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All reviews - Movies (3) - TV Shows (1) - DVDs (28) - Music (12) - Games (5)

As magical as the movie...

Posted : 12 years, 5 months ago on 27 April 2007 02:45 (A review of Amélie: Music From the Motion Picture)

Alternating between the brightly life-affirming and heart-wrenching melancholy, this unmistakably French instrumental soundtrack to 2000's best film, Amélie, is fantastic in its own right. My only complaint is that the songs are so short, averaging only about 2 minutes each.

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An odd little thing...

Posted : 12 years, 6 months ago on 12 April 2007 01:21 (A review of Alphaville (The Criterion Collection))

The blurb on the Criterion insert calls Jean Luc Godard's "Alphaville" a "sci-fi film without the special effects," detective noir satire, and "poetry," among other things. I admit I'm still a bit baffled by what it is I watched last night. The plot was simple enough, your basic Star Trek "emotionless computer rules the world in a brual fashion and can only be defeated by overloading it with the illogical" story, but it was told in such a roundabout way-- the main character, an intergalactic spy with a private-eye look and attitude, is often seen literally walking in circles. This is also the big potential turnoff for those without patience or an open mind. It seems to conform to just about every negative stereotype Americans have about French art-house films and if you're already of the mind that obtuse storytelling is more "pretentious" than interesting, "Alphaville" probably won't change your mind.

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Posted : 12 years, 6 months ago on 3 April 2007 06:48 (A review of Man With a Movie Camera)

A Russian film directed by Dziga Vertov released in 1929 that beautifully edits together snippets of life in Moscow into a "symphony" of images. One word perfectly describes this film: hypnotic. The rhythm of the editing and unusual source images would be enough in itself to make this an interesting watch, but Vertov uses all sorts of other camera tricks (reverse angles, split screens, slow motion, etc) to make this a real work of art that can be watched over and over again-- a great achievement considering there's no really no plot or characters to speak of.

The DVD is bit on the pricey side (about $25, depending where you get it), but it's worth it.

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powerful stuff

Posted : 12 years, 6 months ago on 30 March 2007 03:36 (A review of Yes, Virginia...)

A piano and drums duo that rocks harder than most fully stacked bands today? Indeed. The songs are inventive and interesting lyrically and melodically without losing the strong hooks that make it so darn fun to hum/whistle/sing along with.

Having picked up this album and their self-titled debut at the same time, I think "Yes, Virginia" is a consistently stronger effort, though I'd easily recommend both to anyone and everyone.

Standout tracks, in my opinion:
My Alcoholic Friends
Dirty Business
Shores of California
Necessary Evil
Mandy Goes to Med School

(Yeah, that's, like, half the album. The other half is pretty darn good, too.)

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Technically impressive, but soulless

Posted : 12 years, 6 months ago on 30 March 2007 03:22 (A review of Hard Normal Daddy)

As a drum programmer, Squarepusher shows he has few equals on "Hard Normal Daddy," but, IMO, music is about more than being technically proficient. Still, if you're looking for intelligent drum and bass dance fodder to shake your ass to, you can't go wrong here. For something similar, but with more feeling pick up Aphex Twin's "Come to Daddy" or "Richard D. James Album" instead.

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Everybody loves Lulu. I know I do.

Posted : 12 years, 7 months ago on 15 March 2007 06:48 (A review of Pandora's Box (The Criterion Collection))

Louise Brooks is stunningly seductive as the gamine protagonist Lulu in "Pandora's Box," the first of two collaborations between her and acclaimed German director D.W. Pabst.

Lulu is a professional mistress, and it's no wonder why. Everyone she meets, young and old, male and female, falls under her erotic spell, and while she does very little in most cases to explicitly court their attention, she does even less to discourage it. Eventually this leads to some disastrous consequences for herself and everyone around her.

The film is classic for good reason. First and foremost is presence of the beautiful Brooks, who, through Pabst's superior photography, managed to cast her spell as effectively on the viewer as she does the characters in film.

The Criterion release is, as per usual, excellent. The film itself can be viewed with your choice of 4 scores, 2 of them orchestral, 1 in a cabaret style, and the last improvisational piano. There's also a commentary by a pair of film historians. The second disc contains a 60-minute TCM produced documentary, "Looking for Lulu," and a 45-minute interview with Louise Brooks. Also included in the package is a rather large book - nearly 100 pages - containing photos of Brooks, two essays on Pandora's Box (one of which is by Brooks herself who was in her post-Hollywood career apparently an accomplished essayist) and a long biographical piece of Brooks from the New Yorker called "The Girl in the Black Helmet."

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A must-own DVD for Gilliam fans.

Posted : 12 years, 7 months ago on 13 March 2007 03:27 (A review of Tideland (Two-Disc Collector's Edition))

Tideland is a visual treat, no great surprise considering the director, but the humor is far more black than anything Terry Gilliam has done before.

If you can't stand the thought of watching a child prepare her parents' smack or cuddle up with her father's bloated, rotting corpse, then this is not the film for you. The situations are disturbing enough for adults, but when you get a child involved it feels borderline exploitative. Though it never *really* crosses the line, there's a definite feeling of bleak suspense running throughout the film that at any minute things will stop being so fantastical and reality will come crashing down upon little Jeliza-Rose, and it really undercuts the absurd humor in many of the scenes.

