Cloud Atlas Review

Cloud Atlas is a project that, as a whole, deserves admiration if only for the fact that it was such an ambitious project to undertake. It deserves even more admiration because, for the most part, they accomplished what they set out to. It’s gargantuan film and it’s hard to really take it all in, but the result is a good film.  Cloud Atlas is a movie I’m very glad was made and it’s one I’m certainly glad I saw. However, I’m not sure I’ll ever feel the need to watch it again anytime soon.

The film opens with a grizzled and tattooed Tom Hanks monologuing, the film then jumps to another story and then another and another, you get the picture. The spans thousands of years involving a handful of different characters. You begin to recognize Tom Hanks playing characters in other time periods and other actors playing numerous characters as well. “Everything is connected” is the fitting tagline to this broad film about time, creation and us.

As you could expect, this film that travels through thousands of years is quite long. Honestly, it was a bit overbearing at times. I felt very involved and excited during a few of the stories whereas others just weren’t as important. This was the problem. Of course it’s hard not to have favorites when the movies said and done, but I found myself often wanting more of one story while another one was playing. This was probably the biggest risk in undertaking this daunting task and the funny thing is that the stories that felt the most useless were probably the best ones so what does that say about the movie as a whole?

The Wachowskis have made something to be remembered here. Some of it is completely riveting and if the entire film was as good as some of its parts then we would really have something of a marvel. As I stated before, they did accomplish what they set out to, at least that’s what it felt like. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t the extraordinary film it wanted to be or could have been. I’m not going to down grade it for what it could’ve been though, I’m going to grade it for what it is and it was good. Although, I feel as though I could’ve gotten what I wanted out of it from simply watching the trailer.

Grade: B

Seven Psychopaths Review

Seven Psychopaths offers an entirely memorable experience involving guns, blood, the written word, a dog and people one can only describe as psychotic. There was never a moment in the film where I wasn’t either laughing or completely engrossed in the story at hand.  With the extraordinary Seven Psychopaths, Martin McDonagh has written and directed a film about a screenwriter named Martin who is attempting to write a movie called Seven Psychopaths.

Martin McDonagh is the writer and director responsible for another fantastic film entitled, In Bruges. It’s been four years since he’s made his last and first movie. In Bruges was a brilliant film that was not only funny, but odd, dark and deep. Seven Psychopaths is his second film and not only is it better than his first film, but I don’t see him being able to top this masterpiece any time soon. Through a story that is both insightful and beautiful, Seven Psychopaths conquers the task of being completely hilarious and endlessly entertaining all while examining and commenting on itself as a film and the medium as a whole.

Seven Psychopaths tells an insane and imaginative tale about a screenwriter’s attempts to finish latest work and the friends helping him accomplish just that as they all have to hide from a crazy mobster, but loving pet owner, who wants the dog back from the screenwriter’s friends who just kidnapped it. The story is simple enough, which makes room for the layers and layers of prominent meaning underneath the surface.

The acting is simply phenomenal. And I mean by every performer. Colin Farrell proves himself as a leading man, while Woody Harrelson is great as the so called “chief villain”. The best performances come out of the secondary and best two characters in Seven Psychopaths. Sam Rockwell performs as brilliantly as ever as Martin’s chaotic best friend. On top of that, the real talent comes out of the restraint, confidence and artistry exemplified in Christopher Walken’s performance of the wise and gentle, Hans.

Whereas Seven Psychopaths is at times derivative, it is a completely unique and enthralling film because there is a point to the few stereotypes. The film is witty and poetic. One scene may be absolutely hysterical, while another is intense and dramatic. Seven Psychopaths is a vast and eloquent movie about stories and the people and experiences that inspire those stories. It’s a masterpiece and one I plan on enjoying over and over and over again.

Grade: A+

Top Ten Movie Characters

It’s no wonder I’m making this list, how could I not? Movie characters are my bread and butter. I love movies and without the the heart and soul of a movie’s characters, a movie would be nothing. This is my list and homage made for the greatest characters in film. It was one of the hardest I’v ever felt the need to make. Awhile ago I made a Top 50 regarding this theme, but things have changed and I wanted to make a new and definitive “Top Ten Movie Characters” list. Before I get into it, here are the four lists I made prior that helped in the creation of this list…

And here we go…

10. Kikuchiyo (Seven Samurai)

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When I say Kikuchiyo I mean Kikuchiyo as he is my favorite of the seven samurai who, for nothing, band together to protect a helpless village of farmers from ruthless bandits. However, I think if any one of these seven brave and powerful warriors is mentioned you have to at least mention the rest and all their heroism. Each samurai is unique in their own way, but there’s a special oddity that is the seventh samurai. He’s a confident and savage warrior and like any other samurai he’s wandered and seen the world. Unlike many samurai he doesn’t wearily look at the world with tired eyes, he looks at the world and laughs because what else can you do?

