Monday, October 31, 2011

Let the Right One In

Thanks to the God awful Twilight saga, vampires have lost their edge. They're viewed as sexy instead of scary. Somewhere Bram Stoker is rolling in his grave.

Ironically, the same year the first Twilight movie was released, a foreign movie entitled Let the Right One In brought the vampire movie back to its roots. Instead of being sparkly and brooding, the main vampire is hungry for blood. Stoker would be proud.

I personally like foreign movies every now and again. (Reading subtitles is a strain sometimes.) Old foreign movies are loaded with religious imagery; new foreign movies focus on depression and sex. Let the Right One In doesn't rely on any of those. It relies on a common aspect of horror movies: suspicion.

Let the Right One In is one of the best movies in recent years. When you think it can't get any scarier, it does. Again, if Stoker was alive to see this, he would be proud. Suck on that, Twilight. (Pun intended.)

My Rating: *****

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Session 9

Paranoia movies are always the scariest kind of horror movies. When the main character slowly starts going insane, so does the viewer. (This is from someone who has seen one too many episodes of The Twilight Zone.)

Session 9, however, isn't one one of those movies. It tries to be like The Shining, but it tries too hard. I give Brad Anderson points for the build-up, but he loses those points (among other things) in the long run.

Of course Session 9 has the usual list of horror movie cliches: abandoned mental hospital, checkered past of said hospital, those sort of things. If Anderson wanted to present a new type of horror movie, ditch the cliches and do something unconventional. Seriously, it's not that hard.

If I wasn't clear enough, Session 9 tries too much to be something new and instead becomes the typical forgotten horror movie. It's all right in some parts, but it falls flat on its face by the end. I wasn't impressed.

My Rating: ***1/2

Saturday, October 29, 2011


It's obnoxious. The more popular a contemporary movie is, the least likely I would have seen it.

Wes Craven's Scream is no exception. (Yes, I hadn't seen it before. Get off my case.) By all accounts, this is one of the few horror movies in recent years that's effective. Most horror movies that reference ones in the years past tend to fail in spectacular fashion. (Remember the Scary Movies?) Fortunately with Scream, it works.

Of course the matter of horror and comedy fused together for one movie is a tricky one to tackle. Fortunately, Craven makes it work in Scream. After all, this man brought the horror genre back from the dead. (Also love the cameo of his where he's conspicuously dressed as Freddy Krueger.)

Scream, as I mentioned before, is one of the few horror movies in recent years that's effective. It gets a little silly in some parts, but I still like it. If you haven't seen it, what the hell are you waiting for?

My Rating: ****

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fatal Attraction

The most common type of horror movie villain is what I affectionately call the "psycho bitch". You know, the woman who is so mentally unhinged she will do anything drastic to get what she wants.

The most famous example is Glenn Close's Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction. Close is one of the best actresses working today and Alex is her most famous role. For good reason too. She appears to be a pleasant person, but one look into her hollow eyes proves otherwise. As much as I like Cher in Moonstruck, her work pales in comparison to Close's.

It's the small details of Fatal Attraction that makes it work. Take note that Alex's apartment, most of her clothing and possessions are white. However, she is anything but pure. The first time we see her, we almost pick up immediately that she's trouble with a capital T. Too bad Dan (Michael Douglas) doesn't pick up on it.

Fatal Attraction is a very effective thriller, but it loses something when Close isn't on screen. This movie probably made men think twice before having an affair. (Close said that people thank her for saving their marriages.) One more thing about Close. Two words to describe she means business: bunny boiler.

My Rating: ****1/2

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Fly

Science fiction and horror go hand in hand frequently. Like when an experiment goes horribly wrong. Trust me, it works.

An example is David Cronenberg's The Fly. Like Videodrome, The Fly is bound to cross over into messed-up territory. And it does that exactly. The slow (and disgusting) transition from human to fly is meant to be seen than described. (Especially when his ear just falls off.)

