Thursday, August 27, 2009

Review: The Time Traveler's Wife

So, I caught this movie a couple weeks ago and just realized tonight that I forgot to review it. That should tell you a little bit about how I felt about this film. Okay, I know what you're thinking. "MJ, you said in your (500) Days of Summer review that you were single. Why on EARTH did you see The Time Traveler's wife?!" The answer to that question is a simple "Because I wanted to!" I have a soft spot for movies like this with a supernatural twist. Frequency is a great film and The Lake House showed promise in its premise, but ultimately fell flat. Two words: Keanau crying.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Review: Inglourious Basterds

Alright guys, bear with me. This is going to be a rather lengthy review. If you read my Grindhouse review then you'll know that all of my Taratino reviews are a bit on the lengthy side. If you've seen a Tarantino movie then you know that my reviews need to be a bit on the lengthy side. I suppose to better understand Inglouious Basterds you need a knowledge of the man behind the event. Quentin Tarantino has been directing for about 20 years now and in those 2 decades he's directed 7 films. After his first film, "Reservoir Dogs" he was touted as the next big thing and lived up to that 2 years later with the classic "Pulp Fiction". His next film "Jackie Brown" proved to be not so successful but by that time Quentin Tarantino was a household name. Recently he's come under fire for being too in love with hearing his own voice. He's always written his own films and with the exception of Jackie Brown they've all been original ideas. And that's how it should be. Quentin Tarantino would get bored directing a script not written by Quentin Tarantino. I feel that all the hate recently is not the product of his films being poor but hate because he's no longer "in". After Pulp Fiction he was the savior of modern cinema and by Death Proof he was a narcissistic jerk that only directed movies that had a "hey look at me! aren't I clever?!" attitude about them. Through this time I've been a huge Tarantino fan and have held the exact opposite stance on all of these issues. There's a lot of talk about Tarantino the director and Tarantino the writer. Most people love the director but can't stand the writer. This brings us to "Inglourious Basterds". Tarantino is a genre director through and through. He's done crime thrillers, con movies, revenge pictures and a slasher flick. This is his take on the war film and more importantly the "guys on a mission" sub-genre of the war film. Inglourious Basterds is what would happen if Quentin Tarantino ran things in World War 2 and wanted it to feel like a spaghetti western. The film follows Lt. Aldo Raine (the fantastic Brad Pitt) and his group of Jewish American soldiers as they try to take out the entire Third Reich at a huge propaganda film premiere in Nazi-occupied France. This is a tough film to review. I almost feel like we would all benefit more from a multi-part in-depth analysis of this film because that's how layered it is. Inglourious Basterds is one of the best films of the decade and should signal a revival in the career of Quentin Tarantino. This is hands down his best film since Pulp Fiction and could be considered his masterpiece for years to come. Because this is a Tarantino picture you can expect it to have more in common with Reservoir Dogs than Saving Private Ryan. It's being touted as an action picture but there are only a handful of scenes with actual gunplay. The rest is left to the viewer's imagination. But when the violence does happen the violence happens BIG. This Tarantino's most violent picture to date. Kill Bill Volume 1 is an extremely gory film but the amount of fake blood that movie is drenched in reaches Looney Tunes levels of over the top. On the other hand, Basterds is brutal and visceral and realistic. Like I said, there isn't much but when there is expect to be a little uncomfortable. Violence has never been the point of a Tarantino film though and like always, the dialogue is fun and hilarious and thought provoking all at once. Everyone turns in a fantastic performance and I wouldn't be surprised if this picture picked up a few Oscar nods next year. The two shining stars of this film are Brad Pitt and his foil, Christoph Waltz. Pitt plays Lt. Aldo Raine, a backwoods good ol' boy from the mountains of Tennessee with a huge scar carved into his neck and some bitterness toward Nazis. The sheer brilliance of his performance kept me engrossed for the entire runtime and anytime he was on screen I was giddy. On the other end, Christoph Waltz plays Col. Hans Landa, a man whose nickname is "The Jew Hunter" and whose disposition is acerbic and charming all at the same time. Watlz is a truly terrifying villain and plays his character with such menace that I feel a supporting actor nod is definitely in the near future. The rest of the cast is fantastic as well, including Eli Roth as Donny "The Bear Jew" Donnowitz who enjoys beating Nazis to death with a baseball bat. If I have one complaint about this film it's that we don't get enough backstory for Raine and his Basterds. Outside of that, Tarantino is back and this very well could be his masterpiece.

my rating: 10/10

This is my third 10/10 this year and it comes only one week after my 10/10 for the brilliant District 9. I don't know what it is but the end of summer has been fantastic and I don't know how the rest of the year will top this month's releases.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Review: District 9

Every once in a while a film comes along that defines a genre. Sergio Leone's "The Good the Bad and the Ugly" is the quintessential Western, "Die Hard" is the go-to for action movies and for most people the first two "Alien" films have set the standard for sci-fi and have rarely gone unmatched. Sure, we've had great science fiction since those films but everyone seems to keep coming back to "Alien" and "Aliens". Both films are completely different. "Alien" is a subtle horror/thriller that takes a look at the human psyche when it is put into an intense situation during extreme isolation. "Aliens" is more of an action/thriller that has something to say about the ravages of war mentally and physically on those who experience it. And now Peter Jackson and Neill Blomkamp have teamed together to give us what made both films great in one genre defining picture. "District-9" is absolutely brilliant science fiction that gets back to the basics and presents them in a new and refreshing way. What has always made sci-fi so compelling is the way it blends social commentary, human drama and all out action into a great story and not make it feel weighed down by all this. Over the last twenty years the closest we've come to that have been films that take one or two of those elements and executes them perfectly. But to take all of those? That takes true talent. The plot of "District-9" has remained under wraps for a very long time and I'm going to keep it that way. Basically, twenty years ago an alien craft came to a dead stop over Johannasberg, South Africa and those aboard the ship have been forced into a life in a slum known as District-9. And like most slums, its residents live in dilapidated shacks made out of spare panelling and cardboard. The nigerian mafia runs the slum, trading catfood for alien weaponry and the people of Johannasberg are fed up with their government not taking care of the issue. And that's where the fun begins. I'm not going to reveal more because there are a million secrets in D-9 and to spoil them would be losing out on half the fun. I tend to run away from film critic cliches like "life affirming" or "an adrenaline rush" but let me say that "District-9" is a roller coaster ride. When the government vehicles started to roll out of their safe parking garage and into the district I felt the same rush that one gets when going on an amusent park ride and it didn't let up for it's near 2-hour runtime. Neil Blomkamp is a more than capable director and I hope that the studios see that in his hands "Halo" has potential to be the best video-game film ever. "District-9" will be looked upon as a genre defining film for years to come and earns a rightful spot next to the "Alien" films as some of the most intelligent science fiction you will ever see.

my rating: 10/10