Reservoir Dogs (11/20/12)

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A bank robbery goes wrong the group tries to find out who is the rat of the group in Reservoir Dogs.

A group of eight men are having breakfast in a diner discussing the plans for a heist, among other things. The men include theorganizer, Joe (Lawrence Tierney), his son, “Nice Guy” Eddie (Chris Penn), Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), Mr. Blue (Eddie Bunker), and Mr. Brown (Quentin Tarantino). Cut to shortly after the robbery and Mr. Orange is bleeding in the back of Mr. White’s car. After they arrive back at the meeting place, Mr. Pink thinks they were setup by a rat in the group.

Quentin Tarantino stormed onto the movie scene with Reservoir Dogs and 20 years later, the film still holds up incredibly well. It’s smartly written and shot and is just a raw film. Tarantino may have become a household name with Pulp Fiction, but I would argue that Reservoir Dogs is almost as good. In fact, I think I may prefer Reservoir Dogs nine times out of ten. The ensemble cast and small scale of Reservoir Dogs makes you feel like you are there in the warehouse trying to figure out what to do next alongside Mr. White and Mr. Pink while Mr. Orange is bleeding to death.

When the story begins to come together in a traditional Tarantino non-linear way, the story doesn’t feel like it’s expanding into something larger it’s just building itself up. Added to the mix is the interspersed bits of radio hits from 70s from K-Billy which give Reservoir Dogs one of the best soundtracks around. In fact, it’s one of three soundtracks I purchased physical copies of (the other two are Pulp Fiction and Drive, if you were curious).

There are times when Reservoir Dogs feels a bit rough around the edges and it is admittedly hard to tell if that is lack of experience on Tarantino’s part, low budgeting, or simply the look the film was supposed to have. There are few special effects and much of the film takes place with just a few guys on screen in a warehouse. Considering its scale, Reservoir Dogs does a tremendous job to make something special and it brought us one of the most debated directors working today.

I watched Reservoir Dogs as part of the incredible Tarantino XX blu-ray box set. While the set doesn’t have a ton of additional extras if you already own the films included, having all of Tarantino’s films in one set is pretty great for fans of his work.

I give it 5 “why am I Mr. Pink?”s out of 5.

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My November Movies Round-Up

One month to go, people! I’m excited, are you?

November was kind of a hectic month for me, but I still managed to watch a fair amount of movies. I’m a bit behind in writing some of my reviews, but due to my vacation, I wanted to get this post out of the way so I can just get back to writing. I will come back and link to all the reviews once I finish writing them, though.

I have my goal of 300 movies in sight, I can see the finish line and I think I can make it in time. Being gone for a week kind of slowed me down, though. Soon, I’m going to have a brainstorming thread so I can hear from you guys what you think my goal(s) should be for 2013!

Also, be sure to check out Nostalgiathon, still going strong.

Another month, another shameless plug…Like Andy Watches Movies on Facebook and follow me Twitter if you want to know more of my shenanigans.

November movies I watched:

  1. Rosemary’s Baby
  2. Rear Window
  3. Fear and Desire
  4. Submarine
  5. Rashomon
  6. Wreck-It Ralph
  7. Bug
  8. The Shining
  9. Decalogue IV
  10. Mallrats (Nostalgiathon)
  11. Decalogue V
  12. From Hell
  13. Tree of Life
  14. Moonrise Kingdom
  15. The Royal Tenenbaums
  16. Decalogue VI
  17. Decalogue VII
  18. Planes, Trains & Automobiles
  19. Reservoir Dogs
  20. The Phantom Tollbooth (Nostalgiathon)
  21. Creature From the Black Lagoon
  22. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  23. Lilo & Stitch
  24. Life of Pi
  25. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  26. Beyond the Black Rainbow
  27. The People Versus George Lucas

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Decalogue VII (11/17/12)

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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 VII

Majka (Maja Barelkowska) lives at home with her mother, Ewa (Anna Polony) and her young daughter, Ania/Anika (Katarzyna Piwowarczyk). Since Majka had Ania at such a young age, with an older man, to avoid scandal, the family decided to portray Ewa as Ania’s mother. Even Ania thinks Ewa is her actual mother. Majka wishes to leave the country with Ania but needs her mother’s approval to do so, but she decides to kidnap Ania instead after a school play.

Decalogue VII should have been a great film but something about it simply did not work for me. I don’t know if it was Majka as a character or the actress that played her, but I could not connect at all. It’s a shame too, because the ending of this film is one of the more moving pieces of the series and it fell flat for me. As with the other films of The Decalogue, the moral ambiguity presented here is fascinating, in fact the story is one of the better ones so far. Did Majka really kidnap her daughter or did she have the right to? Will the family ever be able to come back from this? I will admit that Decalogue VII had me thinking but unfortunately watching it was a bit of a chore.

I give it 3 out of 5.

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Decalogue VI (11/17/12)

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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 VI

A young postal worker named Tomek (Olaf Lubaszenko) has been obsessively spying on an older woman, Magda (Grażyna Szapołowska), living in a building across the way. He devises plots to see her by sending her notices to get her to come to the post office and picks up a milk delivery route as well. Finally, Tomek decides to tell Magda that he has been peeping at her and he loves her, though she has long abandoned the idea of ‘love’.