The Fly was viewed by some upon its release as Cronenberg's take on the AIDS epidemic. In a sense it is, but I like to view it as Cronenberg's twist on The Elephant Man. By this, I mean Cronenberg shows a misunderstood and deformed being, and has us come to terms with this creature.

The Fly is infused with science fiction, horror and Cronenberg grossness, all of which work wonders. The makeup makes this version and the 1958 version appear as though they aren't even the same story. However, it's on the gross side frequently. One for the horror junkies.

My Rating: ****1/2

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Considering the only David Cronenberg movies I've seen were some of his more realistic titles (Eastern Promises, Spider, A History of Violence), I was bound to see his movies from the 1980's sooner or later.

One of them is Videodrome. I've heard that this was a really messed-up movie and boy, is it ever. I knew Cronenberg's movies from the 1980's were...different from his more recent work, and Videodrome is just downright bizarre.

Though Videodrome shows the influence television can have on people. As most people know, the media is a contributor to most crimes. Cronenberg is making a statement on the influence of television and its impact. (It's not pretty in the least bit.)

Videodrome is good, but it was too surreal for me to really like. I do like Cronenberg's take on media influence however. It's basically one of the strangest movies out there. After seeing this, it'll make you think twice before watching television, especially late at night.

My Rating: ****

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Thing

By now, everyone knows that remakes don't always work. There are those very rare exceptions, but the number is still small.

Most people know by now that John Carpenter is a devotee to Howard Hawks. (After all, Assault on Precinct 13 is a sci-fi take on Rio Bravo.) Carpenter's The Thing, although based on a different source, clearly had Hawks' The Thing from Another World as an influence. (Yes, I know Hawks wasn't the official director, but just go with it.)

I'm not big on gore, but Carpenter is fortunate enough to not overdo it. Okay, he does overdo it sometimes, but it has meaning to it. Saying I got nightmares from it is an understatement; I got nightmares for all eternity. As if Halloween didn't spook me out enough. Now Carpenter's my go-to source for something scary.

The Thing gets a good feel of paranoia. Think of it as Invasion of the Body Snatchers set in Antarctica. You don't know who's been taken over, so you're constantly on edge. You know how Brian De Palma kept making homages to Hitchcock? Carpenter did that with immense ease with both Halloween and The Thing.

My Rating: *****

Monday, October 24, 2011

Marathon Man

There are a number of movies that are famous for one scene. Examples include the kiss on the beach in From Here to Eternity, the shower scene in Psycho, and the subway grate moment in The Seven Year Itch. Sometimes, however, there's more to the movie than that one scene.

Of course for Marathon Man, the (in)famous scene in question is where Laurence Olivier tortures Dustin Hoffman through dental work. (His "Is it safe?" is just flat out unnerving.) Because of this one scene, I shall now be forever cautious of going to the dentist.

The scenes of dental distress aside, Marathon Man is a very well-acted thriller. Hoffman goes from unknown resident of New York City to victim to defender within the span of two hours. Roy Scheider makes it clear that he isn't what he seems. But this show belongs to Olivier. He is perhaps the most horrifying Nazi preceding Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List. When you hear the name Christian Szell, run for your life.

Marathon Man is very good. It has a few flaws here and there, but the work from Hoffman, Scheider and Olivier gives the movie support. It has an accurate balance of thrills, so I recommend it mostly for that and the acting.

My Rating: ****1/2

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Theater of Blood

Most horror movies that are dubbed underseen are usually not very good. That doesn't mean they're all bad.

Vincent Price is noted for his appearances as the villain in movies. (That voice of his might be a contribution to it.) In Theater of Blood, he's somewhat of a sympathetic sort of person. After all, his Edward Lionheart is merely getting revenge on the critics who mocked his career.

What makes Theater of Blood clever is what the inspirations for the murders are from. Lionheart is a Shakespeare actor, so naturally he would use scenes from the Bard's work. Makes a person wonder if Andrew Kevin Walker watched this a few times before he wrote Se7en.

