Archive for the ‘Achive’ Category

Apr
18

[REC]

Posted by Abbie on April 18, 2008 under Achive

Oh, where to begin? Everything about this film made me happy. Not in a ‘feel-good-movie’ sort of way, obviously, I’m not that deranged, but in a stuck up, nit picky film geek sort of way.

The story is that of a television crew who are following firemen around for an evening. The firemen get called to an injured woman, and the situation snowballs until the crew, firemen, and residents of an apartment building are all locked inside with infected zombies. The point of view of the film is that of the cameraman for the television show. This makes the film a little Blair Witch-esque in that it plays with the audience‚Äôs perception both of what is, and more importantly what is not, caught on camera. The acting is again reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project in that the actors seem to be genuinely playing themselves, and to be genuinely terrified. However, I have wondered in the past if the fact that I don’t speak Spanish, and thus can’t tell how the actors are delivering their lines, makes me a poor judge. Oh, yeah. Did I not mention? This film’s in Spanish. Either way, I thought it was phenomenal. And the blood was some of the best horror movie blood I’ve seen.

Zombie lore (yes, there is zombie lore) is both adhered to and cleverly played with. The victims in the film can’t seem to find a way to kill the zombies. That’s because the only way to do so is by removing the head or destroying the brain. When the revolution comes you’d do well to remember that. Also, infection is spread via bodily fluid. In [REC] the infection is a creative one – evidence of a Catholic nation’s take on zombies, perhaps, because the infection is demonic possession.

I really like zombie movies, but I absolutely loved [REC]. I’m sure the few other people in the cinema at 1pm could hear me whispering urgently to myself and the characters, ‘No, you have to take her head off!’ and ‘She’s going to bite your hand, dude… See? I told you she was going to bite you.’

Let us take a moment to realise the fact that this is a first, and undoubtedly the first of very select few:

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Apr
18

21

Posted by Abbie on April 18, 2008 under Achive

First of all, hello misogyny! If my Feminist friend Lucy from university had seen this movie, her head would have exploded. The female lead is referred to as ‘that,’ and all of the female characters ‘aren’t trusted.’ There’s also a relevant argument for some racism in there too, but as this isn’t Film 450 with Dr. Brown, I’ll just get to the review.

Kevin Spacey plays Micky Rosa, an MIT professor who leads a secret team (this all sounds very spy movie, doesn’t it? I digress…) of card counters who spend their weekends taking Vegas for thousands. His newest recruit is Ben, an adorable mathematical genius who is in the midst of trying to figure out how to pay for Harvard med school. It all fits together so nicely, doesn’t it? However, things go awry; Ben gets carried away and Professor Rosa shows his true, not so nice, colours. Throw in a love interest and an angry Vegas security thug and it makes for a pretty good plot.

Spacey, unsurprisingly, just shines. You really don’t like him in this film, and you’re not supposed to. He plays a real jerk and he plays it well. Though I’m not sure how historically accurate it is (MIT students did operate a Blackjack team from the ’70s-’90’s), that’s not really the point of the film. For an easy watch, 21 is pretty good. It even describes exactly how to count Blackjack if you can follow the maths.

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Apr
18

Awake

Posted by Abbie on April 18, 2008 under Achive

The previews for Awake pretty much give the film away except for two predictable ‘twists’ that the audience can (I hope) see coming a mile away.

Clay is a wealthy business heir who has been hiding his relationship from his overprotective mother. He also is on a waiting list for a heart transplant and it takes his surgery to bring his new wife and his mother together. The problem is that his doctors are plotting to kill him and benefit financially from his death. Three things troubled me about this film: the reason the doctors are doing this in the first place is because they owe money from previous malpractice lawsuits. If wealthy, powerful, inappropriately overprotective Mom’s darling son dies during surgery, as planned, she would obviously file yet another huge lawsuit against his doctors. How several people who were bright enough to succeed in medical school could not see that coming is baffling. Also, the mother/son relationship is dysfunctional, creepy and Freudian at best. You really get the feeling that there’s something inappropriate going on in Mommy’s head. It makes me cringe to think about it… The third issue I took with this film was somewhat nit-picky, I admit. But seriously, Evil Doctor #2 – Fisher Stevens – what is going on with his head? It looks like it’s about three times too large for his body. He has a giant ant head. It’s very distracting. I will say this about the movie, though; even though there wasn’t much to it that I hadn’t seen in the trailer, it did have an interesting illustration of death. This movie’s not bad if you’re not a fan of thinking about what you’re watching, or if you often find yourself in need of a toilet or popcorn run in the middle of films (I snuck out to get a hotdog and didn’t miss a thing).

