Friday, May 24, 2013
His 1983 film The Dead Zone fits somewhere between the first and third categories. Based on the Stephen King novel, the film chronicles a man's life following a debilitating car crash. (Amusingly, this was years before King's own.)
Many of Cronenberg's films from the 1980s focused on the surreal nature in life. (Videodrome, The Fly and Dead Ringers are the main contributors.) The Dead Zone isn't any different from those titles. It shows how strange life can become for some.
The star of The Dead Zone is Christopher Walken, who is actually the kind of actor Cronenberg would cast for one of his films. (Seriously, just look at him.) Not long after his deserved Oscar win for The Deer Hunter, Walken continues to show his abilities as an actor. There are many times throughout the film where he's just absolutely scared of what he's seeing, and Walken displays it fantastically.
Despite the work from Walken and the many unsettling elements early on, The Dead Zone feels like something's lacking by the end. I'm not sure what it is though. Of the Cronenberg films I've seen, this felt like the weakest among them. Oh, and there's also a really sleazy performance out of Martin Sheen too.
My Rating: ****
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Brian De Palma's Blow Out is another film of the genre. Knowing De Palma's certain style, it comes as no surprise that there are allusions to Alfred Hitchcock throughout the film. But there's more than just the occasional shout-out to the Master of Suspense.
There are also allusions to (at the time) relatively recent events in politics. (The car crash that moves the film's events forward could be a sly reference to the Kennedy incident at Chappaquddick.) There's also nods towards both Watergate and the JFK assassination. Intentional? Most likely. Interesting? Most definitely.
The star of Blow Out is John Travolta, hot off the success of Saturday Night Fever and Grease. Here, he's far from busting a move. (There's a line I'd never thought I'd type.) He's determined to find the truth, even after the police insist there's nothing to the "accident". (John Lithgow's work here also deserves a mention.)
All in all, Blow Out is good but it loses steam after a while. It is a good De Palma film (the only others I saw were The Untouchables and Carlito's Way), I'll say that. Basically if you want a pretty solid film from the 1980s, here's your film.
My Rating: ****
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Now John Dahl's Rounders continues that trend minus the trip to Vegas. What the film succeeds in is showing the desperation of the two leads as they try to get enough money to keep themselves alive. (Oh, and I don't normally do this, but here's another review that I liked.)
Now onto the rest of my review. I'm not much for films of this nature and the plot for Rounders is rather flimsy. But the ranging performances from the primary actors make the film work somewhat. (I say "somewhat" loosely.)
The actors include Matt Damon, Edward Norton (both recently recognized for their work in Good Will Hunting and Primal Fear respectively), John Turturro and John Malkovich (who speaks with the most ridiculous Russian accent possible). Damon has the most substantial role of the quartet but Norton is the scene stealer of the four. (He did have that tendency early on in his career.)
Anyway, Rounders is an all right film. Not great but there were a few good moments here and there that I liked. Norton, as stated above, steals basically every scene he's in whereas Damon gives a good performance. It's not much to go by but it's worth a look at least.
My Rating: ***1/2
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Now I haven't read Virginia Woolf's novel nor have I seen any of Potter's other films, but I could tell that this was an unique idea. An ageless human who lives life as both a man and a woman? Sounds like a compelling story.
Potter gives her audience a film that has a balance of decadence and simplicity. However, the balance isn't a very even one. Sometimes the decadence is too much while other times the simplicity isn't enough. Still, it's the work from the film's star that can make it work.
The star in question is Tilda Swinton, who is rapidly becoming a favorite actress. It seems fitting that she would be in a film like Orlando. This is the kind of film that can show the world what kind of talent an actor has. In fact, Orlando may contain Swinton's best performance.
As mentioned above, Orlando is a very different kind of film. It feels flimsy in some parts but it's thanks to Swinton's performance that makes the film still remembered today. If you like unconventional films, then you'll like Orlando.
My Rating: ****
Friday, May 17, 2013
And if you read my review of the first film, you know that I loved it and was looking forward to the sequel. So what did I think of Star Trek Into Darkness? To be honest, I thought it was just as awesome as the first one. Hell, some scenes may have surpassed those in the first one.
The stars of Star Trek Into Darkness continue where they left off four years earlier. Chris Pine keeps Kirk's cockiness in full swing throughout. I approve of Zoe Saldana having more to do here. Karl Urban and Simon Pegg are real fun to watch. (They always get the best one-liners.) But one of the two MVPs of Star Trek Into Darkness is definitely Zachary Quinto. For playing a character known for his stoic nature, Quinto sure knows how to show emotion at the right moment.
I must talk about Benedict Cumberbatch's work here. (I won't delve into too many details.) It's the small details in his performance that make him stand out. The cold, dead look in his eyes...the eerily calm tone in his voice...and nary a moment where he goes over the top. (Okay, maybe one or two towards the end.) If you've seen his work on Sherlock, you know he's great at playing the anti-hero. But here, he proves he's fantastic at playing the villain.
To sum up everything (or basically repeat myself), Star Trek Into Darkness definitely delivers. It's certainly darker than the first film (though the title alone suggests that) and the war on terror allegory throughout is interesting. And Michael Giacchino's score added so much to the film. Oh, and be sure to stick around after the credits.
My Rating: *****
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Jacques Audiard's A Prophet is one such film that focuses on the latter to the fullest. Chronicling the rise of a prison inmate's criminal empire, the film shows how seductive the wrong side of justice can be to some people. (I clearly see now why it's a topic not often highlighted.)
The films stars Tahar Rahim as Malik, a young prisoner forced to work for the leader of a Corsican gang. He's reluctant at first but after a while (and a few beatings), Malik accepts his role in the gang. It takes less time for him to make a name for himself.
Parallels between Malik and Michael Corleone can easily be made. After all, both are men originally unwilling to start a life of crime. Though their backgrounds are different. (We're introduced to Malik as he goes into prison; Michael is introduced as a war hero.) But both men were unable to resist the seduction of criminal behavior.
A Prophet is a really fascinating film. Not many films chronicle the dark side of human behavior and Audiard provides a great portrait. Audiard also became a director I'm keeping an eye on most definitely. Wonder what else he's done...
My Rating: *****
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Tony Kaye's Detachment shows teachers in both a sympathetic and harsh light. They're deemed sympathetic because they try so hard to keep their professional and personal lives in order. But they're also deemed unsympathetic because they have no idea how to do that. (Then again, this is made by the man responsible for American History X.)
The students get basically the same treatment as the teachers here. They're treated sympathetically because they're expected to learn and make a plan for their whilst under constant pressure. But they're also treated harshly because they are the one responsible for their educators' stress. But it's all a matter of opinion.
I must say, the cast for Detachment is pretty phenomenal. The names among the roster include Adrien Brody, Marcia Gay Harden, Christina Hendricks, James Caan, Lucy Liu, Tim Blake Nelson, Blythe Danner and Bryan Cranston. They're all very good (Brody especially), but a special mention to Sami Gayle is deserved.
Detachment isn't an excessively remarkable film but some scenes certainly leave an impact. It doesn't have the same shock value as American History X but it certainly tries to. Also, I love those last few shots of the film. There's a certain poetry to them.
My Rating: ****