Theater of Blood is one of the more clever horror movies out there. Price is his usual diabolical self, but he shows more range with this. If you ask me, it's really worth checking out for its entertainment and shock value.

My Rating: ****1/2

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Night of the Living Dead

It's always good to see the firsts in film. It's a good way to acknowledge yourself with such movies. (It's good for bragging rights too.)

George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead is dubbed the best zombie movie ever made. Boy, is it ever. Movies like 28 Days Later have to thank Romero for revolutionizing the zombie movie. Without him, those movies wouldn't have a formula to rely on.

There are only a few moments of zombie gore, but they sure work. It's clear the leads are heading up a slippery slope when they see how unstoppable the zombies appear to be. Hey, no one said fighting zombies was going to be easy.

Night of the Living Dead just works on many levels. The scares work, believe me. It's amazing how a movie with a plot so simple can do wondrously. There aren't many movies that can accomplish that.

My Rating: *****

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Bad Seed

Why is it children in horror movies are always creepy? Anyone that has seen The Omen or The Shining can agree with me on that.

Probably one of the first "creepy kid" horror movies was 1956's The Bad Seed. Most kids in horror movies are possessed or taken over by some sort of spirit. Patty McCormack's Rhoda Penmark is just downright evil. Seriously, wouldn't you be freaked out by a kid like her?

With most other people in movies that have killed, they worry if they'll get caught. Not Rhoda. All the worrying is done by her mother Christine (Nancy Kelly). Rhoda could barely care if she gets caught. She just goes on with her day like any normal eight-year-old (or sociopath) would.

The Bad Seed has to be one of the more underrated horror movies out there, though it does get a little schlocky in some scenes. McCormack is probably the most horrifying kid in any movie. Hey, you try finding a kid creepier than Rhoda Penmark. (Trust me, there isn't.)

My Rating: ****1/2

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Invisible Man

Horror movies have always been a blind spot for me. Even if I've seen the more prolific titles, there's always a few that I keep glossing over.

James Whale was a trusted name back in the day when it came to horror movies. After all, the man made Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. He also made The Invisible Man, which is still effective nearly eighty years later.

Even after all this time, the special effects still work. I mean, this is a post-Avatar world so most special effects pale in comparison. But the ones in The Invisible Man just work. Seeing the half-exposed Invisible Man is shocking. (Boy, that sounded dirty, didn't it?)

The Invisible Man still packs a hell of a wallop even after all these years. Every scene builds up to a pitch perfect ending which uses those special effects wonderfully. If you've seen it, you'll agree with me.

My Rating: *****

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


To most horror movie fans, the 1930's marked the starting point of the genre. That's definitely true if you consider the the titles released from that time period.

On of them is Dracula. No denying that Bela Lugosi is one freaky vampire. The Hungarian accent and that look in his eyes prove that. Seriously, try not to get spooked out by his close-up with that beam of light over his eyes.

One aspect of Dracula I like is the lack of music. Most horror movies use music to build up suspense. (Psycho, anyone?) I think the absence of music makes it more suspenseful than if there was music, but that's just me.

Dracula is very good but considering the number of horror movies I've seen prior to this, the scare factor was relatively low. Still, Lugosi is a spooky vampire. Take that, Twilight.

My Rating: ****1/2

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I just want to know what you guys want in the way of reviews. Because, hey, even I get tired of watching the classics (as shocking as that may seem). I'll start them in the coming months. (I got a horror movie marathon planned for the rest of the month; you'll find out the titles when I review them.)

Oh, and to you Tyler, I already know what you want out of this site. I'll try my best.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Heavenly Creatures

No matter what, I always love movies based on true crimes. There's just some strange allure at the acknowledgment that those certain events actually happened, particularly seeing what drives someone to murder.

Heavenly Creatures, one of Peter Jackson's movies outside of The Lord of the Rings saga, is about the case of Pauline Parker (Melanie Lynskey) and Juliet Hulme (Kate Winslet), two girls in 1950's New Zealand whose friendship reached the brink of obsession. Their motive for murder shows how deep their obsessive friendship was.

