Monday, June 30, 2008

Movie #44 - Children of Men

"No children. No future. No hope."

One of the best films that I saw from the 2006 class, this one is great from start to finish. Not only is the film well shot and well written, but the cast is wonderful.

The concept - no woman on Earth can have children anymore - or in other words, the human race is becoming extinct. There are some great scenes in this film (which I won't spoil for those who haven't watched it yet) and there are some strong commentaries on how our current society could potentially erode to what you see on screen here in just a few years.

Currently, the Earth is on a crash course to something like this - mainly caused by us. We are ravishing this world of our natural resources, our unique species, and our clean air and water supplies that eventually, a worldwide epidemic such as infertility could pose a major threat. Although quite extreme on the whole, this movie provides perspective of what would happen if the world was going to end - very slowly.

There are some heart-wrenching scenes here such as the battle scenes with the refugees / rebels and the deaths of some key characters throughout the film. The screenplay is adapted by Timothy Sexson and Alfonso Cuaron, both who were nominated for Oscars. The film was nominated for a Cinematography Oscar as well, but the film was shunned in 2006. I would've thought Clive Owen deserved acknowledgement for his role in this film, but I guess there were just some better performances out there in 2006 - I beg to differ.

Just on sheer concept alone, this movie is great. Once you commit yourself emotionally, you'll enjoy it even more because its dark, its dire, and it really hits you on the personal level. Especially if you are a parent or aspiring to be one - you'll know why. In the end, the movie provides a glimpse of a possible future if any of the pandemics imposing on society ever catch hold on the human race. I just hope that we can move away from this direction and save ourselves in the long run.

Movie #43 - Halloween (2007)

"Evil has a destiny."

Being a massive fan of the original 1978 cult classic, I must admit, this movie did bring back a great deal of memories. The original 1978 film was in fact an independent film created by John Carpenter and starring the unknown phenom at the time - Jamie Lee Curtis.

I commend Rob Zombie in bringing this film back from the depths of VHS obscurity into the mainstream with his remake version. I liked the efforts made to make this movie his own, but I do love the fact that he retained a large portion of the original screenplay, score, and scenes to please both purists and new audience members alike.

I understand the appeal to bring this movie back - 1978 represents a whole generation of people, myself included (born in 1980) who grew up without CGI and grew up on epic films such as Star Wars. A large man walking slowly around a suburb in a mechanics outfit wearing a cheap William Shatner mask just isn't quite scary anymore for today's teenagers - the main demographic of the movie theatre audience.

The first full hour is a treat for us older viewers. The Zombie version goes into a strong background into Michael Myers' psyche and his development into the violent sociopath that he becomes. There are strong performances by Daeg Faerch as Michael Myers at age 10 and you become sympathetic with Deborah Myers (portrayed by Sheri Moon Zombie), as Faerch begins to tailspin into his madness and becomes obsessed with murder and evil.

Once that hour is completed, the movie returns to about 85% of the original screenplay. There are add-ons to the script such as the origin of Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton), a more in-depth character development of Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm MacDowell), and some different death sequences. By that point, the movie became very predictable, which probably angered some movie-goers expecting to see a different film.

What are the takebacks? Getting to the know the Myers boy is perfect for the franchise fan. We really didn't know what set Michael off back in 1978, now we do. Faerch portrays a sick little boy to the tee and he does it convincingly... especially because his face can go from innocent and sweet to murderous and evil in a split second. The casting of Taylor-Compton was disappointing as the Strode character is supposed to represent the heroin in this film... something that Zombie did not accomplish with this actress. I was disappointed with MacDowell's portrayal of Loomis, but only because I am biased towards the late Donald Pleasence. If only he were still alive, I believe re-casting Pleasence in this role would achieve Zombie's goal to reinvigorate the franchise.

In my opinion, he accomplished as such. This is by far a strong attempt to bring back the Halloween franchise from obscurity - I just hope they stop at one remake this time around.

