Looking for Mr. Goodbar
Director: Richard Brooks
Released: 19 October 1977
Genre(s): Psychological Drama, Crime, Erotica
Richard Brooks is one of my all-time favourite directors, having directed exemplary cinematic works such as In Cold Blood (1967) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958). I greatly admire his artistic style when it comes to the true soul of a film, and there are certain elements that immediately let you know: what we have here is a certified Richard Brooks film/screenplay. 1977's Looking for Mr. Goodbar presents these elements to a strong degree, yet it is another difficult production for me to review coherently. This is a film that I feel I should watch for a second time to fully grasp – both in regard to the plot and events, as well as my own opinions. However, I will attempt to explain my thoughts to the best of my extent.
Starring the likes of Diane Keaton, Richard Gere, and Tom Berenger, Looking for Mr. Goodbar revolves around Catholic-raised Theresa Dunn, a young teacher who works with deaf children during the day and frequents various bars and clubs when the night befalls. Throughout the film, she experiences a sexual awakening of sorts, straying from her strict upbringing, engaging in sex with a multitude of strangers – all of varying moralities – while also avoiding the advances of a rather well-meaning social worker named James who begins to pursue her. Theresa's actions and experiences lead her down increasingly dangerous paths and we see her life being put at risk.
The rationale as to why the film is practically enigmatic to me is due to the fact that the first 2 hours versus the final 30 minutes are virtually two utterly distinctive realms. The storytelling found here is of the utmost intriguing nature and I really enjoyed the character of Theresa, including her assorted "visions" of outcomes that may occur if she were to take a certain action. Many moments within Looking for Mr. Goodbar take you by surprise due to such a technique; Diane Keaton's acting is incredibly multidimensional for this same reason as she navigates both the theoretical possibilities and those occurring in reality. Theresa's personality itself is genuinely very loveable despite some of her more questionable life choices. I found myself not only relating to numerous situations she got herself into but also sympathizing with the majority of them. This was particularly in regard to Tony, a man she met at a bar, who continuously pried into her life – not to mention, he was most likely a snitch which is the icing on top of the cake. Aside from Tony, excluding a few decent individuals, a lot of people as a whole were essentially bipolar when it came to Theresa and it was increasingly frustrating to watch everyone become agonizingly bothersome. Such a situation is very constant in my own life... in a different setting and manner of course.
Referring back to the last half hour of Looking for Mr. Goodbar, I believe this to be one of the most riveting portions of the film, and where the presentation of everything truly falls into place. Firstly, I’m not only saying this because the focus was on Tom Berenger – whom I love an immense amount – but the entire progression of events, Tom’s and Diane’s acting and dynamic, and the theatrics are genuinely and disturbingly captivating. The fate of Theresa’s life/the end of her life in the film’s finale was largely foreseen due to her choices, and yet it still took me by surprise especially due to the manner in which she died. I additionally felt bad for Tom’s character Gary to an extent, his mental decline also being alluded to prior to the two characters' first encounter. Personally and without a doubt, I would watch a sequel or some kind of “spinoff” based around Gary's existence alone, starring Tom of course. The character is indubitably fascinating with an ostensibly messy past, and Tom is just a remarkable actor, especially with psychotic or murderous roles such as the one here. Regarding the scene itself, I absolutely adore the style of the light-flickering technique utilized here, showing Gary’s maniacal actions, the violence on full display and Theresa’s life legitimately staggering away as he is killing her. Even the colour scheme present was tinted to perfection. It truly leaves you in a pit of psychological astonishment once the ending credits arrive on the screen.
There are many aspects of the film I enjoyed, and I know for a fact the facets that I could live without, and that would be the length of the sex scenes. Maybe I’m just a prude or plain retarded but Christ, there really did not need to be as many scenes as there were. The situations could be understood in a mere ten seconds and perhaps would hold even more value if they were shorter in duration. I guess this is my only true problem with Looking for Mr. Goodbar, but even so, I cannot bring myself to tell you why this film wasn’t given at least 4 stars because I genuinely do not know. This is a difference from, for example, my similar outlook towards Falling Down (the review of which you can read further down on this page) because there wasn't anything I truly disfavoured aside from the aforementioned (which I can excuse because the film is sexual in nature). Attempting to settle on why I gave it 3.5 stars is migraine-inducing at this point.
The soundtrack is gorgeous, the cinematography is stunning, the 1970s club scene depicted here is hypnotic and both the director and actors involved are simply great at what they do. Perhaps one day this review will be edited, and my sentiments will be far more legible and rectified. Until then, this complicated breakdown will just have to do.
Angels with Dirty Faces
Director: Michael Curtiz
Released: 26 November 1938
Genre(s): Gangster Film, Drama
Somewhere between The Adventures of Robin Hood and Casablanca, Michael Curtiz provided direction for the cinematic crime spectacle known as Angels with Dirty Faces, based on the Rowland Brown novel of the same name. With an absolutely stellar cast and imposing chaos to the brim, I can concretely say this is now one of my favourite films of all time.
Angels With Dirty Faces introduces the story of the notorious gangster Rocky Sullivan, as well as his childhood companion Jerry Connolly. The two spend their early years engaging in tomfoolery and petty crimes, but as they age, Jerry follows the path of priesthood while Rocky continues a life of crime, eventually being incarcerated for armed robbery. While in prison, he arranges a deal with co-conspirator Jim Frazier, a mob lawyer. The deal involves Rocky collecting a large sum of money from him after his release. Upon becoming a free man, Rocky encounters and befriends a gang of street kids, then gaining the watchful eye of his old friend Jerry who fears the youth will fall corrupt under the man's wing.
The main character is portrayed by the effervescent James Cagney, one of my favourite actors and an icon of one of the most sensational eras of Hollywood. He is Rocky Sullivan, and it is no surprise that he was often cast as such 'tough guy' roles because he simply excels at them. Cagney's performance is incredible all throughout, but I'd like to note the ending specifically. A portion of the film that is shroud in ambiguity, the contrast of emotion that he displayed amid the trial scene was of such staunch difference. It leaves you pondering, were these Rocky's true feelings that were shown beneath his own self-proclaimed status of grandeur? Was it all a facade after what James asked of him? This part specifically was done so well that it had me empathizing with the character regardless of the reality (and perhaps, morality).
Cagney starred alongside Pat O'Brien, the man behind the role of priest Jerry Connolly. The character's renewed persona after the days of crime is quite the divergence, and O'Brien's performance – be it almost radically different from Cagney's – was equally as notable. Jerry is a principally kind man, one who is genuine in his worries about both Rocky and the boys he became acquainted with. Such a character provides for an intriguing dynamic when paired with someone like Rocky. To reference one of the much later parts of the film here, the scene where James silently prays and sheds a single tear following the execution of Rocky is quite powerful. I must also mention the presence of Humphrey Bogart and the group of misfits; although Bogart portrays the somewhat less extravagant role of Jim Frazier, he is a wonderful entertainer any time he graces the screen and an imperative factor to the story. The kids were of a similar capacity, indubitably amusing to watch.
The manner in which events unfold within the film is done quite admirably, setting the scene with a dose of chaos straight from the very initial beginning. I find many scenes in Angels with Dirty Faces to be almost ahead of their time, such as various creative camera angles you seldom witness in 1930s cinema, in addition to the continuous action of the mob atmosphere that refuses to leave you in a state of boredom. The story is also not what one may assume at the very first glance. The way that Michael Curtiz provided each character with a bewitching sense of mystery under their appearance is notably commendable. You truly aren't in the know when it comes to anyone's deepest and honest intentions here, which is part of what makes the film as alluring as it is. On the contrary, the sincere relationships that do occur between various characters are strengthened due to the stunning performances of the actors who all exhibit fine chemistry with each other.
Angels With Dirty Faces is widely and rightfully regarded as one of the best films of all time, every facet of its creation combining to present a story packed with calamity and power. I absolutely recommend it to anyone like myself who enjoys the golden age of gangsters upon the silver screen.
