Saturday, January 26, 2008

There Will Be Blood

This film stars Daniel Day-Lewis as a oilcatter back when oillcatting was really work. No Red Adair to call when the well blows up. I digress. The plot is involved enough, yet simple enough that midway through I turned to Alex and said "I am just not sure what this movie is really about". I wasn't lost, I understood the action, I just couldn't figure out what the message was. It took until the very last scene for me to understand it. And once I did, it was intriguing and was such an intricate study of a man that we meet midway in his life- with no explanation of his past in order to understand his future. Does that make sense? We walk in on Day-Lewis as he inherits a child, and we leave him when he is done with everything. He is a man of retribution. If you must know the plot, which is from a book called "Oil" by my favorite author, Upton Sinclair (whose father was an alcoholic), go read it online. It actually might help. The scenery is grim and rough, just like the people who work in the fields and subsist on the miserably dry land. The costuming is perfect. The sets were built without a level and with an eye to authenticity. If the guy playing the twin brothers looks familiar- he was the brother in Little Miss Sunshine (that's to save you from spending 2 1/2 hours wondering how you know this guy). Every performance is perfect. It is probably as good a film as you will see this year. And I can't really explain why. In yet another film, the score is too intrusive and seems to be used as filler for action in some scenes. If there is a negative, that is the only one. No children in this one. It has several scenes that simply cannot be put in the head of a child no matter how grown up they may seem.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Savages

The Savages stars Laura Linney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the adult kids (of abusive and neglectful parents) who are summoned to put their demented father into a nursing home. It's a story of two children who must now grow up and handle their father with more mercy than he handled them. They prove to be capable, if somewhat frail and lost. If you have elderly parents, you will hopefully do these duties with love in your heart in return for a loving childhood. But as is the case when parents are not deserving, the tears shed here are tears of sorrow for what was never had, not for what was. The odd thing to me was that I was the youngest person in the theater, by, oh, say 15 years. I personally found it depressing. Though they did paint the valiant health care workers, often immigrants, who struggle in this unrewarding field, as kind and patient. That may or may not be the case, but the stark reality of the subject of this film is seldom touched upon, and for that, if not that alone, the filmmakers are to be commended. All of the actors in this do an excellent job, though Linney and Hoffman are in danger of being typecast these days.

Friday, January 18, 2008


**guest review by Hollis**

Ok. I will try and keep this as spoiler-free as possible, in case you haven't seen this yet and are planning on it. First, let me say, I liked it. However, I knew some of the background of the movie, and wasn't expecting anything other than what the movie was. If you're looking for traditional storytelling, or having everything explained to you ... well, you won't find that in the movie. Cloverfield is the story of a monster attack on Manhattan (J.J. Abrams's take on Godzilla), told from the perspective of a hand-held video camera operated by a regular person who, with a group of friends, is trying to get out of the city. And that's it. Like any event documented by a bystander, there are no explanations, no backstory (well, almost none), and what you see is what you get.

J.J. Abrams is the same guy who created Lost, so there are all the corporate conspiracy theories, and "super"-plots (a larger story that the movie is only a part of) that you would expect. In fact, Cloverfield has a huge viral marketing campaign that goes along with it - if you haven't been paying attention to it, there's a brief summary here -
If you want answers to a lot of the movie's questions, you're going to have to dig into the external stuff. You still won't get all the answers, but the bigger picture will become a little clearer. Oh, and it's not done yet ... new info is still being added ... which has already lead to people speculating that there may be a sequel at some point. But who knows.

Ok, back to the movie itself. The use of the hand-held cam is both a plus and a minus - it definitely puts you more "into" the movie with the characters, but the shaky camera work can get annoying. I had to look down at the seats in front of me for some of the scenes because they were so shaky - so it didn't turn into a barf-a-thon. If you get motion sick easily, I would take some preventative measures. The movie is relatively short - kind of realistic to the length of a camera battery, although you'll wonder in some scenes how the camera has managed to survive so well (whatever brand of camera that is - you should definitely buy it!) The monster is really cool - not totally unique since you can see other creatures that it references - but definitely fun to watch. Some of the scenes were very 9/11-esque - especially towards the beginning - in fact, when the attack first occurs, one party-goer says "is it another terrorist attack?" I don't know if the film will get a different reaction in NYC, but I bet some people will be having flashbacks.

