Shutter Island Review

Shutter Island is a pretty difficult movie to review. First of all, it’s hard to express into words exactly how much I loved this film. Second of all, there’s so much going on in this story and its hard to talk about loving this film with out risking giving something away. I’ll try my best though. First, let me start by saying that Martin Scorsese is among the three directors working today (others being Tarantino and Coen Brothers) that I truly can not and will not let me down by. That opinion is once again justified by his release of this masterpiece.

I absolutely love when each character in a movie is able to give a great performance, even the minor ones. That is exactly the case here. Each character realized his/her importance and expressed that in their performance. The main characters were the stand outs though of course. Mark Ruffolo was fantastic as the partner, but even better was Ben Kingsley as the mysterious owner of the institution, he was subtly, but surly able to chew up every moment he was on screen. The masterful performance here was DiCaprio’s though. He really threw everything he had into this one. I’m going to have to re-watch some of his other movies before officially stating this, but this might be the greatest performance he’s ever given.

This isn’t the horror movie that the trailers are making it out to be, and to tell you the truth, I really wasn’t really expecting it to be. What it was, was an intense and almost draining psychological thriller, and possibly the best I’ve seen. The movie really takes a lot out of you because of its edge-of-your-seat intensity. That’s not a bad thing though, it was really an adrenaline rush at every turn, a roller coaster ride of the mind, which is exactly what the main character Teddy goes on.

!!! SPOILER !!! !!! ALERT!!! !!! IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE, DON”T READ THIS PARAGRAPH!!!

!!! SPOILER !!! !!! DON’T READ !!!

I love this movie because it starts off with such a simple story. Two U.S. Marshall’s looking for a dangerous patient who has escaped from her cell. Then it takes you in so many different directions and you never know what to expect. There are so many questions circling your head because you have so much information to work with and really no answers. You are brought on a journey with Teddy and you feel every bit of insanity he does. Shutter Island is really the greatest depiction of insanity ever put on screen.

!!! END OF SPOILER PARAGRAPH !!!

Shutter Island is directed so mind-numbingly well, its hard to believe. But that pretty much goes with out saying, it’s Scorsese. Even for this masterful director, this film was an amazing feat in story telling. I truly think this film stacks right up there with all of his other masterpieces. Shutter Island isn’t just an unforgettable film, it’s an unforgettable experience.

Grade: A-

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Nine Review

This is a review that is long overdue, but that’s for the most part because it took me a while to actually see this film. Originally, when I heard about it a year ago I was very excited. It was a film about a film maker starring my favorite actor of all time, Daniel Day-Lewis. I was planning to see it the day it came out and not a second later. Then a week before its release, reviews started to poor in.

Almost every single one of them expressed that the movie was a waste of time or a movie that could’ve been great and unfortunately failed epically. I also read a minority of reviews saying that the movie was ok or sub-par, but not the great film it should’ve been. Needless to say, after reading these reviews I was quite saddened and much less excited to see Nine. No, I did not see it on its release date as I originally planned and as a result I kept putting off seeing it in order to see movies I thought I’d enjoy more. I eventually realized, a couple weeks ago actually, that this is a movie starring the one and only Daniel Day-Lewis. I can’t not see this movie.

So I finally sat in a theater and watched Nine expecting nothing more than to be disappointed. My expectations were surprisingly and fortunately exceeded. My opinion on this film actually matched my original expectations so I think the fact that I went in there not expecting much made the move that much better. I loved every moment of Nine.

The sound and style made every part interesting and appealing. The songs were catchy and memorable and the acting by all was fantastic. The real stand outs were Judi Dench, in a subtle, but great performance. Penelope was chirpy and fun in the role of the mistress. Cotillard was amazing as the wife. And of course Day-Lewis was doing what he does better than anyone else. Its impossible for him to let me down.

I got a huge amount of enjoyment out of Nine. It was fast-paced, light hearted and fun. It was the tale of a film director attempting to work on his ninth project, while juggling the many women in his life. I really can’t see what so many didn’t enjoy about this film. I seriously loved it and can’t wait to own it on DVD. Nine is a beautiful piece of entertainment complete with great performers and fun.

Grade: A

The Book of Eli Review

The Book of Eli is the perfect example that even some of the best actors out there performing admittedly pretty great can’t always save a movie from falling flat. I’m not gonna lie I think both Washington and Oldman gave pretty great performances, but I did not like the movie as a whole at all. Post-apocalyptic movies always have that same gritty and deserted style as does The Book of Eli and it works, but even that couldn’t save this corny story.