Movie #42 - Children of God: Lost and Found

"A first-person account of growing up in an evangelical Christian cult."

There is not much to say here apart from watch this movie. Coming from a Catholic upbringing, there is a great deal of stuff that my religion has done in recent years to give the whole practice a bad name. However, with regards to Christian cults, like the one portrayed in this documentary, there are a lot of problems being expressed with this first-person account.

I commend Writer/Director Noah Thomson's efforts in trying to capture all sides to this story. The personal hardships and tragedies experienced by the real life people in this film make a strong commentary towards the negative effects of strong religious beliefs and what damage and pain these extreme beliefs do in fact cause.

This documentary provides an insight into what cult religions are like for young people growing up with these types of beliefs imposed on them at an early age. The documentary also delves into how Thomson and his brothers are attempting to cope with their own personal battles after leaving the religion to start their own lives as adults.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Movie #41 - Matrix Revolutions

"Everything that has a beginning has an end."

Thank God! They really should've stopped with the first movie. One of the groundbreaking films of the era, The Matrix was a gem of a movie and many would have benefitted with the franchise stopping at one film.

However, when money is involved and a story needs to be told - you get your sequels. Don't get me wrong, many films have enjoyed better sequels than first films. This one... I tend to disagree. Not only were the other two films box office flops in comparison to the first movie... they didn't make much sense. And I am a big fan of science fiction / fantasy films and both were way out there... not because of plot, but strictly based on screenplay execution and lack of emotional presence on film created by Keanu Reeves (Neo).

There are some major bonuses in this film that I cannot complain about. Mainly the casting of Monica Bellucci as Persephone. Her role is more important in the second sequel, however, seeing her at any point in both films is a treat - especially leather clad no less. In addition, the Zion battle sequences were quite cool - specifically the giant mechancial soldier gunners were well designed.

In the end, Revolutions really took on an action movie feel to it, but really made no sense. The final battle sequence between Neo and Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) was very underwhelming and thus, the end of this franchise was welcomed. I do admit falling asleep in the drive-in back in the day when I watched Matrix Reloaded... unfortunately, I wasn't so lucky this time around with this one.

Movie #40 - Tombstone

"Justice is coming!"

Yes - and his name is Kurt Russell (Wyatt Earp). What makes me laugh about this film is that although tagged as one of the best modern Western films ever made, it doesn't get any critical acclaim because it is in fact shot and cast like a strict action movie. Also, what spoiled the success of Tombstone is Kevin Costner's failed attempt at Wyatt Earp - which was released so soon after this film (less than 1 year), that most people disregarded it completely.

What makes this movie a great film and one for those masculine men out there is the wonderfully casting of Val Kilmer (Doc Holliday) contrasted against Sigma Nu's own, Michael Biehn (Johnny Ringo). The constant feud between these two deadly guns of the wild west are captured on film between these two actors. You really feel the hatred Biehn has for Kilmer's character and you definitely know that these two are on a collision course throughout the film.

As a follow up to this movie, I would like to see Kilmer resurrect his role as Doc Holliday in a film just based around his character and life's exploits. However, I think Holliday will be forever linked to Wyatt Earp and his association to his time in Tombstone.

Overall, the film is cast with a number of familiar names: Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, cameo from Charlton Heston (can't have a movie with guns without him), Jason Priestley (who looks really out of place with his fake beard), Thomas Haden Church, Terry O'Quinn (pre-John Locke), Michael Rooker, Billy Bob Thornton, Powers Boothe, and of course, the love interest of Dana Delaney.

If this film had been made today, you would see this film immediately be tagged as a money grab. Most films with more than 2 headliner actors / actresses are usually deemed as such and many of them are. However, you cannot go wrong with Tombstone. If you are a fan of the old westerns with violence like For a Few Dollars More or The Magnificent Seven, you'll definitely enjoy this film. It packs it all in there in a neat little package and it has some great movie quotes that you can use the next time you find yourself in a gunfight.