Both Lynskey and Winslet were newcomers in Heavenly Creatures, and proved that there are two new stars in Hollywood. They possess the innocence and imagination of young girls, but they also show that if you ruin their happy lives, you're going to pay a hefty price.

Heavenly Creatures is one of those movies that grabs you by the throat and never lets go. However, that grip loosens up a little bit because the narrative wavers towards the middle. It's still an impressive movie though.

My Rating: ****1/2

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Jackie Brown

There are certain people I watch in moderation. One of them is Quentin Tarantino. His movies may be well-scripted, but damn, they're bloody. (And sweary.) That doesn't mean I don't like his movies however.

I think the reason for why I like Jackie Brown more is because it's more under control. I say that because it's based on a book by Elmore Leonard. It still has that Tarantino attitude within the dialogue. (Believe me, it's quite easy to pick up on.)

Tarantino is noted for restarting the careers of once-big names and in Jackie Brown, he does that for Pam Grier and Robert Forster. Both are at their A-game in this. I personally love the look on Forster's face when he first sees Grier. (On an ironic note, Jackie Brown co-stars Bridget Fonda and Michael Keaton, two actors Hollywood has lost interest in.)

To some, Jackie Brown feels out of place among Tarantino's work because, as I stated earlier, it's more under control than Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs. Here's a tip: don't believe what they say. Jackie Brown is just as good as Tarantino's other work. If don't believe me, watch it for yourself.

My Rating: *****

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sex and the Single Girl

I try hard to avoid the blemishes in an actor's filmography, but I have to give in once I've seen the better movies of their career. It may be sinking to a new low, but I don't care since I know other people do it as well.

Sex and the Single Girl stars three actors I call favorites (Tony Curtis, Henry Fonda, Lauren Bacall) and an actress I moderately like (Natalie Wood). They're all good actors, so what are they doing in a movie like this? I mean, considering some of the movies they've been in, this is practically an insult.

Don't blame me. I knew this was a crap movie before I even saw it. (I was suckered in, I tells ya!) Curiosity got the better of me. Besides, I've seen enough good movies this year alone to tide me over. I need to see a bad movie every now and again too, you know.

This is just a downright silly movie. (The final third seals its fate.) It has its moments, but they're fleeting. I wouldn't say this is something I regretted watching once it was over. This is actually a good thing; I now have a guilty pleasure.

My Rating: ***

Friday, October 14, 2011

I'm Not There

There are some movies that are different from the rest. Their style isn't the conventional type, making them stand out from the rest.

This is the case with Todd Haynes' I'm Not There. I was already familiar with Haynes with Far from Heaven, so it's natural that I was thrown through a loop with I'm Not There. The narratives for both of them are on different spectrums, Far from Heaven being easy flowing and I'm Not There sporadic.

The cast for I'm Not There is impressive. Among the actors portraying Bob Dylan's personas include Heath Ledger, Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Ben Whishaw and Richard Gere. Of them, I liked Ledger and Blanchett the most. They capture the right portrayal of aloofness towards society. It doesn't mean they're self-absorbed; they just don't care.

I'm Not There is quite good, but it feels disoriented. It jumps from different time periods frequently, so it feels hard to follow sometimes. That said, I thought it was very well-acted. But all in all, it's mostly style over substance.

My Rating: ****

Thursday, October 13, 2011


When exploring an actor's filmography, you come across stinkers and gems. I try hard to see more in the latter category. (Believe me, it's a lot easier if it's a good actor.)

Manic stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Don Cheadle, two actors I find some of the best in recent years. In Manic, they play men conflicted with their present situations. Cheadle is supposed to be in charge and keep everything under control, but he finds it too overwhelming for him to handle.

The star of Manic is clearly Gordon-Levitt. He acts mostly with his eyes, but his actions are just as powerful. He also has a murderous glint in his eyes more than once throughout Manic. It has to be one of his best performances.