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Apr
18

One Missed Call

Posted by Abbie on April 18, 2008 under Achive

One more in the recent trend of Japanese horror adapted to American cinema. Initially I thought this phenomenon was due to American laziness – Japan has all these good horror ideas and a specific look about their films; why bother thinking of whole new films when it’s easier to steal them from someone else, right? Well, that could be. But I think it’s rather that American horror blew its watt in the ’70’s and ’80’s.

Even though this film’s premise is just silly, despite the mobile phone part the plot’s not bad. There are some good ghosties, and though the acting’s only marginally decent, that’s all part of the fun and tradition of the horror genre. The fact that it’s all centred around mobile phones speaks volumes about a population with a completely new set of fears and thus new horror villains. In The Ring the girl came out of the television, in One Missed Call the victims get calls from a dead person, etc. But this isn’t a dissertation so I won’t go on about that…

Shannyn Sossamon plays the heroine, Beth, who teams up with Detective Jack Andrews (a conveniently young and attractive man played by Edward Burns) in order to solve the mystery behind the deaths of a number of their friends, all of which are preceded by ominous phone calls. It seems that the perpetrator behind all of these calls is waging a war on the middle class, as the victims all receive calls and voicemails on their mobile phones. Though removing the battery from the phone doesn’t seem to work (the characters thought of that), if you simply don’t own one you’re good.

Once I came to terms with the fact that people were being attacked via their electronic accessories, there was just one main problem with the story. When these kids (I use that term loosely) are fearing for their lives, knowing the predicted time of their own deaths, they’re still walking around the city waiting for an anvil to fall on their heads. Wouldn’t any halfway intelligent person be, oh I don’t know, sitting by themselves in a sterile, empty room with no windows? If you have two days advance notice of your death you have time to prepare, people! There were also some good comedy moments. I don’t think they were supposed to be funny, but a disembodied hand dialing a phone – hilarious. An attempted exorcism of a mobile phone – also hilarious. Honestly, I debated even seeing this film because I expected it to be complete tripe. But all told it’s not too bad. If you’re a horror fan and enjoyed other films in the same ilk such as The Ring and The Grudge, you won’t be disappointed in One Missed Call.

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Apr
18

Leatherheads

Posted by Abbie on April 18, 2008 under Achive

This film had some funny parts, but overall it was pretty boring. And that’s coming from someone who likes George Clooney, Renee Zellweger, and American football. This film has all the ingredients for greatness, or at least even a few good laughs, but it just misses the mark and doesn’t deliver. The casting, music, plot, and cinematography were all fine; I think where it went wrong was the dialogue. The few quippy jokes that may have livened it up a bit were trite.

The story is that of the birth of professional American football with a love triangle and a juicy news story thrown in. Set in 1925, George Clooney plays Dodge Connelly who, out of desperation, sets out to popularise professional American football. He does this by recruiting Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski), Princeton University’s star player/WWI war hero. The plot thickens when Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger), a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, tries to find out the truth behind Carter’s heroic claims. With all this going on, one would think there was more than enough plot to keep a viewer interested. But somehow there just isn’t. Leatherheads was so blah that I can’t even think of much to say about it except that it was boring. Save your money.

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Apr
18

10,000 BC

Posted by Abbie on April 18, 2008 under Achive

Oh, wow. That’s not a good ‘Oh, wow,’ that’s ‘Oh, wow, I can’t believe I just wasted 109 minutes of my life.’ This film is supposed to be an epic telling the story of a made-up legend about a young hunter who journeys to the ends of the earth to find and save his destined love. An attempt at mysteriousness refers to this mystical woman as ‘the child with the blue eyes,’ but that just adds to the triteness, and eventually the hilarity (because after the first hour all you can do is laugh at it) of the film.