Director: Zach Cregger
Released: 12 August 2022
Sometime at the end of 2022, I decided that I should at least make an attempt to watch films from this very decade, as I realized that most of what I choose to watch is either seen as "ancient" by the general populace or is solely for masochistic purposes. Barbarian was one of two horror movies my best friend and I watched on New Year's eve, and although it was certainly the lesser of two evils (see my review of Choose or Die), it is not without flaws.
Barbarian essentially combines two different stories into one singular culmination. It begins by following the introductory plot of the characters Tess and Keith; Tess books an Airbnb rental in the late hours of the night but upon her arrival, finds out that the house has also been booked by Keith, a strange yet seemingly kind man. They both decide to stay the night there due to the manner of the neighbourhood being rather suspicious, but Tess soon finds out that Keith is the least of her worries as there is something far more sinister locked within then confines of the home. The second plot sets the scene for AJ Gilbride, an actor who was dismissed from his television series in light of rape allegations. He travels to the same home that Tess and Keith booked as he owns that rental property, and AJ becomes intertwined with the forthcoming situations depicted in the film.
One facet of Barbarian that fared quite well is the element of suspense. I find that most horror films of the modern age opt out of creating legible mystery and instead follow the route of predictable tropes to build the plot itself. Amid the first portion of the story involving Tess and Keith, I was genuinely under the impression that Keith was the supposed villain, until that scary fucking bitch from the basement came out of nowhere. My feelings towards this character saw a dramatic shift after the truth was revealed. The story attempts to really paint a certain image in your mind, and it succeeds at such a feat before completely turning the notion on its head. There is also a reveal of the neighbourhood that Tess and Keith are staying in, appearing normal in the dark but then surprisingly off putting and horrific during the day time. Both actors, the two main focal points of this section of the film, do a fantastic job at creating their own separate personas. Bill Skarsgård is enjoyable to watch as Keith, as is Georgina Campbell in the role of Tess. Transitioning into the second portion of the plot, AJ's storyline is not as entertaining as the previous duo but it is generally fitting at setting up the true nature of his character so I understand why it was necessary. I do believe the film would have been far better if it focused on Keith and Tess, perhaps even keeping Keith alive as the final boy and the counterpart to Tess. I enjoyed the dynamic and progressing relationship between these two individuals as a whole. It is not that Justin Long did a poor job as AJ, but his character was far less likeable and intriguing than the aforementioned male.
The "villain" in this story was principally riveting, as well as the backstory behind the house and the woman inside it, dubbed the 'Mother'. It had far more potential than that of which was exhibited in the film, and I wish they would have fleshed out the history of these elements. There was the utilization of the flashback to show how the woman ended up in that home, including the man behind the sinister happenings, but there was far too much information swept aside; how did the woman become so unrealistically large and strong that she was able to tear the limbs off of a homeless man, or drag AJ through the hallway at such speed? What was the context of the breastfeeding video that played in the basement? I realize that there are a few elements that are better left to the viewer's imagination and interpretation, but such a concept is not executed perfectly when it leaves you with much confusion, and it certainly left me scratching my head up until the ending of Barbarian.
Speaking of the ending, I absolutely despised the way the story was concluded. You're telling me that this bitch wasn't killed by a car being rammed into her torso, nor being launched off of a tall building, but then was finally killed by Tess unloading a revolver into the side of her face? It was incredibly uneventful and felt so underwhelming. There was a flicker of depth when 'Mother' was speaking to Tess, offering a rather solemn perspective to how all she possibly wanted was a child of her own which she saw within Tess. I did enjoy the usage of The Ronettes' Be My Baby within the score though...
All in all, this film was surprisingly not as terrible as I thought it would be. I really do wish that it centered around the first two characters instead of two seperate lives merging together. The "villain" is very interesting and the gorey nature of the film was quite sufficient. The ending, as well as the second half of the plot, was the true downfall of Barbarian. I may view it for a second time because I like Skarsgård and 1960s music, but it could have been executed far better.
Director: Aleksei Balabanov
Released: 11 May 2000
Genre(s): Crime, Action
The original and first Brother film to me – and I mean this with every sincere bone in my body – is akin to what Black Panther is to some people. I wish I was joking but Saint Petersburg is Wakanda.
This sequel, although not devoid of faults, is still an excellent watch paired with a gorgeous soundtrack just like the previous film. Brother 2 finds Danila, played by the late great Sergei Bodrov Jr., on a journey of sorts to avenge the killing of his friend. The trek ends up sending our main character all the way to Chicago, USA, and things begin to escalate from then on.
We all are aware of how sequels, aside from the rare occasion that they're even better than the original film, are usually hit-or-miss. However, this serves as a very fine progression to the preceding plot of events. It does not feel forced, unneeded, nor is it a sheer turnaround when it comes to characters' personalities and the general feeling of the story. On the contrary, a few moments do exist which feel rather tedious every now and then, but they do not entirely take away from the bigger picture. Bodrov is a wonderful actor, as is Viktor Sukhorukov who plays his brother, also named Viktor. Both men conjure memorable characters that I perceive to this day to be icons within the 1990s pop culture of Russia and Russian cinema as a whole.
If the case is that I enjoyed Brother 2, why did I not adorn it with a 5-star rating? The answer is actually quite simple: Irina Saltykova. She plays her own self here, a portrayal that acts as a very obvious nod to promote her real-life persona and music. A few of Saltykova's songs are even featured in the film's soundtrack which I find outlandish, as it muddies the almost exclusively post-punk/rock soundtrack that Брат is known for. I'm sure Mr. Balabanov was presented with a fat stack of cash to promote her though, so I will forgive it because I enjoy his films. Irina's relationship with Danila also holds little to no chemistry. This is a couple that is simply unrealistic with no depth. Not only do their music tastes rest on completely different spectrums, but their personalities and life paths are so incredibly opposite. The lack of depth and logic is not the fault of Sergei as he still embodies the character of Danila, but because of Irina's performance the dynamic feels very one sided and off.
In the end, the negative attributes do not taint the film in major ways. Many memorable scenes are found here, and this is a movie I often return to along with the original masterpiece of course.
Choose or Die
Director: Toby Meakins
Released: 15 April 2022
If 2023 were to somehow be prophetically defined by the last movie I had the [dis]pleasure of viewing in 2022, then it is sure to be a painfully horrific upcoming year. I'm convinced that even if you were to simply judge by the poster's rather atrocious composition, without ever even watching the movie, Choose or Die is an obvious abomination. The idea and potential was not absent, but those involved failed to capture anything of value almost entirely.
The movie introduces Hal, an avid collector of retro games. He receives an interactive video game titled CURS>R, later being revealed as something far more sinister that directly affects the reality of him and those around him. Although that is the beginning of the film, the majority of the plot surrounds a girl named Kayla, a college student who discovers a copy of CURS>R and is thus drawn into the game's curse, impacting her own reality, her friends and family. The game in question is exactly what the title depicts; you must choose between two outcomes (usually regarding yourself or someone else, typically of a murderous or life-threatening nature) or it is heavily implied that you die. I don't remember any of the players actually dying as a result of the failure to choose though. Throughout the duration of the film, the main character and her friend Isaac discover more and more lore behind the video game and who created it.
I absolutely adore the idea of a horror film surrounding a video game that ties directly into reality. A movie like Bandersnatch did this fairly well in a rather unique way, and I believe that Choose or Die had everything at its disposal to conjure something equally – if not even more – interesting. The sole demonstration of potential is one of the only positive attributes here, along with the very minimal hammed-up jumpscares that are evident in most modern horror of this variety. I would also say that Asa Butterfield as Isaac is enjoyable to watch, as is Iola Evans as Kayla (for the most part, I think her acting gets better near the ending of the film). That is all I have to say in terms of praise for Choose or Die.