It makes for an interesting comparison with Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. In that film, the protagonist also found himself in countless deeply disturbing situations (for instance, a violent acid-head bathing in a pool of his own filth begging the protagonist to help him commit suicide), but the movie's humor was always elevated by them, probably due to the cavalier attitude of the narration and the near slapstick performances of the actors.

It's hard for me to cast judgment on whether Tideland is a good or bad film because I'm still not sure on what terms I'm supposed to judge it. It was too absurd to be taken seriously and too dark to be really funny. All I can say for certain is that it was definitely worth watching, and worth recommending for those with a strong stomach.

I can also say without hesitation that the 2-disc DVD release is a must-have for Gilliam fans due to the enormous amount of commentary available. The first disc is the film and a wonderful commentary track with Gilliam and screenwriter Tony Grisoni. The second disc has a 45 minute documentary about the filming of Tideland called "Getting Gilliam." The documentary itself is pretty ho-hum if you've seen The Hamster Factor (included on the 12 Monkeys DVD) or Man of La Mancha, but it includes a fun commentary track with Gilliam and the director of the documentary, Vincenzo Natali. Also included on disc 2 are a small selection of deleted scenes with commentary by Gilliam, an interview with Gilliam, an interview with the producer of the film, and a demonstration of some of the green screening used in the film with commentary by Gilliam.

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nearly perfect

Posted : 12 years, 8 months ago on 13 February 2007 05:00 (A review of Million Dollar Baby (Two-Disc Widescreen Edition))

Jeebus, how cynical do you have to be to not be moved to tears by this film?

Granted, it has its flaws (namely, the caricature redneck family, the retard-with-a-heart-of-gold, not to mention a so-so script given undeserved gravitas by the likes of Eastwood and Freeman), but they're forgivable in light of everything this movie does right.

The acting is unbelievably restrained even when the situations could have easily given way to maudlin spectacles, and yet Eastwood and co. are able to emote love and heartbreak so powerfully with so little visible effort.

Tom Stern's cinematography is absolutely fantastic. The use of light and shadows is really breathtaking.

Though the dialogue isn't the greatest, the story is top notch. The first 2/3rds play out like an above-average traditional underdog-overcomes-the-odds sports picture, but this is also a sly set-up to the emotional sucker punch dealt in the final third.

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not bad, but not great either

Posted : 12 years, 8 months ago on 9 February 2007 09:28 (A review of Payback)

Disclaimer: my view may be biased because I watched the other (and, in my opinion, far superior) film based on Richard Stark's The Hunter, Point Blank (1967), the night before I watched Payback.

One thing that irked me about Payback was the soundtrack-- it was way too obvious. The worst example is the use of the BB King tune "The Thrill is Gone" after a kidnap victim is lured into a trap using the promise of sex and he's made a prisoner instead. Ugh.

The photography isn't particularly stylish, nor is it hackish. The writing, however, was subpar. Most of verbal humor was groan-worthy and the dramatic scenes seemed to lack any real weight, probably because the characters were wholly undeveloped.

Granted, no one expects terrific writing or virtuoso cinematography in an action flick. We want fistfights, gunplay, explosions, etc, which Payback has no shortage of, but we also need a reason to care one way or another about who comes out on top, or, at the very least, strong audio/visual reasons to draw us in and keep us glued to the screen. With a weak script and merely adequate craftsmanship, Payback ends up being a mediocre revenge picture.

I'd only really recommend seeing this film as a companion piece to Point Blank.

Or I'd recommend The Limey (1999) or Get Carter (1971) - the Michael Caine version, not the Sly Stallone version - as far better flicks with similar themes.

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a fun (and family-friendly) actioner

Posted : 12 years, 9 months ago on 18 January 2007 02:35 (A review of Black Dragon (aka Miracles))

Jackie Chan wrote, directed, and starred in this action/comedy remake of Frank Capra's 1961 film, "Pocketful of Miracles." The result is a fun, frenetic, and heartwarming movie with the usual amazing Jackie Chan stunts that adults and kids alike can enjoy because, despite the fact that the main characters are mostly mobsters, it's less violent than your average professional wrestling match.

Chan, a newly arrived Cantonese immigrant in the big city of 1930's Hong Kong, saves the life of a mob boss and finds himself the new leader of the gang when the boss finally dies (of a stomach ulcer). Jackie inherits a feud with rival mob boss, Tiger, but thanks to a good luck rose from a kindly old flower woman, Madam Kao, he survives every harrowing encounter.

When the Madam Kao finds out her daughter and her daughter's wealthy husband-to-be are coming to Hong Kong to visit her, she goes into a panic. Kao has been sending letters to her daughter for years in which she pretends to be a wealthy society woman rather than a flower peddler, and now she's afraid the revelation will ruin her daughter's wedding plans. Jackie wants to help, but can he pull off the increasingly elaborate ruse while dodging the cops and the rival gangsters?

The movie is rife with broad slapstick and there are three strong action sequences, the last of which, taking place in a rope factory, really shows why Jackie Chan is the best of the best when it comes to choreographing.

That said, there are *only* three major action sequences and the film is about 2 hours long. If slapstick isn't your cup of tea you may find yourself quickly bored with the antics.

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