Throughout his quest, the hunter finds camaraderie in the company of other tribes and civilisations and discovers things about his own past that had previously haunted him. Eventually he wages war on the Egyptian elite which have enslaved his quarry, and the film culminates when the band he has acquired, along with the countless other slaves, revolt and wreak havoc on their captors. In the ensuing melee, woolly mammoths are set free and charge, pyramids and massive scaffolding are destroyed, and the ground is littered with the bodies of the casualties. Normally I try not to give away the ending of a film, but I truly want to save any readers from seeing this movie, and the ending is obvious anyway. The hunter brings the Egyptian leader (I use the word ‘leader’ because he looks nothing like a Pharaoh) to his knees and secures not only the safety of his love but also the release of slaves. This portion of the film only adds to the silliness and outright untruth of the plot. Plus, when the ‘Pharaoh’ dies, his face is briefly shown and he’s an old white guy. If that’s an attempt at a serious political message, not only is the demographic of the target audience way off, but the effort is far, far too late in the movie.

I usually try to keep the political aspects of my reviews to myself, but this film is simply a patriarchal, testosterone driven excuse for battle scenes. Like The Patriot without the only halfway decent plot. A total snoozefest. Honestly, had it not been for the loud music heralding the hero’s arrival in Egypt, I would have fallen asleep. The only, and I mean only, reason I’m even giving this film a rating is because, the first time they’re on screen, the woolly mammoths look pretty cool.

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Apr
18

The Orphanage (El Orfanato)

Posted by Abbie on April 18, 2008 under Achive

A horror film made by the wonderful filmmakers who brought us Pan’s Labyrinth holds a great amount of promise. The Orphanage definitely lives up to its older brother’s reputation.

Nothing draws a crowd, and kicks off the spring/summer movie season, quite like a good ghost story. Especially one featuring creepy little kids in disturbing masks. Even for a Saturday night I was surprised at how full the theatre was when I went to see this film. I actually had to sit next to a stranger. Yuck. But I digress. The large crowd only added to my amusement when it was made clear that the film was in Spanish with English subtitles. Though made by Spanish film makers, as it has been marketed as The Orphanage rather than El Orfanato, many people were not expecting to have to read the dialogue. I was pleasantly surprised, however, by the lack of grumbling and the ensuing silence in the theatre as the audience sat attentively, raptly engaged in the film.

The story is that of Laura who buys the orphanage in which she grew up with the intention of setting up a group home for children with special needs. Together with her husband and young son Simon she soon gets wrapped up in a sad and chilling mystery involving a former employee of the orphanage, her deformed child who constantly wore a disturbing mask, and what happened to the other orphans after Laura had been adopted. Simon inexplicably disappears, and it is Laura’s desperate need to find her lost son which compels her to enlist the help of the dead.

Not unlike Pan’s Labyrinth, The Orphanage keeps the gore to a minimum, but what it does have is extremely realistic and hard to look at. The film makers did not shy away from the human form, even when it was broken and mutilated. Unlike the glossy horror films of the US, the dead bodies look dead rather than like pretty actors who are merely asleep. While The Orphanage did not actually scare me (that’s not a criticism – only two films in history have succeeded in that feat), it definitely has its creepy and uncomfortable moments. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and it seems the average Saturday night movie audience did as well as I overheard nothing but good things walking out of the theatre.

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Apr
18

The Cottage

Posted by Abbie on April 18, 2008 under Achive

I have a very complex relationship with horror films. Horror is my favourite genre, but because I am so picky and snobby that few horror films impress me. Perhaps adding an element of comedy makes the feat easier (with the tremendous exception of the Scary Movie films and their ilk; my abhorrence for such tripe is immeasurable). Either way, The Cottage nobly joins the ranks of Shaun of the Dead and even the Evil Dead trilogy as magnificently executed hilarious horror. It features true horror, gratuitous gore, situation comedy, and an irrefutably attractive, and equally trashy, girl – something for everyone.

