

Continue reading

The Naked City (6/19/12)

Naked CityMovie One Hundred Forty Five

The Naked City is a pseudo-documentary about the hunt for the murderers of a young woman in New York City.

The Naked City begins with an interesting narration that sets the film up as almost a documentary told through real people. While that realism permeates the film, there is a story behind the film and actors were used. After an attractive young woman is killed by two men, one of them becomes ridden with guilt and is killed by the other man. This sets off an investigation where many shady characters are investigated and the mystery grows larger as a series of robberies seem connected as well.

I went into The Naked City expecting a cold, gritty noir and when the film began I was thrown for a bit of a loop by the unique presentation. The story also ended up being different than I expected but I found it fairly enjoyable, if not a bit convoluted by the end. To fit in with the realism the film tries to set up, there are many non-actors used, which was a gamble that didn’t necessarily pay off. There are certain scenes that stand out more than others but it doesn’t necessarily hurt the flow or feel of the film.

I can honestly say I’ve never seen a film quite like The Naked City so from that perspective I was quite impressed. I was let down a bit by the story, which I had found confusing and not as noir-like as I was expecting. While I would certainly recommend it for its original setup, there are many other noirs from the time period that I would prefer to watch. Perhaps I missed out on something from the story, it’s quite possible, but even so The Naked City missed the mark for me.

I give it 3 opening sequences out of 5.

Continue reading

The Invention of Dr. Nakamats (6/6/12)

The Invention of Dr. NakamatsMovie One Hundred Thirty Eight

The Invention of Dr. Nakamats serves as a brief biography about the world’s most prolific inventor that you’ve never heard of.

Dr. Yoshiro Nakamatsu (aka Dr. Nakamats) is a brilliant mind and an eccentric fellow that currently holds the world record for having the most patents. While The Invention of Dr. Nakamats is about the man himself, it is not always the most flattering of him. While Dr. Nakamats holds many patents and invents many things, their usefulness is debatable and Dr. Nakamats’ opinion of himself may be his greatest invention.

The film centers around Dr. Nakamats’ 80th birthday but he gives an oral account of his life story and clips are shown of various awards and ideas of his over the years. In preparation of his birthday party, there are several scenes with a hotel manager fighting over changing the name of the ballroom to incorporate the name “Nakamats”. When the hotel manager is unbending in the ability to do this, it’s a great blow to Dr. Nakamats and his fragile pride.

At a very lean 58 minute runtime, The Invention of Dr. Nakamats is almost too short but perhaps it is long enough to not overstay its welcome. The documentary had me laughing, both with and at the subjects, and I was glad I watched it. While Dr. Nakamats is not quite the level of infomercial inventors like Ron Popeil, there are some inventions that are so ludicrous you’ll be left scratching your head. His method of inventing is also one of the most bizarre things ever.

The Invention of Dr. Nakamats is an interesting documentary that I would recommend to everyone. Whether or not you like Dr. Nakamats himself becomes almost irrelevant by the end because you don’t need to like him to enjoy watching. The Invention of Dr. Nakamats is a bit weird and irregular as a documentary, but that’s OK, so is Dr. Nakamats.

I give it 4 self-defense wig patents out of 5.

Continue reading

Until the Light Takes Us (6/4/12)

Until the Light Takes UsMovie One Hundred Thirty Five

Until the Light Takes Us is a documentary about the black metal scene the emerged from Norway in the early 90s.

This is normally where I lend a paragraph to summarize the plot or subject of the film, but in the case of Until the Light Takes Us I am having difficulty doing this. While the film intends to be a bit of a history lesson about Norwegian black metal, it’s meandering and at least 15 years too late to be shocking. Even Wikipedia doesn’t have an entry for what the film is about.

While black metal has made headlines for the past 20 years, it is mostly for church burning, self-mutilation and even several murders. All of this is discussed through interviews with band members and people involved in the scene. Some of the tales have been embellished or exaggerated, most are true to some extent, which makes the subject itself interesting, at least.

As I said before, Until the Light Takes Us is at least 15 years too late to be shocking or, apparently, interesting. I have limited knowledge of the metal sub-genre and learned very little by the film. In fact, in studying for this review, I actually learned more on Wikipedia’s pages for some of the artists interviewed. If you aren’t a fan of black metal you will not only be totally disgusted by some of the things shown, but also likely bored and annoyed by the film. As far as documentaries go I found Until the Light Takes Us  a bit directionless but at least I was partially entertained.

I give it 2 Varg Vikernes Wikipedia pages (seriously more insightful and informative than the film) out of 5.

Continue reading

Network (5/29/12)

NetworkMovie One Hundred Thirty Two

Network centers around the decisions of a TV network after a news anchor threatens to kill himself live on the air and the ratings spike.

After learning that his career as a news anchor will be coming to an end due to poor ratings, Howard Beale (Peter Finch) goes on the air and announces that he will kill himself live on the air. The network executives freak out, but eventually agree to let Beale get one more carefully scripted time on the air before being fired. Beale uses this time to rant about the state of the world and calls his life bullshit. Once the ratings see a noted spike, the executives, spurred by Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway), decide to not only keep Beale on the air, but to highlight his now public meltdown.

It’s amazing how poignant and true to life Network is, even nearly 40 years later. I feel that the only satire that does everything better is Dr. Strangelove, which is saying a lot considering the amazingly high regard I hold that film. Since Network, we have been inundated with “reality” television and an increasing movement in a very similar brand of shock television that is cultivated in Network. While we haven’t reached the levels of mania depicted in this stunning Lumet film, it is not that far-fetched today.