Although Gordon-Levitt and Cheadle are the buoys for Manic, they can't stop it from sinking. The camera work is too jumpy and the same can be said about the plot. Neither are content to staying put. Personally, this is an "enter at your own risk" kind of movie, and I don't mean that in a good sense.

My Rating: ***1/2

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Gosford Park

I know Robert Altman is a good director. It's just I haven't seen much of his work. I only have three titles to brag about seeing (MASH, The Player, The Long Goodbye).

There is also a fourth title among Altman's work that I've seen. That title is Gosford Park. It stars so many British actors, Ian McKellen joked that he was the only British actor not in Gosford Park. (Not kidding on that.) And boy, do they play their roles well. Of the actors, I liked Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Clive Owen and Ryan Phillippe the best.

The highlight of Gosford Park is Julian Fellowes' script. It practically oozes sly humor and wit. It picks up the dull parts. (There are quite a few, trust me.) You tell by the script that this is an Altman movie.

In total, I really liked Gosford Park but I thought it was sluggish in parts. Like many of Altman's previous movies, the ensemble of actors is excellently crafted. If you like heavily British movies, then you'll like this.

My Rating: ****1/2

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Black Narcissus

When it comes to old movies, I prefer black and white. I'm not too big on Technicolor, but there are a few exceptions to my choice.

One of them is Black Narcissus, shot beautifully by Jack Cardiff. He was probably one of the few names in cinematography who used Technicolor as an advantage. Most movies with Technicolor look garish and tacky. Not Black Narcissus. Like The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus is gorgeous.

There's just something so appealing about people of the cloth having more than just a little bit temptation boiling within them. In Black Narcissus, that is in the form of Kathleen Byron as Sister Ruth. Man, she is demented. She gives looks that could make the blood in a Kubrick villain run cold. That look in her eyes...ugh, just thinking about it gives me the creeps.

Black Narcissus is filmmaking at its finest. The blending of a good story, fine acting (especially from Deborah Kerr and Byron) and glorious cinematography work fantastically in unison. I praised The Red Shoes a lot yesterday; I'm praising Black Narcissus more today.

My Rating: *****

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Red Shoes

Very rarely are there movies immortalized for their cinematography. There are some directors whose works are noted for the cinematography (Terrence Malick) while other times it's the cinematographers who are noted (James Wong Howe, Roger Deakins).

Another noted cinematographer is Jack Cardiff, who is mostly associated with Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. (For good reason, too.) He shows his skill to the highest caliber with The Red Shoes. He uses color flawlessly throughout, whether it be the sets of the ballets or the costumes (including the title red shoes).

Even if you're not a fan of ballet, you're bound to like The Red Shoes. It's not just about ballet but also about human emotion (mainly those Moira Shearer and Anton Walbrook). Who else but Powell and Pressburger could do this masterfully?

The Red Shoes is visually and emotionally beautiful. Every small detail works wonderfully together. Shearer and Walbrook are excellent in their performances. This is definitely not one to miss.

My Rating: *****

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Ides of March

Politics and movies haven't exactly gone together well. (Remember the House Un-American Activities Committee?) Now and then, certain actors get more ink about their political views than about a new movie they're working on.

George Clooney is one of the fortunate names in the business whose political views don't get in the way of his job. In fact, his views are an advantage for his directing contributions Good Night, and Good Luck and The Ides of March. But of course only one of these two works wonders.

As well as directing, co-starring and writing it, Clooney also enlists other talented actors like Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood to appear in The Ides of March. Of the sextet of actors, the best work came from Gosling, Clooney and Hoffman.

Of course The Ides of March has its flaws. I thought the first act was too slow and the ending was too abrupt. The rest of it is very good, but it felt like Clooney was trying to outdo Good Night, and Good Luck. And considering I don't follow politics closely, it kind of bored me. Still, it's quite good.

My Rating: ****1/2

Saturday, October 8, 2011

21 Grams

Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu is one of those directors whose movies stand out from the rest. They're movies that wouldn't work if made by other directors.