The soundtrack needs a mention, as for some odd reason Liam Howlett (The Prodigy) became involved. Liam is insanely talented in all his musical endeavours, but even he could not save the atmospherical catastrophe that was displayed here, nor does the score sound remotely anything like The Prodigy. The music at hand is somewhat of a modernized take on shooter games of the early age, and by itself it is not terrible. The fault appears when those responsible for the film's final editing stages decided to increase the volume of the score to an unbearable tone. The score is so goddamn loud that it itself can pass for a jumpscare. I'm not sure if this was some sort of stupid stylistic choice in order to create a "virtual" aura, but it did not do anything good for the movie. The rap track that was randomly interwoven into the mix when Kayla was leaving her place of work was also quite bizarre; not only was the song very out of place in the midst of a heavy electronic score, but it also fell victim to the terrible editing that is overly present in Choose or Die, resulting in the feeling that someone recorded over the music that was initially supposed to be used in that scene.
The scenes themselves are drenched in predictability, and when they aren't overly obvious, they are either just done poorly or are unintentionally stupid as hell. The death of Isaac, for instance, felt almost downplayed when in reality it should have been a crucial scene, compacted with gripping emotion as it involved one of the main characters. When the two protagonists locate the source of the game, although there is a decent buildup, the creator is shown in the most stereotypical getup of all time; this man is wearing Aviator glasses and has a funny haircut so you know this is the 1980s. There wasn't even any bother attempting to make the footage look aged. There is also the crime of terrible dialogue, mostly in the form of pseudo inspiration or the cheese that is constantly served from the hands of Marvel (not that this is a Marvel movie, it only commits the same debauchery).
I did not expect Choose or Die to be great whatsoever, as thoroughly noted by many opinions I saw before I viewed the movie for myself, but I at least had the ever so small amount of hope that perhaps, everyone was exaggerating the degree of garbage found here. That definitely was not the case, and the film is one of the more angering yet forgettable pieces of work I've seen in recent times.
Director: William Wyler
Released: 1 May 1965
Genre(s): Psychological Horror/Thriller
I'm quite critical when the time comes to assess film adaptations of media that I love, be it video games, anime, or novels, but I was pleasantly surprised with how structured The Collector turned out to be. Many years prior, I'd seen a 2009 version of the John Fowles novel on screen, but it was altered heavily from the source, almost unrecognizably, and the film itself was utter garbage so it is nice to see that Wyler had given the book a serving of justice, decades before the trashy new age version was even in the works.
The plot surrounds butterfly collector Freddie Clegg, who wins a football pool and buys a secluded country home for nefarious purposes. Soon after the purchase, he kidnaps an art student by the name of Miranda Grey, someone Freddie has pined after and watched in secrecy for a long time. He locks Miranda in the basement of his new house, buying her clothing, books, and other material items in hopes that she would get to know him and reciprocate the feelings. The two eventually come to an agreement: Miranda will reside with him for a month and then be set free. Despite their arrangement, she fears of what will occur when the day of her supposed departure finally arrives.
William Wyler's The Collector is a rare case, giving the sense as if the actors are actually the characters pulled directly out of the novel itself by the doings of some magical force. Film Miranda is identical to the way I imagined her in my head when I first read Fowles' book, both looks-wise and by personality. Actress Samantha Eggar did a fantastic job with bringing the fictional girl to life, as did Terence Stamp with Freddie. Both very attractive people with a special sort of mysticism in their appearances... The casting was truly impeccable, and the acting equally and beautifully done. Miranda and Freddie had chemistry amongst themselves, yet it was engulfed in a very specific atmosphere of toxicity and fear, really capturing the dynamic that was portrayed in the book. I would also like to add that the location this film was shot in is insanely beautiful, specifically the woodlands.
The story, while it was somewhat altered to fit the flow of the film's layout, created an impenetrable layer of suspense that you would usually only receive within literature. What I personally found to be a faltering attribute is the lack of time spent fleshing out certain moments, whether that be the characters themselves or specific moments between them. Freddie Clegg – while Terence Stamp was phenomenal in his portrayal of manipulation and psychopathy – was not given quite enough time to truly paint the image of why and how he sunk down to this point. The audience is shown that his obsession with the art student is overwhelming and increases with each day, but I feel that venturing past that point and truly exploring the reasons and background of his ways would have provided the plot with more sustenance. Additionally, if Wyler were to alter anything from the source material, this would have been the ideal opportunity to change the ending. My least favourite part of the original novel is the finale, the events that unfold after the death of Miranda. The film (and the novel to some extent) diminished a few very momentous core characteristics of Freddie. This section of The Collector is truly the only one I disliked, although I do believe it was done far better here than in the novel, which is impressive nevertheless.
Overall, this film is very well made despite a few negatives. It would have otherwise recieved 5 stars, as I did truly enjoy the rest of it.
Director: James Wan
Released: 19 July 2013
Genre(s): Horror, Drama
I am not exaggerating when I say that the only things I have ever heard about this film series were positive. To the unbeknownst individual, such a film would appear to some sort of misunderstood masterpiece, but I just cannot seem to enjoy it or any of the other installments in the series. I have now seen all three Conjuring films twice; none of them did anything for me, not the first time when they initially came out, not now. I am a fan of the horror genre – especially horror films from the 1950s right up to the 1990s, a very select few from modern years as well – but this one belongs with every other jumpscare-ridden idiotic cashgrab. Dumpster fires such as The Nun or Incarnate are constantly (and rightfully) panned for the exact same crimes that this movie commits: predictability, the overabundance of jumpscares, etc., yet this one just seems to slip under people's radar without notice and condemnation. What an odd phenomenon.
The Conjuring is about a pair of paranormal investigators who work to help a family that's being terrorized by dark presences in their home. Some "scary" shit occurs and people scream a lot – a tale as old as time itself. The single beam of positivity here comes in the form of the two main actors, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, who portrayed the paranormal investigator couple and deserve credit for it. Their performaces were generally solid, conveying genuine chemistry. You can tell that these two truly did care about the roles they were embodying, a facet which shined through their performances. Both Wilson and Farmiga were entertaining to watch, and the majority of the remainder cast was quite decent as well (aside from a few of the children). Another point where credit is due is the fact that, although there are indeed a barrage of jumpscares – they certainly are not as irritating as they are in some of these other films. Perhaps it is truly a difficult challenge to beat The Nun's useless jumpsacre record.
With those details acknowledged, it is evident that the negative side of the film is far heavier. The biggest problem with The Conjuring (and series as a whole) is that it utterly lacks a unique premise. The 'haunted house' motif has been milked dry at this point. Unless there is something unique to add to such a premise, I don't see the reason for continuing to create such horror movies. The entire scheme of it is so incredibly predictable. I practically found myself guessing everything that was going to occur as the duration went on, which ruined both the experience and the scare factor. Almost every horror trope that comes to mind is present here, furthering my confusion as to why this film is praised and hailed as some sort of behemoth within the modern state of the genre.
Unfortunately, The Conjuring "cinematic universe" seems to show no signs of ceasing any time soon, numerous spin-offs and sequals currently in the works. Although I do not foresee myself returning to watch these creations, I do hope they offer at least something original in the later ventures.
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Released: 7 November 1945
Genre(s): Film Noir, Crime
While the film has its flaws, it is nevertheless fairly enjoyable for the most part and an interesting watch. It is a B-movie, but I'd say they did a more-than-decent job with the minimal resources available at their hands.
Detour is about Al Roberts, a man in a pit of despair after his girlfriend Sue departs to California, hoping to chase her dreams of becoming famous. Al decides to go see her, but due to being rather short on money, opts for hitchhiking all the way to Los Angeles. When the driver of his final hitchhiking escapade suddenly dies mid-route, events that follow begin to deter him from his original path, trapping him in a cycle of lies and turmoil. The stakes are heightened when he meets the diabolical Vera, a woman who places him in a tough situation that forces him to question his next moves.
This film very much exemplifies what comes to mind when you think of 'Film Noir': over-the-top reactions, brooding dialogue, dramatic editing, a rainy night and a lonely man in a late night diner. The solemn nature of the dialogue is one element I really enjoyed here. I'm frequently enamoured by the way narration is delivered when it comes to old Hollywood. Tom Neal's line articulation as Al Roberts is given very well, portraying both the romantic side of his story and the tragic/lost inner self. The greatest performance certainly stems from Ann Savage though, who plays the savage character of Vera, a woman which Al encounters on his way to California with whom he essentially becomes entwined. Vera threatens to blackmail him, thoroughly convinced that the death of the aforementioned driver was Al's doing. Ann sincerely encapsulates Vera's demeanor with utmost dramaticism and flair. The portrayal is practically too good for this film, which makes more sense after learning that Ann Savage and Tom Neal did not get along with eachother during the shoot.