The acting was good - very believable. There are no recognizable faces here, which makes for a much better movie ... it was refreshing to truly believe in a character, as opposed to trying to suspend disbelief so that you aren't just watching Tom Cruise in yet another outfit. Also, I just have to say, I give some of the female actors props for running around in high heels for as long as they do. *That* made me wince as much as anything - I would have had those suckers off in the first 5 minutes.

So, bottom-line - if you liked Lost, enjoy digging up plot information for yourself, and piecing together clues (oh, and big monsters attacking NYC), then you'll enjoy this movie. In fact, do some of the background work before you go see it - it helps. If you need a plot with character development and a traditional story arc, well, maybe you should wait for the new Indiana Jones film.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Everyone who has read the other 300 movie reviews I did on my last webpage knows that I really have thought Kiera Knightley was the most overrated actress around, except for Scarlett J. It wasn't just her stilted and monotonic (that is just possibly not a word) dialogue, but her annoying habit of making a pouting face everytime she was trying to project any emotion other than happiness. It drove me crazy. Well, someone must have talked to her about it. Because she only does it about 10 times in this film (no, I didn't count). She does a wonderful job, yes, I have to give her credit. She's still distractingly skeletal, but she managed to act her way through it all. Saoirse Ronan does an incredible job as the little sister who misinterprets several pivotal moments in her sister's relationship with a young man who lives in their house, and well, it goes downhill from there. But Saoirse (pronounced SEER sha which is Irish for freedom) is one talented child actor. The weight of the story lies in her body language when telling her tale to the police. Every child in this is very talented and very believable. James McAvoy, who you might remember from the incredible The Last King of Scotland, plays Robbie Turner with such a touching performance that I was a tad teary eyed. It is easy to see how Briony smarts from his rejection of her childish crush. I can't give away the plot, but this is a very solid, very believable film. The plot twists are interesting. And there is enough chintz and floral wallpaper in this to stock a Laura Ashley warehouse. WWII is the backdrop- and not OUR WWII but the one the British were involved in before we got there. When losing 4000 men was a DAY'S loss, not a 4 year loss. Don't get up during the movie because every moment counts. If I had one complaint it would be the score. I have never had a score, except in a B horror movie or Jaws, telegraph the action like that. It was very annoying. But that's a minor complaint. I'd say this is one of the best movies in quite a while.

Sweeney Todd

Oh okay, I will admit that I just loved Sweeney Todd when Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury did it. I did. I thought it was very clever. So I dreaded seeing it with the Tim Burton goth and gore spin. Johnny Depp does a really nice job looking like a grown up Edward Razorhands. Tim's wife, Helena Bonham Carter Burton, looks haggish and sinister. But then, she has been looking that way in real life for a long time. Tim Burton said he was a lonely child who played by himself. Gee, wonder why? The blood runs in RIVERS in this. I guess Burton has never actually seen a carotid cut, because these people had hypertension for a long time blowing blood all over everything. Alex doesn't like blood or throat slitting. I personally have seen so much human blood that the fake stuff doesn't much bother me. Depp sings with enthusiasm and emotion, and Bonhamcarterburton swallows her words like so many meat pies. Sadly, her lyrics are some of the most clever in the musical but just try understanding her words. Some time, listen to the original Broadway cast. I have to say that the younger actors in this, while adept, are so unattractive that it is startling. Usually Joanna is seen as a delicately pretty girl. Not this one. If you don't have an appetite for gore, buy the original DVD for 22 bucks on amazon.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


This is a movie about a pregnant 16 year old named Juno. She decides to have her baby when she hears (outside the abortion clinic) that the baby has fingernails. Never mind that it has a heartbeat and circulatory system, it's the fingernails that endear the new life to her. The adults in her life are about as reasonable as adults could be. She does have the baby, with seemingly minimal emotional pain, as well as having really few problems at school. This is about as far from reality as you can get. But Juno is a tough kid, and she has a smart way of looking at things. She has sex with the "father" out of a weird curiosity. That a girl this smart would get pregnant is kind of curious to me. But she seems to just float through it. It will probably win a bunch of awards, it isn't too cheesy, and Juno makes some of the adults look childish. She probably does grow up a fair amount, but it isn't easy to leave your baby in the arms of someone else. And the movie seems to lightly tred on that sort of pain. Oh well, I guess I saw this subject as much deeper than it was presented. I wouldn't bring an impressionable child because it made it all look too easy. It isn't easy. Sometimes the dialogue feels very contrived. Juno has an answer for everything. She never looks back. Jennifer Garner is very sweet in this. So, weigh the pros and cons. It is, after all, a movie. And it is very much a pro-adoption movie even though I don't know if the director meant for it to be.