Take 21 Grams for instance. The way the movie is constructed is the surefire way of telling it's Inarritu's work. It's not told in normal time like other movies but rather where the story is told in fragmented time. You have to pay close attention to the movie to get a good understanding of the tale Inarritu is telling.

Also pay close attention to the acting by Sean Penn, Naomi Watts (in perhaps her least glamorous role), Benicio del Toro and Melissa Leo. They're acting not only with their words and bodies but also their eyes. One look into any of their eyes reveals more than anything they'll say.

21 Grams is a very good movie, though it might be a little too gritty and depressing for some people. The work from Penn, Watts, del Toro and Leo is fantastic, probably some of the best work I've seen from any actors. (Don't ask me to pick my favorite; that'd be impossible for me to choose one.) One of the best movies of the last decade.

My Rating: ****1/2

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Elephant Man

It's funny once you think of it. David Lynch is renowned for making freaky movies, and one of his earliest movies was about one of the most famous circus freaks in history.

I'm of course referring to The Elephant Man. Lynch doesn't portray Joseph "John" Merrick (John Hurt) as a freak of nature but more as a being confusing the rest of society. When people first see Merrick, their response is usually that of shock. (Frederick Treves' (Anthony Hopkins) reaction to first seeing Merrick is my favorite shot in the whole film.) But they don't know what Merrick feels.

That's what makes Lynch an interesting director to watch. He is willing to explore a certain character to many extents. But he also doesn't make us completely sympathize for Merrick. He has us come to terms with our own differences with Merrick's deformity.

The Elephant Man has all of these subtle notes, it just works perfectly. Hurt plays his part wonderfully, as does Hopkins (who should have been nominated as well). If you don't feel any pangs of emotion from any scene, you are a heartless robot.

My Rating: *****

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Man Godfrey

Even with all of the classic movies and actors I have watched, there are always those few that slipped through my fingers. Some of those names I got introduced to this year (James Cagney, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford).

Two other names are William Powell and Carole Lombard. I saw Powell in Mister Roberts and The Thin Man. I also saw him with Lombard in My Man Godfrey. In all three movies he plays the straight man. Well, the serious man. He says his lines with such deadpan they're funnier every time.

My Man Godfrey marked the first Lombard movie I've seen. I was already familiar with her husband, a Mr. Clark Gable if I recall correctly, so I was bound to see something with Lombard. What better movie than My Man Godfrey? She didn't earn that moniker "Queen of Screwball Comedy" for nothing.

My Man Godfrey is just plain fun to watch. The scenes between Powell and Lombard are why comedies from the 1930's are always the best. It's worth seeing if you're in dire need of a good laugh.

My Rating: *****

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Breakfast at Tiffany's

When a movie achieves iconic status, now and then it's clear as to why they're so iconic just from first glance. Other times, you need to watch the movie to understand why.

Take for example Blake Edwards' Breakfast at Tiffany's. It's mainly iconic for the style and glamour Audrey Hepburn displays but underneath all the glitz, it's a much darker tale. It isn't just a love story; it's about a woman's hopes to become something big.

Throughout Breakfast at Tiffany's, we find out more about Holly Golightly (Hepburn) and her past. Holly is different from other Hepburn roles because she's more self-absorbed. She only has hopes of marrying someone rich. She's not interested in feelings. At least until Paul Varjak (George Peppard) shows up.

Breakfast at Tiffany's is pretty good, though I think it's a tad overrated. I mean, as I mentioned, it's considered a love story when it's more than that. Performance wise, I liked Hepburn but I really liked Patricia Neal. (If you're wondering, yes, I found Mickey Rooney's role offensive.) In short, I liked it but not as much as most everyone else does.

My Rating: ****1/2

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Atlantic City

Usually when a famous actor gets older, their choice in parts gets limited considerably. They're typically parts that almost ridicule the actor's status in Hollywood, though there are a few exceptions.