While Network is a film that has a dark sense of humor, mostly due to the writing of Paddy Chayefsky, at times it is also very serious. I suppose that part of the humor is the absurdity happening, but also because it wants to be so ridiculous that there is an underlying humor there. Even when discussing alongside Dr. Strangelove, there really are no other films quite like Network. Sidney Lumet has directed yet another wonderful film that is absurd and thought-provoking. I’m not sure if I would recommend Network to everyone, but I’m sure almost everyone watching will have a slightly different takeaway from it.

I give it 4 “I’m mad as hell and I can’t take it anymore”s out of 5.

Continue reading

Them [2006] (5/25/12)

ThemMovie One Hundred Twenty Nine

Them (Ils) is a film about a couple living in the secluded French mansion that gets terrorized one night by a group of unseen assailants.

Them begins with a mother and daughter driving along a dark country road when a figure appears in the road and the mother swerves to avoid hitting it. After crashing into a light post, she gets out and looks under the hood while the daughter remains inside. When the mother disappears, the daughter panics as she realizes she is not alone and is then strangled from behind. Cut to a woman who, on her way home from work, passes the car unknowingly. She then arrives home to her boyfriend and as the two settle in for the night, strange noises wake them. Soon they are terrorized by “them”.

I really wanted to love Them, perhaps I was expecting too much but even at a brisk 74 minute runtime the picture felt a bit long to me. I didn’t care what happened to any of the characters and for a horror/thriller I was neither horrified nor particularly thrilled. However, in spite of all that, Them is a fairly enjoyable film, just not the masterpiece I was expecting. Finding out who “them” are was actually fairly satisfying and though it’s not the twistiest of twists in filmdom, it is realistic. Speaking of realistic, this is yet another film “based on true events” which is typically a flimsy excuse but in this case it is true, but glorified.

Them is a film that is worth seeing even though I was a bit harsh on it. At barely over an hour, it is a lean film that has little to no filler, but the downfall is that there is no meaningful character development. It is very similar to the US film, The Strangers, which I prefer over this. Still, Them is not a bad way to kill a bit of time and get some enjoyment.

I give it 3 the giant ants from Them! would have made this much more interesting out of 5.

Continue reading

Tyrannosaur (5/25/12)

TyrannosaurMovie One Hundred Twenty Eight

Tyrannosaur is a film about a man with a hair trigger temper and a woman who struggles with her own issues at home as they become friends.

The opening scene of Tyrannosaur is Joseph (Peter Mullan) storming out of a bar, swearing up a storm, mad at something and takes his anger out on his best friend; his trusting dog. Visibly shaken by this, Joseph goes home to mourn his friend and buries him. Peter finds himself passed out in front of a thrift shop where the owner, Hannah (Olivia Colman), takes him in. Despite the kindness she shows him, Joseph lashes out at Hannah and we see a man that is mad at everything and cannot seem to control it. Hannah and Joseph form an unlikely friendship as we learn the secrets of their lives and understand why they connect.

A difficult movie to put into words, Tyrannosaur is one of the most powerful films I’ve ever seen. I was unsure where the film would take me but I can safely say that I was not expecting where we ended up. Joseph is such an unlikable human being and yet there is such extreme sadness waiting just beneath his raging exterior. Peter Mullan does such a frightening and gentle portrayal that leaves you wondering if Joseph is someone you should be rooting for or not. Olivia Colman also gives a fantastic performance and her character surprises even more than Joseph.

When I found out the meaning behind the title of Tyrannosaur, I was floored. It is but one of the powerful moments in Tyrannosaur that will likely leave its imprint on you. I found myself completely engrossed in the film and several scenes were like sledgehammers to the chest. It’s hard to say I enjoyed watching it, but like Steve McQueen’s films Hunger and Shame, there is a beauty in all the ugly things happening on screen. I would be hard pressed to watch Tyrannosaur again anytime soon, but I would definitely recommend it.

I give it 4 sledgehammering sheds out of 5.

Continue reading

White Dog (5/21/12)

White DogMovie One Hundred Twenty Six

White Dog is a film about racism  told through the story of a white German Shepard that has been trained to attack black people.

On her way home one night, Julie (Kristy McNichol) hits a stray dog. She takes the dog to the vet and takes him home with her. The dog and Julie share a strong connection, one that grows even stronger when the dog attacks an intruder trying to rape Julie. When the dog gets out, it attacks a black street cleaner. When Julie realizes things are not all right with her new friend, she takes him to a seasoned trainer, who tells her to have the dog put down. Instead, a black trainer decides to help rehabilitate the animal to see if the dog is capable of unlearning this behavior.

The racial themes of White Dog are almost driven to the point of beating the viewer over the head with them but some interesting points are raised. Is racism purely a learned behavior? Can it be “fixed”? Do animals perceive race on their own or do they need to be trained? The film doesn’t give direct answers to these questions, allowing the viewer to form their own opinions. The ending of the film is striking, however, and without giving anything away, shows that racism may just be misplaced anger towards something else.

Samuel Fuller had long and varied film career as both a writer and director before he made White Dog and the backlash from the film all but ended his career. I find this terribly sad because the film itself isn’t racist, or at least I didn’t see it that way. It’s not a fantastic movie or anything, in fact, the first half hour seems incredibly low budget and even a bit cheesy, but the message is strong and will likely stay with you long after the credits roll. Oddly enough, the best actor in White Dog is the white dog (or white dogs, more likely). There are some scenes when I was genuinely afraid that the dog would kill the human actors. While White Dog is not a film I would outwardly recommend, there is a lot to like about it and it would be a great film for a roundtable discussion.

I give it 3 muzzled white dogs out of 5.

Continue reading