This was new territory for Denzel, he was still that tough kind of character that we’ve seen him in many times before, but it was played so differently hear. He played the role as if every action was necessary and at the same time morally straining. When it comes to Gary Oldman, I always love his work. He is so fantastically versatile and you know you have an ace in the hole when you put him in the role of the villain. Arguably his greatest screen presence is seen in The Professional as Norman Stansfield, which is another movie I’m not a huge fan of, but I absolutely love him in.

The movie as a whole was weighed down by a pretty awful script, an even worse supporting cast, and worse of all, effects that tried so desperately hard to be intriguing, but failed miserably. The Book of Eli is just another waste of time concerned more with its fight scenes and the money it will bring in than the actual art behind the tale they could be telling.

It’s always sad to see some of your favorite actors in a movie you don’t enjoy, but it doesn’t make me question them because they were still able to give good performances. Obviously it was their attached names that drew me to this film. They weren’t enough to save this project obviously. I don’t doubt for a second that they will be acting in masterpieces again soon.

Grade: C-

Top Ten Stanley Kubrick Movies

Stanley Kubrick is without a doubt one of the greatest minds ever to grace cinema and arguably the most important and influential. Kubrick has crafted masterpieces under almost every genre known to film; War, horror, romance, comedy, sci-fi, heist, sword and sandal epic, just to name a few. He made movies that no one else thought possible. He lived by his quote, “If it can be written or thought, it can be filmed.”

Obviously, with such an extensive resume, its an almost impossible task to pick out your favorites and order them. It really depends on your mood when it comes to Kubrick because he is probably the most versatile director there’s ever been. After much deliberation I’ve given it my best shot.

10. The Killing

One of Kubrick’s first films is his take on the often difficult story to tell. The story of the ins and outs of a heist. The film is fast-paced, thought out and complete with the involving characters and the twists you’d expect in a film such as this. The Killing is a great movie, but it was really just a baby step in the genius’ illustrious career.

9. Eyes Wide Shut

This oddity was certainly one to be remembered if only for the fact that it was his last film. Its the telling of one mans night of sex and madness after finding out his wife almost cheated on him. Eyes Wide Shut is arguably Kubrick’s strangest film and that is saying something, but despite that, it is rather enjoyable. Also deserves props for being one of the view movies to actually hold a decent performance by Tom Cruise.

8. Paths of Glory

Stanley Kubrick’s anti-war phenomena usually flies under the radar, but I love every engrossing moment. This is mostly due to the outstanding performance Kirk Douglas displays. Tells an almost tear-jerking tale of men who are sentenced to death, basically for refusing to commit suicide. It was a fantastic take on war and its destructive outcomes.

7. Barry Lyndon

The epic tragedy of one mans rise and fall is one you won’t want to miss. Kubrick, along with each performer, goes the extra mile in each moment of the film, making it one of the most realistic period pieces I’ve ever seen. Barry’s life is interesting, memorable, entertaining and above all else, real. Everything is so impeccably believable, you feel more as if your watching a documentary.

6. Spartacus

Stanley Kubrick’s sword and sandal epic is nothing short of a masterpiece. The story of the gladiator Spartacus who leads an army of slaves is a story needed to be told and told well. No one could have done it better than with the grace of Stanley Kubrick and the powerhouse actor that is Kirk Douglas. Has too many memorable sequences to even count.

5. Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Dr. Strangelove is one of my favorite comedies of all time. Its just one hilarious and memorable scene after another. Its packed with with some of the greatest comedic characters ever put on screen and a lot of them are played by the same person (Peter Sellers). George C. Scott and Sterling Hayden are also give stand out performances. And who could forget Major Kong and his ride of a lifetime. A fantastic achievement in film that should not be missed.

4. A Clockwork Orange

Its very difficult for me to put this masterpiece at number 4. A Clockwork Orange is the morbid and sensational look into society’s obsession with violence and moral choice. Who better to take us on this morbid, intense and above all else insane journey than the one of the most twisted characters ever put on screen, Alex DeLarge, expertly played by Malcolm McDowell. One of the most controversial films ever released and also one of the most enjoyable.