I didn’t want to give too much away about the plot of Decalogue VI, since the latter half of the film is very interesting. Though Tomek and Magda’s relationship originally struck me as very odd and off-putting, I eventually found myself being a bit more understanding. Though, if someone came up to me and told me they had been stalking me, I’m not sure I would invite them up to my apartment. Still, I think Magda’s motivations are more understandable by the end of the film, though a bit weird, perhaps. The weird dynamic of rooting for a stalker held Decalogue VI back for me, I wanted to sympathize with Tomek but still found Magda more endearing. One thing for sure, Decalogue VI is one of the most unique romantic dramas I’ve ever seen. Decalogue VI was also released in an expanded form, called A Short Film About Love, which I would be curious to see how it compares.

I give it 4 out of 5.

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The Royal Tenenbaums (11/15/12)

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The Royal Tenenbaums is the story of a family brought back together by their ailing, estranged patriarch.

The young Tenenbaum children are all prodigies; Chas is business savvy, Margot, who was adopted, wrote a successful play, and Richie is a tennis star. Their parents, Royal (Gene Hackman) and Etheline (Anjelica Huston), are getting a divorce. Twenty two years later, Royal is getting evicted from his hotel room where he has been staying. After hearing that his wife’s accountant, Harry (Danny Glover) is trying to marry Etheline, Royal devises a plan and says he is dying of cancer and wants to stay in their house and reunite the family. As adults, the children are all in post-success slumps. Chas (Ben Stiller), is still in business but has become obsessively protective over his sons after their mother’s death. Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), is married to a neurologist named Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray) but hides her life from him. Richie (Luke Wilson) had a breakdown as a tennis star.

When a film has a huge ensemble cast, it is easy for the plot to get lost in the mix but Wes Anderson not only keeps the characters unique and interesting in The Royal Tenenbaums, but the plot is one of his best too. Each character has their own cross to bear and when they are under the same roof again, their stories are interesting on their own, but together they become something special. Admittedly, there is a lot to take in and some of the quirk that is special to Anderson’s films may put some people off but I would argue that The Royal Tenenbaums is possibly Anderson’s most accessible film.

I watched The Royal Tenenbaums again after watching Moonrise Kingdom for a second time and when viewed back-to-back, the films are actually very different in some respects, though both very Anderson-y. Where Moonrise Kingdom cranks the ’60s nostalgia and colors all the way up, The Royal Tenenbaums is brightly colored but also kind of washed out. The Royal Tenenbaums feels more realistic but also has many of the same fantastical things that Anderson is known for. The Royal Tenenbaums is clearly intended for adults but Moonrise Kingdom would likely be enjoyable for young teens and adults for different reasons.

It’s difficult to speak of Wes Anderson’s films since he has crafted such a unique “formula” for his work. While, at times, this style can be a bit too much or get in the way of the storytelling, but The Royal Tenenbaums is more of a character story with great, innovative set pieces and shots. That’s not to say that The Royal Tenenbaums is a serious film, it’s actually quite funny, but the camp aspect is scaled back a bit.

The Royal Tenenbaums was recently released on blu-ray by the Criterion Collection and is an improved package over the DVD edition they also put out. The special features remain the same, but they are spectacular for fans of Anderson’s work. The commentary and behind the scenes footage are worth it alone, but the set offers much more. The picture and sound are both spectacular, as expected.

The Royal Tenenbaums was my favorite Wes Anderson film before Moonrise Kingdom came out. I had a guy stop me in Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago asking my opinion of the movies he was holding. He had Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and The Royal Tenenbaums in his hand and said he had never seen a Wes Anderson movie before. I gave my brief impressions of each and asked which sounded the best to him, he picked Rushmore and I went along with it but urged him to check out Moonrise Kingdom if he liked it. If I had seen the blu-ray presentation of The Royal Tenenbaums before that conversation, however, I would likely have steered him differently.

I give it 4 Mordecais out of 5.

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Tree of Life (11/12/12)

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The Tree of Life chronicles the life of a young boy growing up in Texas interspersed with the creation of the universe and the meaning of life.

A family is torn apart after receiving a letter that their son has died. In the present day, Jack O’Brien (Sean Penn) calls his father to apologize and reflects on his childhood. The universe is created, life is created and evolves, and an asteroid crashes into Earth. In the 1950s in Waco, Texas, we see the O’Brien family; the mother (Jessica Chastain), the father (Brad Pitt), and three boys, including a young Jack (Hunter McCracken). We see scenes from Jack’s life, including the drowning of his friend and the subsequent funeral and the joy of having their overbearing father leave for business.

Disclaimer – if you haven’t seen The Tree of Life, it is a very polarizing movie. The plot is minimal, there is a lot of esoteric and existential narration and visuals that may seem like they have nothing to do with the movie.

I’ve seen Tree of Life four times and each time I’ve come away with a slightly different experience but I’ve always liked the film. It is an artsy film, there is not a straight line from A to B like most movies and this can be interpreted as a lack of plot or rambling, but this is largely open to how you view movies. If you see movies strictly as entertainment, you may be bored to tears by Tree of Life but if you can appreciate movies as an art form you may “get” Tree of Life a little more. However, that’s not to say there is much to “get”. Tree of Life is writer/director Terrence Malick’s very personal story and you will likely either connect with it or you won’t.

There is not much I wish to say about Tree of Life because it’s a film that could easily be dissected and have short books written about. It is a film you will love or hate; Very few people I have talked to that have seen it fall in the middle. When discussing the film with people that don’t like it, I have a hard time defending it because it’s like defending vanilla ice cream to someone that prefers chocolate. Still, Tree of Life is a movie I would recommend everyone watch at least once to form your own opinions on. If you didn’t like it, I would be curious what your impressions would be after repeat viewings.

I give it 5 dinosaurs out of 5.

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