"I'll be your huckleberry."

Movie #39 - Beverly Hills Cop II

"The Heat's Back On!"

A pretty cheesy tagline if you ask me. However, much better than the first movie... although the whole franchise does not rank in any Top 10 list trilogies out there. These movies are strictly fun films to enjoy, especially if you are a fan of the 80's. And, like The Godfather trilogy, many tend to forget that they even made Beverly Hills Cop III - many years later and way beyond its shelf life.

Eddie Murphy (Axle Foley) is at it again, returning to Beverly Hills to help Judge Reinhold and John Ashton (Det. Rosewood and Det. Taggert) to solve a set of alphabet crimes. What makes this film interesting is the casting of Brigitte Nielsen, who at the time was one of the hottest women in Hollywood - recently married to Sylvester Stallone, cast in a number of action flicks as the leading lady - you get the picture. I still liked her better in Rocky IV, but that's another blog entry entirely.

Jurgen Prochnow (Maxwell Dent) plays the villain in this movie... a far cry from his Jesus Christ casting in The Seventh Sign. And once again, we have some brief cameos of Paul Reiser, attempting to be funny as Murphy's mischievous sidekick from Detroit - like anyone would believe Reiser was from Detroit - yeah right, has anyone seen an episode of Mad About You?

Anyhow... the movie is much better than the first film, mainly because many of the jokes and plot twists are expected and the relationships are already established. In terms of movie accomplishments, this is definitely Judge Reinhold's best film ever... however, many would argue that either Zandalee or Fast Times at Ridgemont High were better films for him. I beg to differ.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Movie #38 - Terminator 2: Judgement Day

"It's nothing personal."

If I were to think back over all of the movies I have seen in my 27 years, I would like to think that Terminator 2: Judgement Day ranks high on influential films that I have seen. This thought stems from a variety of factors:

1991 - This year marks the period in which I became a big fan of the hobbies that I still enjoy today. I started collecting sports cards in 1991 and I was given the freedom to enjoy my love for movies with access to local video stores such as Streetsville, Ontario's Queen Video, in which I had access to over 10,000+ VHS films for a tremendous price point of 5 movie rentals for 5 days for $5.

Arnold Schwarzenegger - Surprisingly, this was the jump start of the persona that is the Governator. Not that his previous films such as Conan, Terminator, or Total Recall didn't do that already, Terminator 2 was the culmination of all of his efforts rolled into one of biggest blockbusters of the decade.

T-1000 - Awesome. At age 11, I honestly thought the concept of a liquid metal killing machine was fantastic and got my imagination going. It didn't motivate me to become an engineer or develop anything with computers, but it gave me the chance to appreciate that CGI was here to stay and that anything could be made to look and feel "real" on the screen with just a simple click of a few buttons. Computers were here to stay and T2 represented the virtual boom of the computer age, something I grew up in.

These 3 factors alone make this movie an important pillar in my hobby and obsession with the movies I like. Whenever I see this film, I always watch it in its entirety... the movie itself is well written, perfectly cast, and still provides a sense of suspense in the pursuit of John Connor. I have especially liked the parodies of this film done by the Simpsons, since it is one of my favourite movies.

What makes this movie work is the casting of Robert Patrick (T-1000) and Edward Furlong (John Connor). Without a strong Connor in the role, you don't feel the importance of his life or his character. Without a strong villain, who in this case is also a shape shifter and 10x stronger and faster than Arnold, you really don't have a movie. I always vouch that the villain makes the movie and what this villain is able to do really puts you in your seat.

If you have not yet seen T2: Judgement Day after 17 years, pick it up. It is definitely one to enjoy even now after so many years. A big screen, HD television viewing for the first time would be ideal as it would truly capture the essence of what was intended for the audience.

Movie #37 - Groundhog Day

"He's having the worst day of his life... over and over."