My gripes with Detour begin with the story at hand. The concept itself is intriguing but I just feel like it could've been executed in a far better manner. The film contains a few crucial deaths, yet they seem to end up falling flat due to the lack of either suspense or sheer build-up. The deaths are also set up in a rather shallow way, something I've noticed many films tend to do (not only from this particular era, just in general). Vera's death in particular was a shocking plot point and should've been a momentous scene, but was diminished due to how sidetracked it seemed. The scene focused more on Al's thought process rather than the death. Another downside observed in Detour is that, while I enjoy how the events of the story are told exclusively through Al's flashbacks, this leaves a lot to be desired from numerous areas. At the very end, we see what looks like Al Roberts being arrested after walking outside, but what happened after Vera's death? How did Al end up in the diner so late at night? Did he ever actually reach Los Angeles and see Sue? Sure, purposely discarding such points out of view may add some mystery to the film's plot, leaving it up to the viewer's imagination, but I just believe it would have strengthened the entire story a bit more.
Overall, I did like this film, perhaps not as much as I could've if they fleshed out the entire thing some more. Regardless, it's entertaining and the story itself is quite creative. Has some very memorable lines as well. I'll recommend it.
The Dirty Dozen
Director: Robert Aldrich
Released: 15 June 1967
Genre(s): War, Action
I believe this would have become an instant favourite film of mine if not for the unignorable flaws. The Dirty Dozen, although not a terrible movie by any means (I really did enjoy it), had so much more potential. This potential was unfortunately wasted due to reasons so easily fixable.
The film is about 12 American military prisoners during World War II, who are ordered to infiltrate a Nazi château and kill the officers present – a suicide mission. They essentially are left with no other choice, as most of the prisoners are facing either very long and harsh sentences, or full on death sentences for a variety of violent crimes. They agree only on the premise that they be freed from the death sentence or receive lower sentencing after the operation is complete.
My most favourite element of the film is the characters who make the film's duration much more worthwile. Everybody involved kicks so much ass, each actor creating memorable personas for each of the prisoners, who are all so different from one another and stand out in an impeccable way. There is John Cassavetes as Victor Franko – a rebellious man with a distaste for authority, opting to go his own route on everything he does – who is probably my favourite aside from Charles Bronson's portrayal of Joseph Wladislaw. He is just so cool, and I'm a big fan of Charlie in general so it is no surprise to me that I loved his character. Lee Marvin as the rough-and-tough Major Reisman, the man behind the training, certainly deserves a mention here as well. He was simply made to play a role such as this one; Hell, Lee Marvin himself even served in the marines during World War II. Just a fantastic actor and incredibly cool individual.
Something else I enjoyed about this film was the sheer entertainment it provided. From the scenes where the prisoners first find out what they are being instructed to do, right down to the climactic end. These men are truly riveting to watch when they are interacting with eachother. I'd almost go as far as to say this film could be considered a comedy at some points, especially due to Vernon Pinkley, a character that genuinely had me laughing whenever he was on screen. Big ups to Donald Sutherland's portrayal of the man.
For the negatives, the majority of what I had a problem with is the fact that a lot of sections of The Dirty Dozen focused on very lengthy moments that did not matter in the long run. Either that, or they did matter to the bigger picture but they could've been much shorter and still retained impact. Cutting the length of these scenes may have been so crucial to how flawless this movie could have been. Not everything required to be hyperfocused upon. The message and significance of these portions would've been the same, if not much more solidified, had they been shorter. The film runs for 150 minutes, which it certainly does not need to. That is genuinely my only complain here, but it is such an outlier that it drastically brings my personal rating for this film down. I want to adore it in full, so much so that I will probably watch this again at some point. It has everything I look for in a film and so many great characters I've already fallen in love with, but characters alone cannot save the aforementioned downfalls.
I will say this: every now and then, upon the second viewing of a film, my opinions have been prone to change. Such is the case with Full Metal Jacket, a movie I rewatched twice in a row which got better with the second time. It is now in my top ten films of all time, truly a masterpiece. Once I watch The Dirty Dozen again, perhaps it will adhere to the same fate as the priorly stated Kubrick masterpiece. If so, I will return to this page and alter this review.
Dog Day Afternoon
Director: Sidney Lumet
Released: 19 September 1975
Genre(s): Heist, Drama
Absolutely stellar film with equally stellar performances from the cast. Definitely one of my all-time favourites. Al Pacino is probably my favourite actor ever, and Dog Day Afternoon showcases the reasons why. This is his best work next to Scarface in my opinion.
This biographical film is about the 1972 robbery/hostage led by the duo of John Wojtowicz (called Sonny in the movie) and Salvatore Naturile at a bank in Brooklyn. The bank robbery goes awry as soon as it starts, their third accomplice fleeing at the scene and Sonny discovering the bank only has $1,100 in cash. What follows is the most chaotic two hours of a lifetime.
This movie is pretty lengthy and takes place in a singular location – the bank – 99% of the time. I know a few films that are even longer than this and also take place in one location, yet they have a tendency to get either boring or too drawn out where you end up losing interest. This is not the case at all with DDA. The dynamic between Pacino and John Cazale, who plays Sal, is so unique and intriguing; the two characters are incredibly multidimensional and the actors do a stunning job conveying this. As a whole, the film does extremely well with portraying the grandiosity of the situation - a televised robbery-turned-hostage, conflict with cops, 1970s culture, the crowds forming outside the bank to watch it, Sonny becoming a beloved 'symbol' for the onlookers. All of this combined creates a wonderfully complex story with so much emotion and tension behind it. You can practically feel what it would've been like to actually be there. This is such an amazing film I literally cannot stress that enough. Super tense, thrilling and I recommend it to anyone who hasn't yet seen it.
Down by Law
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Released: 17 May 1986
Genre(s): Prison Film, Comedy
What I assumed was going to be a bleak prison escape film turned out to be a relatively comedic black-and-white masterpiece.
Down by Law revolves around 3 men in New Orleans: Jack (played by John Lurie) is a pimp who, along with disc jockey Zack (played by my king Tom Waits), is framed for murder and thrown in prison. There, the pair meet Bob (portrayed by Roberto Benigni), an eccentric Italian imprisoned for accidental manslaughter. The triad ends up escaping and now, unbeknown to where they even are, must maneuver through the swampy, mysterious environment around them.
I watched this solely for Mr. Waits, who also took part in the soundtrack of the film, which is simply phenomenal. The score itself was composed and performed by John Lurie (aka Jack), but two songs from Tom's album Rain Dogs were utilized in the very beginning and the very end. The experimental blues-y tone of those songs fits so well, especially the one at the initial start as the filming method used there was a tracking shot. It showed all of these New Orleans streets and living areas, introducing us to the environment and a few of the characters. The music brings forth a kind of mysterious setting, enticing the watcher.
Each actor involved also crafted such unique personas for their respective characters. John Lurie provided Jack with a suave yet easily angered nature, which differed from Tom Waits' portrayal of the slightly off-kilter, relaxed DJ Zack, both of which were on completely diverse realms when compared to Roberto Benigni's depiction of Bob; an Italian who knows minimal English, is also off-kilter in his own way but has a rather kind heart. All these characters, though they are very distinct from one another, work together tremendously well and you find yourself cheering on this unlikely friendship. Every actor does a terrific job bringing these roles to life.
The cinematography during this entire movie, as well as the camera techniques, are very noteworthy. I say this due to the fact that many aspects used are ones that you'd expect in a Crime Noir film or perhaps a Mystery – neither of which truly apply here. At its roots, the story itself is lighthearted and focuses more on the characters rather than the escape, but that's what gives this film a unique flare – it almost sets you up to believe you are about to observe a dark, Noir sort of creation. The fact that it is black-and-white instead of in colour also adds onto this.