9. Django (Django Unchained)

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In most westerns you’ll find mysterious or violent antiheroes, but in Quentin Tarantino spaghetti southern you’ll find one of the greatest heroes in film. Django is a freed slave who sets out with his new found friend, Dr. King Schultz, to rescue his love from an evil plantation owner. As his journey progresses, Django establishes himself as a mighty warrior, a mythical avenger against the savagery of slavery in this fairy tale of a western. Django is just the epitome of cool, a badass who you want to stand up and cheer for.

8. William Munny (Unforgiven)

William Munny is an old western legend. He’s a vicious and feared killer, but he “ain’t like that no more.” He’s a good man and a loyal husband and father. His days of blood and gun fights took place long ago, but a life so grisly is hard to escape. In a world ruled by lawlessness and violence how else is a once dead-eyed killer to react to the brutality of it all. There’s no room for good men in the desolate west.”We all have it com in’ kid.” Can a cold-hearted killer be a good man?

7. Daniel Plainview (There Will Be Blood)

“I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people.” There Will Be Blood examines the idea of the American nightmare and it does so through a character study of Daniel Plainview. Daniel Plainview is driven by greed, consumption and hatred. He’s a despicable basterd who will stop at nothing to achieve his goals. What he wants more than anything is to be alone. It can never be denied that there are bad people in the world. There Will Be Blood tells a poetic and powerful story of one such man.

6. Tyler Durden (Fight Club)

Tyler Durden is a symbol for anarachy. He’s in a constant battle with conformity and all that is normal. It has been cited that Heath Ledger’s Joker is chaos, but The Joker is evil through and through. Tyler Durden isn’t good or evil, he is the personification of chaos. He was born out of a bored generation, but he won’t be white collar slave.  There’s a Tyler Durden in all of us who every once and a while has an understandable need to fight against the grain. Anyone who tries to ignore that fact or impulse could just as easily go insane.

5. Anton Chigurh (No Country for Old Men)

No Country for Old Men is poetic magnum opus of morality and violence created by some of the greatest filmmakers to have ever graced the screen with art, the Coen Brothers. The villain of this blood-soaked tale could be looked at as death incarnate. Anton Chigurh is a heartless killer. He would sooner murder a person than hug them. He’s calm, he’s collected, he’s efficient, he’s disciplined, he’s intuitive, he’s soulless and he can’t be stopped. This theme of unrelenting malevolence is at the heart the Coen Brothers’ masterpiece.

4. Col. Hans Landa (Inglourious Basterds)

Col. Hans Landa, otherwise known as The Jew Hunter, is something far worse than a high ranking officer of the Third Reich. He’s crafty detective who is as wise as he is evil. He does the things he does for his own gain. He’s not a nazi officer because he believes Adolf Hitler’s poisonous lies. He’s efficient at hunting Jews because for the time being it’s in his best interest. Once the situation changes, the slimy basterd will do what he has to in order to insure his own survival even if that means the betrayal of his country. There’s a certain charm and eloquence to him, but at the same time he just oozes wickedness.

3. Bane (The Dark Knight Rises)

Bane is the most formidable opponent imaginable. He is the personification of despair to Batman’s hope in The Dark Knight Rises. The animosity that grows between these men is just breathtaking. “Let’s not stand on ceremony here, Mr. Wayne.” Bane understands their relationship before even the detective, Batman, does. They belong in the battlefield, not sharing pleasantries from across the room. One will triumph over the other and in the end, nothing will matter more to Bane than accomplishing that goal.

In order to feed the people of Gotham hope to “poison their souls”, Bane rebels for the oppressed and against corruption in Gotham. He’s a revolutionary tyrant, he’s his own General and he’s his own greatest soldier. His true agenda is the torture and destruction of Batman and everything he loves. In the end, we find that part of the beauty to Bane, as one of the greatest villains and characters ever created, is in the way that everything this monster of man has done has been for love.

2. Batman (The Dark Knight Legend)

The icon that is Batman is the greatest hero ever created in story and the realistic adaption of Batman in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Legend (or Trilogy if that tastes better going down) makes for one of the greatest characters of all time. In what is the greatest story ever told we watch as three tales unfold charting the growth of the greatest hero to have ever existed. Batman Begins is the perfect hero’s journey as we see exactly how a man became the hero, Batman. In The Dark Knight Batman must become the pure good to The Joker’s pure evil In The Dark Knight Rises, we see the solidification of a legend as a weathered Bruce Wayne must dawn the cape and cowl once again to triumph over utter despair. Batman is the greatest hero ever crafted in a story.