Two brothers kidnap said girl in order to extort money from her father, but instead stumble into far more trouble than both what they had bargained for, and what she is worth. A gruesomely deformed, murderous farmer hunts down the characters in the film one by one as they mistakenly trespass on his land. Though there is absolutely no subtlety when it comes to the amount of blood and violence, the magic of this film is in the exquisite details, such as what is printed on the teacups. Though The Cottage is both hilarious and gory, it also has its genuinely scary moments which do not require blood in order to achieve their desired effect. The characters are also well acted, with special emphasis on Tracy, the ill-fated heroine/victim. I was simultaneously annoyed and captivated by her; as I, as a viewer, was supposed to be. A mark of a truly talented filmmaker is the ability to play an audience like a puppet master; making strangers feel exactly what he or she intended using only words and music.

Like the other wonderful horror/comedy films with which The Cottage is on a par, I foresee a substantial cult following for this film, and will no doubt enjoy it in such a context in the future.

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Apr
18

The Spiderwick Chronicles

Posted by Abbie on April 18, 2008 under Achive

If it was possible to translate a heavy sigh into writing, I would do so here. It’s not that this film is bad, just that since the advent of Harry Potter it has become fashionable to make movies based on children’s books about orphans discovering magical powers or worlds. The credit that I can give to such films (for example The Chronicles of Narnia and A Series of Unfortunate Events) is that the books on which they were based were published either before or at the same time as the Harry Potter series was gaining international popularity. The Spiderwick Chronicles however, though moderately entertaining, simply falls short of the mark that its monumental predecessors have set.

The formula for all of these films, and for a vast majority of folktales, is that of a group of children, featuring an orphaned boy, discovering something magical and engaging in a quest of some description. The Spiderwick Chronicles is no exception. The hero of the tale, Jared, is misunderstood by his family and thus not believed when he claims to have stumbled onto a book that details the workings of a hidden world full of mythical creatures. Jared gains the help of a few of these creatures in defeating an evil ogre whose wrath Jared has incurred.

For those who haven’t read the books, The Spiderwick Chronicles may be a bit of a disappointment, and though it is clearly geared toward children, there are some scenes that may be a tad scary for anyone under the age of 7 0r 8. One redeeming quality the film may have, for those who are familiar with such things, is that some of the artwork that illustrates Jared’s field guide is delightfully Brian Froud-esque. However, those who are familiar with Froud’s work may be even more disappointed in the portrayal of creatures such as Brownies and Red Caps. Overall, The Spiderwick Chronicles just left something to be desired. I think it may have been originality.

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Feb
27

My Blueberry Nights

Posted by Abbie on February 27, 2008 under Achive

Other than the obnoxious people sitting behind me at the cinema when I saw My Blueberry Nights, it was pretty good. Norah Jones makes her acting debut as Elizabeth, a heartbroken girl who journeys around the US after a painful relationship. Before she leaves, however, she meets Jeremy (Jude Law), who runs a cafe and who has also been jilted in the past. Though they build a friendship, Elizabeth nonetheless leaves without saying goodbye.

In her travels around the US, Elizabeth finds herself wrapped up in other people’s lives and dramas, and writes her thoughts about her experiences back to Jeremy on postcards. Elizabeth, who goes by Lizzie in one place, Beth in the next, finds bits of herself in the quirky and sometimes sad people she meets along the way, and by the time she finds her way back to where she came from she is no longer a Lizzie or a Beth, but a whole Elizabeth.

My Blueberry Nights is a little depressing at times, and a lot predictable, but as far as nice chick-flicks about love and soul searching go it’s not bad. Coming from someone who usually hates that kind of thing, that’s saying a lot. It even has an easily read metaphor that gives it a slight but crucial edge over the vast majority of mid-grade girly movies. The soundtrack, which obviously features Norah Jones, is very well put together and fits the film like a glove. As far as the acting goes, I’d say Jones’ first try was a success. Natalie Portman and Jude Law are also decent, and David Strathairn as Arnie, a town drunk in Memphis, is positively heartbreaking. Though it’s not stupendous, it’s not bad either. Ideally paired with a moderately priced meal for a date night, perhaps.

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