3. Full Metal Jacket

Full Metal Jacket is a fantastic achievement not only for being a full-fledged piece of entertainment, but also for being possibly the most realistic war movie ever made. From the terror of boot-camp to the hell of combat, Kubrick takes us on an amazing journey through the psychology of killing. I can also gurantee enjoyment from watching R. Lee Ermey in the role of Gunnery Sgt. Hartman.

2. 2001: A Space Odyssey

The greatest sci-fi movie of all time. Period. Star Wars doesn’t even come close to this monumental epic. What I wouldn’t give to be there for its release in 1968. 2001: A Space Odyssey is the story of the life and times of not just one of us, but all of us. It’s the character study of man himself. Its the monumental look into the past, present and future. An epic masterpiece, that will stand the test of time until the end of time itself.

1. The Shining

The Shining is one of the greatest movies ever created and by far the greatest horror films of all time. There are so many different ways you can look at this masterpiece and each of them are enjoyable. It can be viewed as a simple haunted house (actually in this case, secluded hotel) tale. You can look at it as one mans complex decent into insanity. Or you could look at from the point of view of a boy attempting to survive in a world of madness. Has the greatest setting known to film. The monumental and horrifying Overlook Hotel is just as memorable as Jack Nicholson’s transformation from good father to pure evil.

There’s always something more you can enjoy with each view;  Torrance’s conversations with the eerie bartender, Lloyd, when we get to read the novel he’s been working on and of course arguably the most famous quote of all time, “Here’s Johnny!”, there’s so much enjoyment you can get out of this terrifying masterpiece. The Shining is nothing short of perfect.

 

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Crazy Heart Review

There are always rare points in cinema where an actor will get a script and due to their performance and good directing, a movie will feel so immensely real that almost every moment, good and bad, is pleasing to watch. That’s what you get in the movie Crazy Heart. With Crazy Heart you have Jeff Bridges, a phenomenal actor, in what might be the performance of his career and with his prior accomplishments, that is saying something.

Crazy Heart tells the tale of an old alcoholic country star far past his prime. Known only to his fans as Bad Blake. Blake’s routine usually consists of waking up hung over, drinking, driving to his next gig in the middle of nowhere, which is usually some bowling alley or bar, drinking some more, sleeping with an old groupie, drinking, oh and did I mention the occasional drink here and there. Blake is considered lucky if he gets the chance to open for his once prodigy and now big time country star, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) , Blake considers it a kick in the head. One day a reporter (Maggie Gyllenhall in a fantastic performance) comes along looking for an interview from the washed up country star.

Crazy Heart is very comparable to the movie The Wrestler. Both are fantastic movies that required outstanding performances. They are a bit different though. In Crazy Heart, I think you’ll find a light hearted take on  this similar story. It all depends on you which you enjoy more. I lean a little more towards The Wrestler as a whole, but performance wise I think I’d lean toward Bridges, but only slightly.

Crazy Heart is one you won’t want to miss if only to see one of the greatest actors of our time in one of his greatest performances. The movie would not and could not have been the same with out the powerhouse performance that Bridges gave. He really threw his all into the character and its always a pleasure to see a performer do just that.

Grade: A-

Away We Go Review

Let me begin by saying that I am a big Sam Mendes fan and his name attached is what drew me to this film. Away We Go is with in that same indie-comedy type movie genre that also holds movies like Juno, Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind and more recently (500) Days of Summer, to name a few. Away We Go was a fun movie worthy of my view, but it just didn’t seem like the type of movie Mendes needed to make. It’s obviously just not his genre.

Whereas Mendes was able to succeed with dramatic masterpieces such as American Beauty and Road to Perdition, it just didn’t seem as though he could succeed as gloriously in this genre. Not that masterpieces can’t come out of this genre, quite the contrary because Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind is just that. I’m just implying that Sam Mendes obviously doesn’t prevail as well in this genre. Away We Go was a pretty good movie, don’t get me wrong, it just doesn’t stack up.

Away We Go certainly had its moments and their were many funny parts, but then other parts felt a little forced. The actors were chosen well and they all worked well together, but it just fell flat in its story a couple times. The story is a couple looking for the perfect place to raise their soon to be born child. Yes, a bit hilarity ensues as you would expect it to.

All and all, Away We Go was a decent movie. I’m glad I watched it because it was fun at times, but it was nothing to write home about. I know Sam Mendes has better work under his belt and I’m excited to see what it is.

Grade: B