I wish Down by Law was longer, as it is surprisingly short when compared to many others of its kind, but I really loved this movie. I'm just going to leave you with this Letterboxd comment I saw. It summarizes my feelings in one sentence:
Director: Christopher Nolan
Released: 13 July 2017
Judging by the rather high average rating on Letterboxd, it seems I may be in the minority here with not loving this film. War movies are a favourite genre of mine, especially WWII ones. There are numerous stellar movies about this topic that I’d even consider my all time favorites, but I’m almost saddened at how much I did not enjoy this.
The film is about the evacuation of Allied Forces from Belgium, Britain, Canada and France during WWII. The premise more specifically focuses around a few different characters and their experience/perspective. That is frankly all there is to the plot.
Harry Styles is in this film. I fail to view him as anyone other than Harry Styles so it was just bizarre watching a former member of One Direction trying not to die in World War II. His acting was... fine... but there were multiple actors that I like in this film who did a truly fantastic job, that being Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy and Barry Keoghan. The cinematography is very good as well. I liked simply watching the scenery on screen, even during moments of violence as it was depicted with such intricate colors and lighting. Speaking of which, the parts where intense scenes were actually occurring were the best moments within this film because I wasn’t bored. These elements combined are certainly not the low points of my experience with Dunkirk. All of them deserve great praise.
My dislike resides in the fact that it is just tiresome for the majority of the duration. Some scenes did not need to be as long as they were. I understand that ‘waiting’ for something to occur is sometimes essential to film progression and the bigger picture – one of my favorite films, Drive (2011), is a rather slow burn but none of it is ever lackluster, not even the parts where the characters are having simple conversations – but here, the experience is totally opposite. In Dunkirk, the storytelling is subpar and the audience receives nothing of value when watching the characters just existing on a beach, for example, with no real reason. I was also incredibly confused by the timeline, feeling as if everything was fused together or rearranged. Why must so many films do this?
In conclusion, it was mid the first time I viewed it, and mid the second time. There were numerous parts that were creative and good on their own, but failed to add to the bigger picture and instead added to the confusion within my already deteriorating brain.
Director: Joel Schumacher
Released: 26 February 1993
Genre(s): Drama, Thriller, Satire
This is a very arduous review for me to compose because I genuinely don't know what to make of this film at its core, yet I have many specific thoughts so this may be another lengthy one. Regardless of all else, there are both positive and negative facets of Falling Down.
The film is about William Foster or 'D-Fens' (played by the great Michael Douglas), a man dealing with unemployment, divorce and underlying mental anguish. With his day already terribly unfolding, his car breaks down on the highway. This causes D-Fens to abandon it and make the journey on foot across the city to see his daughter at her birthday party. His inner turmoil begins to increase, which results in violent encounters with multiple people, including a gang, a Nazi, and a veteran cop who would soon be after him.
One grating element that I found rather frequently when reading multiple opinions of this film was that it is supposedly racist. This is due to D-Fens engaging in violence with people that are not white, which I find laughable as the people that hold this opinion conveniently disregard the rest of the incidents that occur here. Throughout the duration of the film, D-Fens has encounters with the following individuals: a Korean man who he physically assaults, a gang of Hispanics who provoke him and he reacts accordingly, some fast-food restaurant workers (both white) at whom he brandishes a gun, a Nazi (also white) who is killed by D-Fens (not only that, but he clearly tells him that he is not 'one of him' when dubbed in such a manner), and finally a road repair crew who he accidentally fires a bazooka at (most of which I believe were also white). Perhaps I've gone insane but I fail to see the racism here. What I see instead is the oh-so desired representation everyone keeps pissing their pants over – not only is a diverse group of characters featured, but every race in the film receives equal treatment from D-Fens... Is that not the polar opposite of what they are accusing this film of? Enough of that bullshit anyways.
I wholly enjoy the premise of Falling Down; it is quite multidimensional, a film that propels you to think deeper about the world with every situation and conversation the main character experiences. I personally empathized with many moments here. Despite all the violent behaviour exhibited, in the end it is very discernible that he loves and cares about his daughter. He cares for children in general, which is seen throughout many moments such as when he converses with them in a gentle manner, when he protectively shields a young boy from the impact of the bazooka, or when he treats a little girl with the utmost care even when he's essentially berating a random family whilst his hands are covered in blood after climbing a sharp fence. Furthermore, I sincerely believe that many of these brawls and killings were justified; the gang which he beat up – who all later perished due to their own stupidity – provoked him first and would not listen to reason, and the Nazi attempted to assault him after a disagreement. Killing him was the only option left in order to escape. Many of these also occured because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. From a production standpoint, there were many compelling shots here. I enjoyed the camera work during any of the times where a gun was fired, utilizing various angles which added a sense of dramaticism. The story itself is quite deep. Michael Douglas does a great job portraying D-Fens as he slowly descends to the point of no return.
The reason I gave this film 3 stars is due to very strange reasons. It just did not click with me. You know that state of mind you experience when a film is just so spectacular, it resonates with you on almost a divine level? That feeling was not present here. I liked it, but I didn't. I felt the weight of the story and wasn't bored, but something was missing. Perhaps it is the lack of consistency with the shots themselves. Some were so incredibly appealing while others fell flat, pulling me out of the story. Such is present within the overall look of the film too. It appeared very nice by itself, fitting with the theme of the hot LA sun beaming down on the violence below, but the lighting stayed fairly similar throughout every scene. When D-Fens encounters the Nazi, for instance, I wish they had created a darker setting to match the tone of the scene and the spiral of the man's mind. I also wish there was more chaos on a citywide level. If there were moments where the entire city's attention was focused on the main character, perhaps through the utilization of television or news, it may have been a much more thrilling time.
While the moral of the story and the events are fantastic, the film itself misfired on many accounts. This message is so precise and needs an equally precise delivery, that of which was diminished by production elements and errors in the structure of the plot. Pity, as I truly wanted to love this film.
The French Dispatch
Director: Wes Anderson
Released: 12 July 2021
Genre(s): Anthology, Drama, Comedy
The French Dispatch has this certain aura about it, as if it was made specifically for the utmost pretentious breed of individual, one who would go to the ends of the earth to defend it with all his being. This aura is observed within the camera work right down to the cinematography itself. I believe I'd enjoy a film of this nature but for some bizarre reason – while I didn't outright despise it – I did not quite love it either.
The premise of The French Dispatch is that it is "a love letter to journalists set in an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional 20th-century French city that brings to life a collection of stories published in The French Dispatch."" Thank you, Wikipedia.
One element that cannot be taken away from the movie is how truly gorgeous it looks. It is undeniable that the colours and scenery bind together to fashion some very appealing scene sets, whether they are black-and-white or pastels. I could probably just sit through a two-hour showing of the beautiful aesthetics alone without any coherent plot or characters.
Alas, the colours The French Dispatch of the I do apologize but good lord, this was boring as hell. I get that Wes Anderson is a certain type of director and attempts to go for that "indie" sort of thing. The man always aces his outlooks on aesthetics but I just cannot enjoy anything he creates (aside from Fantastic Mr. Fox, that is).
The strongest part of it all is definitely the acting. There are many talented people involved and they all do a fantastic job, although I do wish they had utilized more screentime for Christoph Waltz rather than that overrated Timothee guy. He is a fine actor, but I'm so tired of seeing him everywhere. While the acting is good, the characters themselves lack sustenance. Like, I could not tell you anything about them apart from what they looked like. Nobody was memorable for their own self, just their appearance. Additionally, everything seems like it drones on for way too long. Some of the scenes in this film feel like they could be shorter, but alas it is Wes fucking Anderson. I don't hate his work but you'd be lying if you said he didn't opt for the "long-eye-contact-and-long-samey-shots-equal-deep-and-complex-film" way of filmmaking. Y'know the one.
