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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Alien Concentration Camps! “District 9” Review


                Social fiction is the term I just made up to describe the type of genre “District 9” falls into; the science fiction movie that is not just robots fighting each other, time travel, or space racing. No, this genre is about social commentary while using the medium of science fiction to showcase it; hence social fiction. Movies included in this genre include “2001: A Space Odyssey”, “Planet of the Apes”, “Gattaca”, and arguably “Avatar” and “The Matrix”. “District 9” is the sort of movie that doesn’t stick with you after it is over because of dazzling visuals or popcorn entertainment, but it stays because of the idea that it portrays.

                Opening with plenty of pseudo documentary footage explaining the premise, “District 9” shows us how an alien ship landing in Johannesburg South Africa, without the ability to take off again, affects the lifestyle of the citizens, and how the humans deal with the situation over the years. The humans basically treat the aliens so badly it brings segregation of colored people to memory and even the holocaust when the humans kill a lot of them while sticking them in a camp especially for aliens, District 9. Since the humans are fed up with the aliens, they order them to relocate over to district 10 and the person chosen to serve the eviction notices is a man named Wikus, whose mannerisms show us a kind and outgoing spirit, but who deep inside is as bigoted and prejudiced as every human that has had enough of these aliens. He uses the derogatory term “Prawn” to refer to an alien which mirrors the terms used today to describe colored people.

                I applaud the film for giving us a main character that is unlikable to begin with. It is something very hard to do because an audience usually doesn’t want to follow the “Bad Guy” around for most of the movie, and yet Wikus, for the purposes of this review, is the bad guy. I’m not big on giving away information about the plot of a movie because I have found out that I tend to like a film more when I haven’t seen the trailer than when I have, but everyone watching the movie will probably work out that Wikus isn’t the same man by the end of the film, his views have changed, and he develops sympathy for the aliens (or rather empathy).

                Even though the film is primarily a statement on racism and bigotry, that isn’t to say that it doesn’t have its share of robot fights, explosions, and alien gunfire but they are all done out of necessity to the plot rather out of hungry eyes. The effects utilized to create the aforementioned action scenes are convincing and very gritty; the spaceship looks rusty and old and the aliens themselves look like giant cockroaches. After you watch this movie can you guess the budget of the film judging solely on what you see? Obviously that is a rhetorical question since I would only ask it if it was either very high or very low. 30 million, for those of you who don’t know that much about film marketing and economics, is nothing for a science fiction blockbuster like this one and yet it pulled it off very well even managing to get a nomination for an academy award for best visual effects. To put things into perspective, “The Social Network” which didn’t have any special effects, cost about 40 million to make. Now that is impressive if you think about it.

                A few things I didn’t like about the film the first time I saw it turned me around the second time. Ironically though the one thing that annoyed me slightly was something I actually enjoyed the first time around; the excessive pseudo documentary footage. It can get a bit tedious at times but after a while you get used to it. So overall my enjoyment of the movie remains the same: This is a fantastic story about xenophobia with great effects and plenty more to like. Make sure to watch it with an open mind and an empty stomach though, because the themes are quite strong and the “Schindler’s List” type violence might be quite hard to swallow.

9/10 (Fitting Right?)

But what about you? What other science fiction movies do you think bare a lot of social commentary? Click here to cast your vote.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Best Movies of 2011!

                Ok I know it is way too late for this but I want to do it anyway. I am making a top 10 list for the movies that came out in 2011. Yes even though it is May I still have last year’s movies fresh in my mind and I love to make lists even though it’s very hard to choose between certain titles. Now I haven’t seen every movie that came out in 2011 but I am pretty sure that the basic structure of the list wouldn’t change that much, especially in the top spots.

So without further delay here are my top 10 movies of 2011:

10 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I really enjoyed this film. David Fincher returned to form after “The Social Network” and brought us something a little more Fight Club-ish. From Rooney Mara’s stellar acting, to Trent Reznor’s punky arrangements, to the fast Oscar-winning editing, to the dark and perfect cinematography, this movie is very entertaining. Sure at times it may seem like it is just another episode of “CSI”, but if every “CSI” episode was this good I wouldn’t want to miss a single episode. 9/10







9 Moneyball

I didn’t always like Brad Pitt as an actor. I guess it was just the nonconformist side of me that thought the only reason he was so popular was because he was good looking, but over the years he grew on me and now I think he is a terrific actor. No surprise here that he turns in a magnificent performance and caries the film perfectly. I don’t care too much for Jonah Hill but he does an alright job I guess. Non baseball fans will love this and baseball fans will love it even more. 9/10




8 Hanna

Saoise Ronan is building up quite an impressive resume giving in another great performance as Hannah. This film is very weird in a way I can’t describe: Is it a drama? Not really. Is it an action film? Not exactly. Is it an adventure film? Nope. Is it a romance film? Not even close. What about a comedy? There are some funny parts but it’s not comedy. The point is I don’t know why I really like but I do. You probably will to so go ahead and watch it! 9/10