Definitely one of the more underrated movies out there... I am glad to see that it finally got recognition recently from the American Film Institutes, breaking one of the Top 10 lists of all time for Top 10 Fantasy films. Somewhat of a stretch considering the movie does not explain any magical or mystical reason why Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is stuck repeating the same day over and over again.

I tend to agree with some of the critics of the AFI list that this movie has the credentials of breaking Top 10 Romantic Comedies, thus not taking a spot away from some other Fantasy films. However, I believe it deserves to be recognize for its creative script and clever casting.

This movie spells comedic classic right from the beginning. Not only is it filmed in Punxsatawney, home of the infamous Puxsatawney Phil, it has a wonderful cast stemming from Andie MacDowell and Bill Murray, to the intricate detail side characters like Stephen Toblowsky (Ned Ryerson), Chris Elliott (Larry), and Brian Doyle-Murray (Buster Green) - who just so happens to be Bill Murray's father.

Directed by Harold Ramis - you have to believe Ramis is finally being recognized as a comedic movie genius with Groundhog Day breaking a list like this. The script is wonderfully written and the dialogue of this movie make it an instant modern-day classic in terms of punch line delivery.

Although I am not a big fan of Bill Murray in all of his variety of roles, I do like the casting of Murray as the lead. He delivers a strong, sarcastic portrayal of Phil Connors, somewhat contrasting the George Bailey type of Its a Wonderful Life and his Frank Cross from Scrooged. His despair in this film is what makes it work so well... if you want a good laugh and enjoy movies from the early 90's, this is definitely one to see.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Movie #36 - Munich

"The world was watching in 1972 as 11 Israeli athletes were murdered at the Munich Olympics. This is the story of what happened next."

One of the best films ever produced by Steven Spielberg, probably ranking in his top 5 on his resume. The script written by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth made this film great to watch. Spielberg surrounded this film with the very best - utilizing John Williams to create a very dramatic score and casting an incredible ensemble, not of names, but of quality actors.

I still don't understand why in 2005-06, Eric Bana didn't at least receive a Globe or Oscar nod for his role, probably one that will never be topped by his films. Bana really captures the presence of the character of Avner, one of five men chosen by the Israeli government to eliminate the men responsible for Black September at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

The graphic scenes of this film are captivating. The various murder scenes and bomb sequences are wonderfully shot and remind me of the efforts made by Spielberg in Saving Private Ryan to really set the tone of the film - dark and dramatic.

Clever castings in this film include Daniel Craig and Geoffrey Rush. Both men are known for more prominent roles in other films, but both add a unique touch of intensity in their roles for Munich. You don't equate Craig as James Bond here and that's a good thing. Rush definitely accomplishes an evil villain type of role as Ephraim.

On my lifetime "to do list," I definitely need to find the time to read the book from which this film was adapted - "Vengeance - The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team" by George Jonas. I'd bet its a great book... if I ever try to read books for pleasure again, this is obviously a high priority book on my list.

Movie #35 - Lucky Number Slevin

"Wrong Place. Wrong Time. Wrong Number."

I have one more phrase to add to this movie tagline... "Wrong Movie." This is one of those films that falls under the definition of "money grab." Not only are there too many big names in this movie, but there are even knighted actors - Sir Ben Kingsley.

The concept of the movie is quite clever, however, as the movie progresses, it becomes quite predictable. Despite every attempt by the filmakers to deceive the audience, you anticipate the ending of this movie - which is what is supposed to make this a good film.

Maybe its because of Josh Hartnett, but ever since Pearl Harbor, I cannot stand this guy as an actor. He's been matched up with some of the major stars over the years, but there are only a handful of accomplishments that I care to include in his repetoire. Mainly, its Blackhawk Down, but only because its a beautifully shot war movie, but not because Hartnett stole the show. In actuality, he lost the show in that movie to Eric Bana.