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Released: 19 November 1932
Genre(s): Crime, Drama
Not only one of the best films of the 1930s, but of all time. I am so glad I watched this
even if I had to utilize the most horrific pirating website known to man. I'm getting more into the Pre-Code era of film and most of the works I've seen thus far have been incredibly creative, but this is certainly the most special one.
I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang follows James Allen who returns home after World War I. He refuses to go back to his previous factory job, wanting something more, specifically within the construction industry. James is instantly depicted as someone who wishes to better society - serving his country, striving to better the region as an engineer. After finally leaving home in search of work, James ends up in a random diner, on the brink of poverty after failing to find a stable job. In this diner, he meets a man who he assumes to be friendly and joins him in buying a burger. We now see that this "acquaintance' is actually not so kind, as he then forces James to participate in a robbery at gunpoint. When the cops arrive, they shoot the true culprit but arrest James when he panics and attempts to flee the scene of the crime.
A fair portion of the following part of the film depicts James Allen in prison, being sentenced to 10 years of hard labour within a chain gang. You really begin to understand how harsh the conditions are within this chain gang. You observe prisoners getting whipped for their poor performance, getting pushed around and hit by guards, left in the hot sun under grueling circumstances.
The film utilizes so many fantastic yet harrowing shots that feel so ahead of their time, you almost forget that this was made in the early 1930s. It feels very 'old Hollywood' but in this unique, gritty sort of way that differs greatly from other films of the era. Paul Muni, who was nominated for an Academy Award for this role, does a stellar job with bringing the character to life. He conveys a multitude of different emotions at such ease. At moments, it almost felt like a documentary of sorts and I was legitimately watching the story of this falsely convicted prisoner.
Additionally, when it doesn't feel like a documentary it feels like a cinematic thriller. Time and time again, I just refuse to believe this was made in 1932! There is an adrenalin-filled scene where Bomber (a friend from prison) and James make an escape, and they throw dynamite while executing what I can only describe as a high speed chase. This moment was filmed better than most modern day action films that come to mind. The shot angles and the fast-paced storyline just clash so perfectly, yet they also manage to maintain realism at the same time.
The ending was just gut wrenching. James Allen had essentially become everything he was initially accused to be. It is quite tragic, because at the core he was just a man trying to do his best yet was simply somebody at the wrong place, at the wrong time. These mere happenings culminated to something so terrible. I felt so bad for him because I do not believe he even did anything wrong.
Well as you can probably tell, I loved this movie. I would definitely consider this an all-time favourite now. I wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone, especially if you have an affinity for old prison cinema like I do. This keeps you on the edge of your seat at all times.
Kind Hearts and Coronets
Director: Robert Hamer
Released: 21 June 1949
Genre(s): Crime, Black Comedy, Drama
Truly a masterful showcasing of perfect storytelling, laced with pairings of bleak comedy and criminal escapades.
The film tells the tale of Louis Mazzini, a man living in the Edwardian period of England. His mother married a man who is not of royal blood, causing herself and Louis to be cut off from their aristocratic family - the D'Ascoynes. After his mother passes and the kingdom refuses to allow her to be buried at Chalfont Castle, Louis commences a rather grandiose plan to avenge his mother's death; he attempts to murder every family member who stands between himself and becoming the new Duke. Things turn awry when a few love interests get involved.
The storytelling, like I mentioned prior, is ideal. The plot is told through the form of Louis writing a 'final memoir' of sorts on death row while awaiting execution. In this confessional piece, he retells the escapades that the film surrounds, thus letting the viewer in on the true happenings as if you are reading a novel. The events of Kind Hearts and Coronets are quite easy to follow due to this very reason, as there are almost no interchanges between the present moment and the memoir's flashbacks. This does not signify that the film lacks creativity at all though; be it a dark comedy at its core, it has the tone of a Noir mystery. I really enjoyed it on this basis.
Alec Guinness, you strangely wonderful bastard – this man plays eight different members of the D'Ascoyne family, one of which is female – yet I was completely out of the know until the ending credits. He indubitably managed to pull off such a feat. Every personage was quite distinct, and when combined together in the grander scheme of the film, really paint a picture of the underlying dynamic and various attitudes in the royal family. Sir Guinness brought this film together, as did each of the other actors/actresses involved. The performances here are all stellar, what can I say? Dennis Price as Louis Mazzini is very enticing to watch on screen. His line delivery is one of the best I've ever seen, and is really pleasing to listen to. The atmosphere he creates is something entirely unique, leaving you in attempts to decide: is this a sociopath, or just someone very passionate about avenging the death of a loved one?
The ending is frankly brilliant. Louis finally becomes a free man again, right before they were about to take him to the gallows (for something completely unrelated to the D'Ascoyne murders, at that) , but is once again met with the shock of his life: he has left the most incriminating evidence – his final memoir – in his cell. This acts as a finale of pure irony, and you can almost see the horror of it all in Louis' eyes.
I barely have any gripes with this film, but alas the rating stands at 4.5 for one sole reason: the courthouse scene. It is not that I did not enjoy it (I did, and I especially loved the painting in the background although it was in black and white), I just wish more innovative shots were incorporated. There was a sense – albeit minor – of sameness throughout that particular scene, which is a loss because the duration of Louis and company at the courthouse is quite long. This does not taint the spectacular film, but I am only being honest.
Whoever reads this, I do hope you watch Kind Hearts and Coronets. I think you will be very pleased with the entertainment it will bring you. Many elements feel quite ahead of their time, such as the dark humour especially from Louis. Its just stunning in (almost) every way.
Director: Ilya Naishuller
Released: 18 March 2021
Genre(s): Action, Thriller, Black Comedy
Alright, I enjoyed this way more than I assumed I was going to. I instantly recognized that this was the same director who made "Hardcore Henry", a fellow russki Ilya Naishuller (he is also the frontman of the band Biting Elbows. Was aware of the band for years, yet never knew it was him, so that's cool). That particular film intrigued me although I didn't entirely adore it. It was filmed in an 'FPS' manner which is what drew me in; you were viewing the events as they were occuring, directly from the point of view of the main character. There are many cool shots in that film and Ilya in general provides very badass ideas when it comes to action movies, ones that stray from the average formulaic technique of modern action. This originality is 100% showcased here.
The film revolves around Hutch Mansell, a father who fails to defend himself and his family when a pair of thieves break into his home. He ultimately feels guilty and ashamed, but the aftermath of the incident propels into a fiery rage, soon leaving Hutch on an adversary where he has to protect his family from some very dangerous criminals.
As expected, Bob 'Saul G' Odenkirk is insanely good and carries out his character perfectly. Due to being a fan of Odenkirk and the fact that the director himself is Russian, I will excuse the overused stereotypes and aggression towards my people in this movie. kek. The best part of "Nobody" is the Kingsman-esque filming style. Very sharp, clean and a blast to watch. There were definitely moments where I found myself thinking it was a bit cheesy and overdone, but overall it is a super fucking fun time. Can't wait to see more from Naishuller.
Director: Amy J. Berg
Released: 15 March 2000
What a delightful piece of fiction from a friend of Amber Heard. This is one of the most retarded documentaries I've ever seen, if you can even call it that. This has quite a high rating on websites such as IMDb, Letterboxd, etc. Not surprising, since the general public is as braindead as E.R.W. herself. I truly wish people would do at least the slightest bit of research before showering things like this with praise and support, hailing the women in this film as stunning and brave for sharing their "pain" with the world, and by pain I mean their carefully coordinated mass attack on Brian Warner. If you're seething over the fact that a man you once loved is happy without you and doing fairly well, perhaps seek the assistance of a shrink rather than... whatever this is.
I wonder if the director was/is aware of the truth. Maybe she's some sort of radfem that thinks it's le Epic Troll, I don't know... but even if you don't look at it for what it is and simply view it as a random film by itself, it still fucking sucks ass. The weird animated portions look terrible and gave me a migraine. The inconsistencies in the "plot" make it very confusing to follow along with these supposed events. The entire thing is one big sham made to gaslight the viewers.