7 50/50

This is a film about cancer that makes itself clear it is not “Terms of Endearment” so don’t worry about getting sad or crying. You will laugh a lot thought because it is damn funny. Seth Rogan plays the same character he plays in all of his movies except now he is not so annoying. Bryce Dallas Howard is great as usual in her role and Joseph Gordon Levitt… well Ill just let you watch the movie and decide for yourself. 9/10






6 War Horse

This is Steven Spielberg’s best movie since “Minority Report”. The man just knows how to direct a movie about war. Many criticize it for being manipulative and overly sentimental but hey… that worked for me. John Williams never disappoints and this time he writes a great score that it on the same level as his other masterpieces like “E.T” or “Jurassic Park”. Granted this film is not “Saving Private Ryan” or “Raiders of the Lost Ark” but it is one of Spielberg’s many marvels. 10/10




5 Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen is the director who you either love or you hate. Ok so some of you might just find him average but if someone doesn’t find his witty writing genius, I can’t see them watching one of his films and not get annoyed. I just loved this film to death and it was as lighthearted as any of Woody’s classic films like “Hannah and her Sisters” or “Manhattan”. I have often seen comments on Youtube saying that they are cursed not to have been born back in the 70s or 80s where all the good music came from and I always thought that to be silly. If you also think you were born in the wrong time period just watch this film. 10/10




4 The Help

It’s not often that you see a movie where you can list every cast member and include an annotation next to each name saying “Superb Performance”, but this film is one of those for sure. It really makes you think how much a director, a screenwriter, or a composer has to do to carry a movie if the acting is great. Viola Davis makes for a very tragic maid and deserves all the praise she got, but my favorite has to be Octavia Spencer, who made me laugh/cry the most.  This is the sort of movie that I usually avoid watching being a 20 year old male with ADHD, but the emotion and… yes even thrill I got out of some scenes was action movie caliber. I loved to death. 10/10





3 Warrior

There is something about “Rocky” type films that makes me always like them. You know the type of film I’m talking about; the sports drama where it focuses on the struggles of getting to the ring and fighting to win glory, like “Million Dollar Baby”, “The Fighter”, “The Wrestler”, and now this one. Yes it is very formulaic but hey… if it aint broke don’t fix it right? It follows all the steps those types of movies usually follow, it gets to an emotional conclusion that makes you cheer, and I just thought it was totally awesome. 10/10




2 Hugo

Who would have guessed the director of “Taxi Driver”, “Raging Bull”, “Goodfellas”, and “The Departed” would direct a children’s movie in 3D? No one that’s who. Thank god he did though because, along with “Avatar”, this movie raises the bar for future filmmakers who are just looking to make 3D to get 3X the amount of money. The film reminded me a lot of the first 2 “Harry Potter” movies when they were still innocent little kids’ films. I was in awe at every frame of this movie and I hope that in the future people will look at this film as a time capsule inside a time capsule teaching future filmmakers about how films today are primarily older ones re-imagined. 10/10




1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Part 2


Speaking of “Harry Potter”, the last one of the series was definitely the best movie of 2011. It had everything a film should have, it was as faithful to the book as it should have been, it was perfectly acted, directed, written, and shot, and most importantly entertained my ass all the way through. I am a huge fan of both the book series and the film series, and this is the finale I had been waiting for. I think every series deserves a final chapter like this one but rarely do we come across one. 10/10


     Now as I said it is hard to choose between titles when making lists so for this one, certain movies can switch places and I would be fine with it. Numbers 1 and 2 stay where they are, 3-6 can be swapped around, and 7-10 can also be swapped around.

     Honorable mentions for the following films that would have made it into a top 20 list but just couldn’t make the cut into the top 10, in Alphabetical order:

Carnage











Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lovers Brought Together by Fate. "Natural Born Killers" Review

     What a mess of a film. “Natural Born Killers” is the result of Oliver Stone trying to be Quentin Tarantino. After all Tarantino came up with the story and wrote the initial script, so if you ask me he should have been the one to direct it. But since Stone ended up getting it, let’s talk about him for a while. Stone is a hit-and-miss director; “Platoon” was not bad but seriously below average, “JFK” was just awesome, “The Doors” was an interesting window into the 60s but terribly pretentious, as a screenwriter he wrote the script for a terrific little movie called “Scarface”, and now with “Natural Born Killers” he falls into his pattern of some-good-some-bad. The question here isn’t how bad it is, the question is how bad were the drugs that Stone was taking when he made this film (Seriously it is even mentioned on the DVD).


                Woody Harrleson and Juliette Lewis play two lovers/killers, who are almost as crazy as Charles Manson was; I say almost because he still managed to get more ratings in a television special about him than the couple’s episode. We know this because Robert Downey Jr’s character is obsessed with the couple and uses the media to make them superstars, all while sporting a very funny and convincing Australian accent. I would even go as far as to say that he is actually the real star of the film because essentially the movie is about how the media tells us what to do, what to wear, what to buy, what to think, and who to worship whether it be a God, a politician, or a pair of mass murderers.