The same goes here as does with every other movie of Hartnett's career. He gets overshadowed by the cast or by a stronger performance. With Slevin, none of these factors took place - but having Hartnett as the centrepiece of this big star film really was a poor decision.
Bruce Willis, Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman, and Sir Ben Kingsley... normally, when you hear those names together, you're thinking blockbuster. But add Josh Hartnett to the front of that list... and from the word go - this movie is a bust.

The only thing that was positive from this film is the use of Hollywood North locations. Fort Erie racetrack is profiled... I grew up watching horseraces at this location, so it was fun to see it restored to its hey day. Also, there are some obvious locations in Toronto that were used for the main sets, but its not like anyone pays attention to that level of detail.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Movie #34 - For a Few Dollars More

"The man with no name is back... The man in black is waiting! As if one wasn't enough . . . as if death needed a double!"

This is by far my favourite of the "Man with No Name" trilogy. Many mainstream movie goers are loyal to "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," (GBU) mainly because of the famous score of the film, however, I am a big fan of the 2nd installment of these classic films.

Sergio Leone really did a number with this storyline. Not only does Clint Eastwood reprise his role, the casting of Lee Van Cleef as Col. Douglas Mortimer is fantastic. Pairing Van Cleef and Eastwood as competing bounty hunters really brings out the intensity of this film. Both are trying to find El Indio or Indio for short (played by the cult villain Gian Maria Volonte) - for different reasons - money and revenge.

The score of this film is actually much better than the GBU film as it has a real meaning and purpose, which drives the Van Cleef character to the last showdown in the film. Still, by far the best "fast draw" scenes of all of Western films, and yes... I open myself up to scrutiny with that comment.

Volonte reprises his villainous role in this film and is a strong persona to pit against the team of Van Cleef and Eastwood. He pulls it off wonderfully and in the end becomes the entertainment portion of this film with his quirks and infectious laughter of pure evil. Its a shame that Volonte never left the Italian movie industry, similar to Leone, or both could've enjoyed an array of U.S. film accolades over time. Instead, both became Spaghetti Western icons, producing just a handful of films in the mainstream, that are beloved amongst all fans.

I am quite impressed by Van Cleef's performance, one of my favourite actors. Although he wasn't much for the delivery of dialogue, his level of intensity and performance was provided by his sheer toughness and presence. He just scared you in a way that not even Chuck Norris or Bruce Lee could do - he just comes off the screen as being mean!

Leone's ability to pit good vs. evil in this film is what makes this so entertaining. Until the final moment of the movie, the audience is captivated. If you are ever to watch a "western" in your lifetime, please make sure you watch this one... you don't need to see any other movie of its kind.

Movie #33 - A Few Good Men

"In the heart of the nation's capital, in a courthouse of the U.S. government, one man will stop at nothing to keep his honor, and one will stop at nothing to find the truth."

Pretty odd tagline. Its not as descript as many of them are and its quite long. However, the movie itself is one of those classics that actually rely heavily on acting and script as opposed to special effects and smut. You gotta love the era of the early 90's, before everything became so easy to "generate."

Jack Nicholson is at his best here. And surprisingly, so is Tom Cruise (before Scientology perhaps?). Nicholson vs. Cruise makes for an interesting conclusion and obviously, the most famous of lines in film:

"I want the truth!"

"You can't handle the truth!"

Overall, this film is stacked from the production team inclusive of Rob Reiner and of course the acting credits of the following names: Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Pollack, and J.T. Walsh. There's even a brief cameo from Noah Wyle, but who's paying attention to that much detail.

This movie ensures the success of the board game 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon in that he is linked to everyone here. Also, this movie represents one of the stronger cameos of the quintessential movie villain, graduate of the Donald Sutherland school of movie henchmen, J.T. Walsh. I cannot rave enough about this guy and his contributions to film, he is still missed in many of the action and drama movies of today and if you watch his films closely - you'll see why.

In the end, this movie delivers its dramatic showdown that is known to many movie goers, but is still one of the best sequences on film. A good film to watch in its entirety, but way over exposed due to channels such as TBS.