Now I have to mention this because people automatically assume false facts: I'm not some Marilyn Manson superfan. I think the man is artistically talented and I enjoy a fair amount of his music, but I don't consider myself someone that is a staunch defender of every single thing he's ever said, done, etc. In fact, I do not care. I am, however, not a fan of the whole "believe all women" shit (or believing anyone/taking their full word for everything for that matter). The issues I have with that movement are for a whole other discussion. To put it simply, Evan Rachel Wood doesn't care about women or abuse survivors. The only thing she cares about and craves is attention and sympathy points.
Director: Jerry Schatzberg
Released: 11 April 1973
Genre(s): Road Movie, Drama, Comedy
A rather underrated gem within 1970s cinema, Scarecrow is a captivating watch from start to finish.
The film portrays ex-convict Max Millan (Gene Hackman) and wholesome former sailor Francis "Lion" Delbuchi, the two of them crossing paths in California while hitchhicking. They eventually form a friendship and plan to travel to Pittsburgh to begin a car-wash business together. Lion also intends to stop in Detroit to visit his child whom he has never met, as well as make things right with his wife. The pair encounter various individuals and situations along the way that have grand impacts on them, but one of these incidents end up in Max and Lion going to prison for a month, halting their trip for the time being.
Before the positives (of which there are a lot), let's get the negatives out of the way. It is quite difficult to summarize the plot without giving the entirety of the story away, as there are so many layers to the events of Scarecrow and simply glossing over a few moments would not give it justice or enough sustenance. My reasoning for refraining from giving it the last half of a star is partially due to matters of such a nature. It is not that I did not enjoy the extensive narrative that unfolded here, but I believe this film could have done without the drastic length of some scenes. In fact, it would've had far more of an impact if some of these sections were to be cut short. Take the breakfast scene in the beginning for instance. There was a lot of crucial information there, but it was just far too extensive. The scene with Max and Frenchy when they are outside after she brings him a drink also comes to mind. I assume it was to show the the sexual tension between them, but it's understood from the mere second they initially meet and throughout the entirety of their interactions. This is a very, very miniscule drawback of Scarecrow but it is not overly important. Thus ends my only criticism.
Let us touch base on the greatest portion of the movie: everything else. If you have read any of my other reviews of films involving Al Pacino, then you are aware of how much I adore him. His portrayal of Lion here is just so damn sweet, and the ending of the movie tore out whatever was left of my blackened soul, as well as the scene between him and the inmate Riley while they were incarcerated. Anytime something bad happened to Lion, I wanted to jump through the screen and beat the everliving shit out of whoever caused him the trouble. Needless to say, Al Pacino did a fantastic job in this film. He is such a versatile actor and I believe he excels in any role that he is given. Gene Hackman, which it also should go without saying, was a perfect lead. Max is such a great and complex character; a man with a hardened and careless exterior, yet someone who cares deeply for family and those close to him even though he may not seem like it at all times. The dynamic between Max and Lion is also so entertaining yet warm to witness. Gene brought an incredibly realistic atmosphere to this chatacter. Max truly appears and feels like someone you might know in real life, someone curious and intimidating yet alluring all the same.
Everything that occurs in the film that directly impacts either man was conveyed in a very soulful way. Here we have two broken individuals that managed to find some sort of solace within eachother. The ending was also heartbreaking yet bittersweet on the behalf of Max's decisions. I felt for Lion, and was glad to see that Max did not leave him in the dark. The entire story is just so great. Many heartfelt moments, and many melancholy ones as well. I seldom enjoy feeling this way when I watch films – I prefer corrosive, torturous and/or mentally draining tales – but goddamn it, I really do love this movie.
Scent of a Woman
Director: Martin Brest
Released: 23 December 1992
Can this technically count as a Thanksgiving film? If so, it is my favourite one by far. Pure drama is usually not my preferred genre of film unless it is incorporated with sci-fi, or crime or something of the nature, but I shall make an exception if the film involves Mr. Pacino.
Scent of a Woman introduces us to Charlie Simms, a student who is looking forward to attending university in his near future. Charlie wishes to make a trip home for Christmas but seeing as he needs money, he accepts a temporary job over the weekend; he agrees to look after a blind, retired Army lieutenant colonel named Frank. Frank is quite the personality, a raging alcoholic obsessed with women who is impossible to get along with. The colonel's niece assures Charlie that it will be rather easy work despite the man's demeanor. The situation takes a drastic turn when Frank suddenly brings Charlie on an unexpected trip to New York, where chaos and experiences of a lifetime do indeed ensue.
Alfredo James Pacino, a man who will definitely have his own fanpage on here eventually, is my favourite actor of all time. He shines in this role and truly gets lost in it. Such raw talent and dedication. The character of Frank, although technically unlikeable in nature, is very multidimensional. As the story progresses, various dimensions are revealed beneath the surface. You begin to understand almost every reason as to why he is the way that he is. You feel both empathy and sympathy for him, and I found myself loathing the family members that he conversed with during the Thanksgiving scene. Frank may not have been the nicest to them, but it felt rather justified when paired with how they treated him. The colonel's personality in general is extremely enamouring to observe, whether he is cracking jokes, exhibiting his wrath, or pondering the darkness within his life.
I really enjoy the relationship and dynamic between Frank and Charlie. Chris O'Donnell brings a fresh performance as the 17 year old student. His character development was of the utmost satisfaction and it was very pleasing to see that he received a good ending, things working out in his favour (for both characters actually). He brought out very fatherly emotions within Frank that were clearly dormant prior to the events, while Frank's entire New York plans gave the boy years of life experience all crammed into a single weekend. Each man conveyed a different perspective to the other.
Obviously you can conclude I enjoyed the acting performances, but the film itself is also filmed beautifully. The autumn season present here is portrayed in gorgeous lighting and color schemes. There's also much emotion found within these elements. I see it this way: the portions of the movie that take place in New York contain atmospheres that align with Frank's state of mind and are specific to what he was experiencing - madness, depression, mania at one point, and even lust. The college setting with the autumn themes align more with Charlie, the scholarly demeanor, innocence, perhaps naivety of sorts.
What can I say, a perfect film that I think is essential for Thanksgiving viewing, but really on any day because it is just wonderful.
This Boy's Life
Director: Michael Caton-Jones
Released: 9 April 1993
Genre(s): Drama, Biopic
It is bizarre that I had not watched this film sooner. I have seen pretty much everything with Robert De Niro as he is one of my favourite actors of all time (Leo too).
This film is based on a memoir which is a recount of a true happening within the author's life, taking place in the 1950s. It follows young Toby (or Jack as he liked to be called) and his mother after a move to the state of Washington. There, they meet a seemingly nice man named Dwight and Jack's mother falls in love with him, resulting in a marriage. All is fairly well at first, but as the times progress, it is revealed that Dwight is incredibly abusive to both Jack and his mother. He believes that the only way to discipline Jack, who is a rather rowdy kid, is with violence and harsh punishment. It only gets worse over time and the kid begins to plan on how to escape this environment.
Firstly, every young boy in this movie is so accurately portrayed. It almost feels like a kid wrote the child roles, but not in a way where it is foolish – just the fact that feels very real. The child actors do a fantastic job, especially DiCaprio which obviously is not surprising. De Niro is in the same boat and gives a harrowingly amazing performance as Dwight. This film also does a skillful carrying out of the overall story progression. As you view it, even before you know Dwight's true character, there is a sense that something is deeply troubling here but you just cannot pinpoint what that element is. Of course even after the true nature is revealed, you just cannot look away.
God, I felt so fucking bad for Jack and his mom. Something about this film really resonated with me. It could be because I've related (and still relate) to numerous things Jack felt, especially about the town he resided in and the school he attended. It could also be due to some of the lower degrees of Dwight's character reminding me of one of my own relatives... I'm very glad that the real Jack (Tobias Wolff) and Caroline (his mother) escaped that turmoil.
Director: Brian De Palma
Released: 2 June 1987
Genre(s): Crime, Gangster Film, Action
Brian De Palma is behind some of my favourite films of all time. This one was at my disposal by sheer accident and I adore the Prohibition Era so I decided to watch The Untouchables. I cannot say that I'm not disappointed.