1. The Joker (The Dark Knight)

Movies would be nothing without villains. It could be argued more so that movies would be nothing without conflict, but villains are just conflict personified. I placed four movie villains on this list and they all made it into the top 5. I couldn’t help myself. Villains make for some of the best characters and the best villain and character in film can be found in The Dark Knight. The villain in The Dark Knight and the antithesis to Batman is The Joker.

The Joker is colorful while Batman is black, The Joker wears make up while Batman wears a mask, The Joker is killer while Batman is a savior,  The Joker is a villain while Batman is a hero, but most importantly The Joker is symbol for evil while Batman is a symbol for good. You’ll not find a character as purely evil as The Joker. Whereas Batman is good for the sake of being good, The Joker is evil for the sake of being evil.

The Joker is completely lacking in motives, plans and empathy. He’s just one of those rare men who “want to watch the world burn.” He is a twisted and sadistic force for malevolence who would literally die laughing for all that is evil. Due to a flawless utilization of the character by director Christopher Nolan and the greatest performance of all time (portrayed to perfection by the late-great Heath Ledger), The Dark Knight’s Joker is a legendary character that won’t soon be forgot. The Joker isn’t just the greatest character in movies, The Joker is the greatest character stories have ever had to offer.

The Master Review

Normally when it comes to a movie as broad, brilliant and enveloping as The Master, it takes me multiple viewings to really appreciate exactly how extraordinary that which has been bestowed before me actually is. Every passing moment of The Master just served as a reminder of its overall excellence. As I sat and watched this film it was hard not to realize that what I was watching was nothing short of a modern masterpiece.

The Master is just a prime example of a movie that gets everything right. Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the greatest filmmakers to have ever existed and he proves that here again with his sixth film. Since his creation of the epic that is Boogie Nights, Anderson has turned out nothing but masterpieces. The Master is just another Paul Thomas Anderson masterpiece that was completely captivating during every single solitary second of the film.

As with all Paul Thomas Anderson movies, there is no shot out of place. He has such a grace to the way he makes film and with There Will Be Blood and The Master, it seems that Anderson has really come into his own as the masterful storyteller he is. Every single dynamic shot is just breathtaking to look at. There is such purpose to every choice Anderson makes. He knows his characters and his vision and with confidence he just does what he does best and tells a story.

The Master tells a mesmerizing and honest tale about the relationship between two men, Freddie Quell and Lancaster Dodd. Freddie is quite the peculiar character. He’s a drifter and a follower. He’s a confused man who acts on impulse and he sticks to what he knows; fighting, drinking, sex and the sea. He’s finding his way in a post-war world, which leads to a chance meeting with one Lancaster Dodd. Dodd is a leader. Quite literally, he is the “master” of his very own religious following entitled The Cause. Unlike Freddie Quell, Lancaster Dodd is very confident and sure of himself. He is the kind of man who people listen to, whereas Quell is the kind of man who listens. The relationship of these two men is at the heart of this extraordinary drama about choice and control.

The two men are completely different characters and both are played to perfection. From the moment you meet Lancaster, there’s just this enigmatic aura to him. Philip Seymour Hoffman makes it so the character seems important and every line he utters is just another testament to his patience, power and importance. It’s rare for the film to have a scene without its troubled protagonist Freddie Quell and Joaquin Phoenix just became his character. The confused drifter is so incredibly defined through writing and the greatest performance of an amazing actor’s career.

Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the greatest directors to have ever made a film and it’s an honor just to watch one of his movies because he really puts his all in it. The Master is his latest masterpiece and with each of his new masterpieces, he brings something new and spectacularly special to the table. He wouldn’t make a movie if he didn’t have something to say and with The Master he says a lot. It’s a film that spoke to me instantly and as I said before, such a beautiful piece of art must be appreciated overtime. I look forward to doing just that, but for now I can call it what it is, a masterpiece.

Grade: A+

Fracture

This is an intense drama/thriller that will bring you back to the days when you feared the line; “Have those lamps stopped screaming?” This movie is Silence of the Lambs if Anthony Hopkins wasn’t a cannibal and you replace Jodie Foster with Ryan Gosling. This wasn’t as good as Silence of the Lambs, but it was fun to try and figure out what would happen next. If you like Anthony Hopkins and his usual diabolical genius parts, you’ll like this movie.

Grade: B

Zodiac

This was one of the most intense and realilistic thrillers I’ve ever seen. It follows the story of the Zodiac killer through the eyes of the people that were obsessed with ending his reign. This was an amazing movie by the same guy who did my all time favorite movie, Fight Club. This movie was dark and incredible if you haven’t seen it yet, see it soon.Grade: A