                The acting is actually pretty good, and so is the story. As I have said before I am a great fan of Quentin Tarantino, so I had no problem enjoying the idea of killers in love being made into celebrities, but if you look up the word “overkill” this movie is going to be there. Stone practically pisses in our face and then wants us to like it


                The meaning of this film is not destroyed thankfully thanks to Tarantino’s genius storytelling abilities. It is actually making a point. What is it? While normally the explanation I gave above about the media would be sufficient, I have a need to explain a bit further as to what I think it is about (Meghan this next part is for you).


The object of the media is to make money. And no matter how it needs to be obtained, they will do anything to get it; including selling us lies, starting rumors, invading our privacy, and showing us stuff that we shouldn’t be seeing. The problem with all this is that anyone can use the media as long as they have the cash to do so. Politicians use it all the time to convince us to vote for them, corporations use it to convince us to buy their crap, and celebrities use it to become more famous. The point of all this is that we live in a society that is controlled by the media. If you think that corporations, politicians, or celebrities rule the earth then let’s see how well they would do without the media, and let’s see how well you take it when you realize that all the things that you thought made up reality where just products of the next iPad app.


All of this is good but why does it have to be handled by Oliver Stone? He is basically the only thing wrong with the film and yet it makes all the difference. This movie should have been about the media but instead it is a twisted and mutant version of “Bonnie and Clyde” spliced together with the roadrunner cartoons, being watched while on shrooms with a hangover. Anyway Im not gonna say don’t watch it because it is interesting to see the social commentary but if you watch it do so at your own risk because this film is for the birds.

4/10


But what about you? What is your favorite Oliver Stone movie? Click here to cast your vote.

Friday, May 4, 2012

'Man with No Name" Trilogy Part 3. "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" Review


                I honestly don’t know why I even bothered putting the poll at the end of part 1 because as of today every single vote cast was for “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. I guess it was just a formality as I had to put something at the end for you guys to be able to voice your opinion.

                For me, watching this film is like listening to my favorite singer’s favorite song, or reading my favorite author’s favorite book. My favorite film director is Quentin Tarantino who he has said that “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” is his favorite film. After watching the film it was obvious that it has influenced every one of his films and not in a subtle way at all, but I suppose the line between paying homage and ripping off is another matter entirely.

                Once again, the movie stars Clint Eastwood as the man with no name (they call him “Blondie”) a gunslinger, his face having the same wrinkles around the eyes, and his mouth having the same cigarette between his lips; he is the good. Lee Van Cleef is “Angel Eyes”, someone who gets paid to kill and it is not hard to see that he enjoys his job very much; he is the bad. And Eli Wallach plays “Tuco”, a goofy little bandit that is wanted all over; he is the ugly. Now don’t expect their nicknames to match them perfectly because if they did the movie would be called “The Ugly, the Ugly and the Ugly” with Van Cleef being the ugliest of the trio. The three of them are after confederate gold buried in a cemetery, and the journey they take to get there is thrilling, funny, interesting, and filled with western clich├ęs that never descend into camp.

                Sergio Leone gives us a movie that could make everyone scratch their heads thinking “Are you sure this was directed by the same person who directed ‘A Fistful of Dollars’?” and they would be right because while fistful was an hour and a half of waiting for the credits to roll, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” is three hours of wishing the credits never roll.

Some great scenes include the introductions of the three men with title screens, the blowing up of a bridge during a battle of the civil war, and of course the infamous Mexican standoff; yes if you are a Tarantino fan you will see a pattern here. But this movie is basically one great scene after another so trying to single out one in particular would be futile. The point is this is a terrific film with some of the most memorable moments in cinema and some unforgettable sequences that really make you appreciate a director with a vision.

And what would a review of this film be without talking about the wonderful Mr. Ennio Morricone. His music in the film is perhaps the first thing people think of when westerns come to mind, and it is so masterfully crafted that it makes you wonder if it was written for the movie or by the movie. What do I mean by that? Well you see when composers write music for movies they sit and watch the movie, pick up on the style, talk with the director and decide what type of music fits each scene. But with this movie I just can’t imagine Morricone writing this; to me it just existed in the film. Or maybe Morricone had a time machine went to the future, saw the movie, and then went back and ripped of the theme; much like Chuck Berry in “Back to the Future”.

Creativity is a great virtue and shouldn’t be weighed down by budgets. This movie is proof of it but sadly when studios only look to make money we only get masterpieces like this once every couple of years. Have faith though fellow moviegoer because among the thousands of money making directors out there, there are still a handful of them that actually will stop at nothing to make a perfect film. And even if the movies turn out to be shit you can always count on old classics like “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”.

10/10

But what about you? What is your favorite character out of the trio? Click here to cast your vote.
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