Thursday, November 10, 2011

Irreviews, 2011: Issue VI

All right, so I'm falling behind a bit in my Irreviews... I've decided to go to ten movies per entry until I catch up.

Buried (2010)
Director: Rodrigo Cortés
Writer(s): Chris Sparling
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, José Luis García Pérez, Robert Paterson
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My first question as I finished up Buried was: how can a movie take place in such a limited location and be so good? My second question was: how can such a movie cost $3 million to make? Regardless of where the money actually went, Buried (which takes place entirely inside of a coffin) is an awesome example of filmmakers challenging themselves with artificial limitations. There are probably a few too many cliches in the film, but given how difficult it must've been to come up with a story like this, it gets a pass.
Verdict: SEE it.

Centurion (2010)
Director: Neil Marshall
Writer(s): Neil Marshall
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko
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An interesting premise directed by the person responsible for two horror films I admire (The Descent and Dog Soldiers), I watched this based solely on the fact that Neil Marshall's name is on the poster. Basically, a bunch of Roman soldiers in 2nd century England gets screwed fighting the Picts (the story is very loosely based on the disappearance of the Roman Ninth Legion) and a handful of elite Roman soldiers survive to wreak havoc and find their ways back home. The problem with the film is that there's too much "contemporary sensibility" to the story, including some bad-ass ninja-type fighting, a pretty lame love story shoved in the middle, and, well... yeah, you get the idea. Not overly bad, but without a clear identity.
Verdict: Eh...

Cronos (1993)
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writer(s): Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Federico Luppi, Ron Perlman, Claudio Brook
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We're all sick of teeny-bop, romantic vampires (thanks, Anne Rice... you single-handedly saved, then killed, the genre). But, way back in 1993, disturbo-extraordinaire Guillermo del Toro gave us a quirky, Spanish-language tale about a grandfather who inadvertently becomes a bloodsucker (thanks to a centuries-old magic insect stuck in a magic pocket watch... yes, ridiculous, but it works) and is caught between solving the mystery of what happened to him and taking care of his granddaughter (who would make a good meal). This is quite a romantic film, but it's rather unique place in celluloid vampire lore leaves you with a healthy gratitude that someone out there can still spin a vampire story that doesn't involve albino teenager angst. Then again, this was 18 years ago.
Verdict: SEE it.

Election (Hak se wui) (2005)
Director: Johnnie To
Writer(s): Nai-Hoi Yau, Tin-Shing Yip
Starring: Louis Koo, Suet Lam, Tony Leung Ka Fai
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There's really not much to say here. Chinese Triad/revenge movies are pretty much all the same these days. At least the ones US distributors seem to want to import. There are a few interesting characters (hit-men that are ordered to change sides on a whim, sadistic-but-not-murderous mob bosses) and the action scenes are well-done, but everything else about the film is pretty flat (I'll reserve from stating "boring," since the pacing is generally quick).
Verdict: SKIP it.

The Fighter (2010)
Director: David O. Russell
Writer(s): Scott Silver (screenplay), Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Keith Dorrington (story)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams
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Mark Wahlberg's well-publicized journey to get this film produced often made Wahlberg look like a foolish ass, or a misguided ass, or just straight-up crazy. But, you know what? He just made all the press about it look foolish, misguided, and under-informed. By now you all know that Christian Bale and Melissa Leo won Best Supporting Actor and Actress, respectively (with Amy Adams receiving a nomination, as well), but even those accolades fall short of revealing how good this movie really is. The true story of one brother recovering from crack-cocaine addiction and another brother climbing the ranks in the boxing world is a breath of fresh air in a genre overrun by Disney-fied underdog sports movies.
Verdict: SEE it.

Intacto (2001)
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Writer(s): Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Andrés M. Koppel
Starring: Max von Sydow, Eusebio Poncela, Leonardo Sbaraglia
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I first saw a trailer for this film in 2002, when it was imported to the US on a limited art-house basis. But, I never got a chance to see it. Still, the image of blind-folded participants in some sick, twisted, luck-based game running full sprint through a forest never left me. And, so, finally, I tracked the film down and gave it a go. Unlike a previous film I waited years to see (Passion in the Desert), this one was worth the wait. Centered around a group of people who've discovered they can buy, sell, and otherwise transfer luck to each other and have created an underground sport based on that said ability (which culminates in the ultimate Russian roulette match... literally), it's an intriguing story to watch unfold.
Verdict: SEE it.