The film focuses on Chicago during the reign of Al Capone, during which agent Eliot Ness continues to be on his trail but fails at bringing the crime boss down. As a result, Agent Ness recruits a group of ambitious lawmen to assist him, including the fearless Irish-American cop Jimmy Malone. Together they become what is essentially the 1930s version of the Avengers, although much cooler if you ask me.
Robert De Niro as Al Capone and Sean Connery as Jimmy Malone are the best parts of the film. In my opinion, this could have been a spectacular production if the film was specifically about Al Capone with Jimmy as the main opposition (keeping the same actors, of course). While Connery performed wonderfully, De Niro's massive talent was wasted completely. His presence was rather minor yet so powerful, and is my favourite performance out of anyone else in this film. I also thoroughly enjoyed Andy Garcia's portrayal of George Stone and Charles Smith as Oscar Wallace.
Kevin Costner, I'm not a fan of. I'm not exactly sure why but his acting performance here was rather disgraceful. It seemed like he either held back for whatever reason, or forgot his lines mid shooting and was focusing on remembering them. Truly a crime to overutilize Costner to such an extent yet underutilize De Niro. A war crime. The editing and camerawork also requires a mention - 99% of the film looks gorgeous and there are shots that deserve the utmost praise, but there is one singular scene that caught me off guard. This is when Frank Nitti was pushed off the building by Eliot Ness. Not only do I detest Costner's line delivery during this segment, but Drago has this bizarre green screen predicament going on behind him as he falls. If it were an occurence in reality, the sky would not be positioned in the manner that it was within that moment. I would mirror the editing here to that of Sharknado, which is far from positive. Along the same line of negatives, the soundtrack falls in. Do not misunderstand, the music itself is wonderful – Ennio Morricone composes beautiful scores and I'm a big fan of him – but it simply does not align with the atmosphere of this film. Instead of making a Sharknado comparison here, I will instead say it reminds me a little bit of a Marvel movie. It almost seems way too 'inspirational' and light for such a setting. There is a scene directly in the middle of a shoot-em-up sequence where this music is heard, and it clashes awfully with the bloodbath. Not only did they waste De Niro's talent with this film, but Morricone's as well.
I'd like to additionally point out some of the choices when it comes to suspense. The Untouchables contains a fairly very well known scene that is entirely in slow motion, and while it is pretty lengthy it actually did entice me. There is much happening within than particular moment but it is never boring. Alas, speaking of scene length, there are other scenes that drone on for far too long in the same name of building suspense. This can prove to be quite effective if done correctly, but here, it felt almost thrown in just for the sake of making the film's duration longer. Not to mention, most of these scenes involve Kevin Costner which is just the icing on top of the excruciatingly mundane cake.
While there are elements I really enjoyed about this film, I just cannot bring myself to actually like it. Believe me, I wanted to. I also cannot see myself returning to it for a secondary viewing and opinion. It truly does look stunning for the most part and contains some memorable feats, aesthetic alone cannot rescue a catastrophe.
The Usual Suspects
Director: Bryan Singer
Released: 25 January 1995
Genre(s): Crime, Thriller, Mystery
A cinematic experience of suspense and intensity with stellar acting performances. I've started to become a bit obsessed with this heist/crime type of genre in recent times so this was right up that alley. It really sucks that Spacey is... the way that he is... because he truly is talented and has the best performance in this film.
Wouldn't expect anything else from someone who is friends with the Clintons though, but let me get on before I mysteriously disappear.
The Usual Suspects is about the events leading up to a gun battle on a boat, which was the result of five criminals crossing paths at a random police lineup. The sole survivor of the battle, Roger 'Verbal' Kint, is the one who is retelling these events. Both the interrogator who is speaking with him and us as the audience are in a similar position; we can feel that something is slightly off, the character is not a fully trustworthy source and everything he is saying may as well be twisted up.
I'll start off with the only negative aspect of this film - I was beyond confused with the beginning. Like I mentioned before, there is the main crime that Verbal is explaining and the 'side' crime that is the cause of the main characters meeting up. The way both of them were introduced felt slightly unorganized and I found myself trying to distinguish the timelines once Verbal's main scenes began. It just felt cluttered as if the two crimes were morphed together. But hey, it could just be my monkey brain at play. Regardless of my opinion on that, the beginning was not that long and it did not diminish my overall enjoyment of the film.
I really, really love the way this film progresses. It constantly has you on the edge of your seat, trying to piece together what is true and what is false. Mystery novels do a great job with such feats, but it isn't all the time when a movie manages to create this sort of atmosphere as well. It doesn't insult the intelligence of the average viewer, nor does it try to create – what I like to call – the Wes Anderson effect, where the pitcher is filled to the brim with false importance. Just pure, strategic mystery and build-up. I also have to mention the noir esque soundtrack because it fits beautifully with the events that unfold. I don't particularly classify this film as entirely Noir but it certainly has elements of it which act quite well alongside the mystery and heist environment. The music here is gorgeous. Now the ending... one of the best of all time in my opinion. The editing is phenomenal and creates almost an animated feeling. I also love the sense of urgency that occurs when the truth is revealed. Beautifully done.
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Released: 2 December 2022
Genre(s): Christmas, Action, Comedy
I won't bother to blur the spoilers here so I apologize if anyone actually wishes to see this film. Either I am completely and utterly insane, or perhaps a "hater of fun", but this is by far one of the most overrated modern holiday movies I have ever seen. How it has a 7 on IMDB is beyond my understanding. All of it is genuinely brain-numbingly stupid. I presume that, due to Violent Night being a comedy of sorts, not necessarily attempting to take itself seriously as opposed to what I'm doing at the moment, it shouldn't be judged in the same manner as the rest of the films on this page. That is most likely what someone normal would succumb to doing, but alas my anger at everything in the movie overrides the opportunity for normality.
Violent Night is obviously a Christmas story, a film revolving around Santa Claus tapping into his ancient days as Nikamund the Red, a viking warrior, to fight a group of mercenaries that have taken a family hostage inside their own house.
The reasoning for the singular star is for David Harbour's performance as Santa Claus, a breath of fresh air in a 112 minute duration of bullshit. He was very entertaining and the sole and only likeable character in the entire film. I cannot say anything positive about anyone else, which is so fucking strange because I am unsure if the audience is supposed to be cheering on the livelihoods of the family in the story, because I truly wanted the mercs to slaughter them all in cold blood. Jesus Christ, what a horrificly irritating group of people. There was Gertrude, the matriarch of the family who wanted absolutely nothing to do with them (understandble), her alcoholic daughter Alva who looks like Adam Sandler in Jack and Jill, Alva's retarded husband that thinks he is famous, and Alva's even more retarded influencer son Bert (probably the worst character out of the bunch). Aside from them, there is Gertrude's son and his wife, Jason and Linda, and their daughter Trudy. Perhaps these three aren't as grating as the rest, but they sure are boring.
I do not wish to spend too much time or effort depicting my anger towards the characters, so here are a few quick reasons as to why I don't like this movie: The villain in the story, Jimmy Martinez, had the most foolish, unnecessary and delusional motive I've ever heard. His aggression towards Santa Claus wasn't even the slightest bit justified. The mercs (there were at least 30) were all equipped with firearms yet Santa was able to take them down with a sledgehammer and none of them even fired their guns, aside from when one of them accidentally shot his own foot. Only one of the annoying fuckers (Alva's retarded husband) was killed off by the mercs, and not even the one that deserved it the most (the kid). The lines are pain inducing, layers and layers of corny holiday "jokes" and references. There were way too many plot holes, and important information that was mentioned once and then never again, even refraining from playing a part in the overall motif. The gore was insanely bad and everything looked like ketchup. The scenes with the most action were hard to watch, not because of a disturbance factor but because they were literally hard to watch; everything was dark as shit and the camera work was atrocious. Everything was also predictable and all the moments I said were going to happen happened before my very eyes.
Maybe I do hate fun. I can't quite say, but good god did I hate this film...