Burt Lancaster in Atlantic City is one of those exceptions. He gives one of his best performances as aging gangster Lou Pascal. He has witnessed the many changes in Atlantic City. It's clear in his behavior that he himself has gone through many changes. But one look into his eyes and you see there's still some liveliness within him.

Enter Sally Matthews (Susan Sarandon), a waitress and Lou's neighbor. She gives him the last bit of youth within him. She also brings out more in Lou. Take note of his behavior towards the end. He becomes more carefree than careful with his actions.

Atlantic City is one of the best movies of the 1980's. The performances are so nuanced, they just work flawlessly. It's not one to be missed.

My Rating: *****

Monday, October 3, 2011

L.A. Confidential

Crime movies are always the best, especially if they're set in Los Angeles. It's always a thrill to see the police solve a case, but what if the police were hiding something behind the badge?

Curtis Hanson's L.A. Confidential provides a great glimpse of police corruption. We commonly see in other movies cops acting above the law, but L.A. Confidential shows that it isn't one or two cops; it's almost the whole damn department! And Hanson makes sure that he doesn't cram that fact down our throats but rather acknowledges it periodically.

The cast is just to die for. Russell Crowe channels his inner Bogart by saying more with his expressions than with his words and actions. Guy Pearce is the straight-laced cop who tries to clean up the department (and makes more than a few enemies), but he gets tempted more than once to switch over. Kevin Spacey arrests celebrities for his own fame and to provide material for Danny DeVito, but starts to feel guilty for what he's doing. Kim Basinger brings out the shreds of humanity in Crowe. All in all, they play their parts wonderfully.

L.A. Confidential is one of the best neo-noirs out there. It captures the 1950's so perfectly, it feels like it's from the 1950's. Each twist and turn presented is always revealing and shocking. It has to be one of the best movies from the 1990's.

My Rating: *****

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Cancer has always been a touchy subject. Millions of people have either lost their lives or a family member to it. (I lost an uncle to it last year.)

Of course, movies revolving around cancer are usually the ones you find on Lifetime that have the character stricken with the disease crying for most of the movie and yelling out "Why me?" That's what makes Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 50/50 stand out from the rest. He accepts the news of having a rare form of spinal cancer, works in his chemotherapy treatments and therapy sessions, and goes on with his usual routine. Of course, everyone else doesn't take the news so easily. (His mother's (Anjelica Huston) response: "I'm moving in.")

Another factor that makes 50/50 stand out is that it's a comedy. Now you're probably thinking a comedy about cancer sounds like the worst idea ever, but allow me to explain. It has the right balance of comedy and drama, not overdoing either one. Only a few movies can pull that off; 50/50 is one of them.

50/50 is one of this year's best. Instead of being tasteless, it has a heart. I would be happy if Gordon-Levitt and Anna Kendrick got recognized for their work. Oh, and just as a warning, you might cry from this, either from laughter, tears or both.

My Rating: *****

Saturday, October 1, 2011


It's hard to read a play and see its film version. It generally only works if you've seen the play on Broadway, then see the movie. However, there are several directors who can make a production go from stage to screen with ease.

One of them is Sidney Lumet. His adaptations of Long Day's Journey into Night and Orpheus Descending (the movie was renamed The Fugitive Kind) both possess the original plays' flow, just as Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams wanted.

Lumet's adaptation of Peter Shaffer's Equus is not only faithful to the play, it also stars Richard Burton and Peter Firth (both starred in stage productions of Equus). Both reprise their stage roles and they do it in a high caliber.

One notable difference between the play and the movie is that in the movie, Dysart is more self-loathing. He is unsatisfied with how his life panned out, his job has lost meaning, and his marriage is dead in the water. And Burton, a self-loathing figure himself, captures Dysart's frustrations perfectly.

Lumet's take on Shaffer's play is quite good, but it drags a bit halfway through. Fortunately, it picks up in time for the startling climax (which reminded me of the one in Suddenly, Last Summer).

What's worth checking out?: I'd go with the book.