Red Road (2006)
Director: Andrea Arnold
Writer(s): Andrea Arnold, Lone Scherfig (characters), Anders Thomas Jensen (characters)
Starring: Kate Dickie, Tony Curran, Martin Compston
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I'm not a huge fan of Dogme films, a trend of independent filmmaking started by everyone's favorite audience torturer, Lars von Trier. That stated, I did like quite a few of them... I'm just saying that the self-imposed rules of provocative, raw filmmaking don't really add anything to the stories they're often attached to, save for usually making them depressing. Red Road, a Scottish film that was the result of a revival of the Dogme canon, is definitely depressing. For the UK viewer, it's depressing because it involves a woman hunting down the man who accidentally killed her husband and daughter. For the US viewer, it's depressing because it depicts "Big Brother" in such a terrifying manner. Still... I did kinda like it.
Verdict: Eh...

Shutter Island (2010)
Director: Martin Scorcese
Writer(s): Laeta Kalogridis, Dennis Lehane (novel)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Emily Mortimer, Mark Ruffalo
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I love Martin Scorsese. I think Leonardo DiCaprio is a fantastic actor. I think Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley rock. I hate contrived films that want to you be in awe of how clever they are. Add those all together, and I'm not a big fan of this movie. This type of storytelling might have taken Hollywood by storm with The Usual Suspects (a film I love) and The Sixth Sense (a film I don't), but it's run its course. At least it's run its course the way Hollywood keeps trying to do it. Sorry, Marty, but you need to stick to your established genres... you know, the ones you're the indisputable master at. I will acknowledge, however, that Shutter Island was beautifully made.
Verdict: SKIP it.

Trick 'r Treat (2007)
Director: Michael Dougherty
Writer(s): Michael Dougherty
Starring: Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Dylan Baker
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Not since the Creepshow films have we had such a fun collection of horror vignettes. Sure, there was that Tales from the Darkside movie, but who remembers that? Anyway, Trick 'r Treat takes the vignette one step further and intertwines each of its tales to form an almost-cohesive whole. It doesn't quite work as desired, but the backs and forths do provide for an additional laugh or two. Perfect? No. But definitely fun.
Verdict: SEE it.

Videodrome (1983)
Director: David Cronenberg
Writer(s): David Cronenberg
Starring: James Woods, Deborah Harry, Sonja Smits
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True story: James Woods has long creeped me out, and I've never really been able to pinpoint why. Another true story: I've long been terrified by the image of a television coming to life and scaring/seducing the man watching it. Last true story: thanks to Netflix and a recent article I read about Cronenberg, I queued and watched Videodrome. I now know why the first two stories are true. Anyway, enough about me... despite dated (and ridiculous) special effects, the moral of Videodrome concerning the dangers of a media-based culture is profound, has proven to be true, and watching this film in retrospect makes it that much more terrifying (in a philosophical sort of way... it's not really that scary... unless you're 5).
Verdict: SEE it.

5 comments:

  1. Can't believe it, of all those I've only seen Cronos which I loved and Shutter Island which I 'liked' Fell asleep during The Fighter....boy flick.

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  2. You asked me to recommend some recent Spanish films and here goes. Not sure how they are translated into English or what kind of international distribution they have, so I will include my literal translation of the title.

    "No habrá paz para los malvados" (There Will Be No Peace for the Wicked", directed by Enrique Urbizu; and

    "Balada triste de trumpeta" (Sad Trumpet Ballad), directed by Alex de la Iglesia, which has apparently been released in the US as "Last Circus".

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  3. I loved the Fighter. Hated Shutter Island (waste of $9.50 I'll never get back). I'm very interested in Buried (creeped out, but enough so that now I hanve to watch). Thanks for the tip.

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  4. The only one I've even heard of is Shutter Island, which I've not seen. (We Massachusetts residents applaud its locale, though.)

    But your description of Buried reminded me of Wit (with Emma Thompson and directed by Mike Nichols). The entire film focused on Thompson's character who was in a hospital bed. Although there were a few other actors on screen briefly, it was a tour de force by Emma Thompson. I saw it 10 years ago, and just thinking about it gives me chills.

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  5. Videodrome is best watched on an empty stomach...

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