Ah-Ching and his group of friends have just finished their obligatory studies at school. Living in a small fishing village, waiting to conduct their mandatory military service, the boys have no real sense of direction with much of their time spent drinking, fighting and causing other forms of mischief. Ah-Ching is by far the most introspective of his friends and after being constantly berated by his mother for lack of ambition, Ah-Ching and two of his friends leave their small island home and head to the big city of Kaohsiung in search of work. Hsiao-hsien Hou's The Boys from Fengkuei is a coming of age tale that also depicts the changing social and economic in Taiwan. Ah-Ching is a character who lives in two separate worlds - the degenerate world of his friends and the traditional life which is often triggered by memories of his father when he was young. After he arrives in the big city, these two forces begin to clash more and more after Ah-Ching becomes infatuated with the girlfriend of one of his neighbors. This woman plays a very important part to Ah-Ching's transformation as ultimately he is left feeling more desolate and alone than before - a relationship that quite masterfully encapsulates puppy love. Ah-Ching and his friends are really symbolic of the youth culture even today - a confident bunch that beneath the swagger is naïve about the world around them. Wildly regarded as the first film in which Hou perfected his aesthetic, The Boys from Fengkuei is full of beautiful compositions, extended long takes and static shots which aid in creating this genuine sense of reality. Hou's The Boys from Fengkuei is a evocative and resonant film that touches on many different themes of adolescence including love, tradition and the constant balance of pain and joy which exists in growing up.
Set in the near future, Nikos Nikolaidis' The Zero Years is about a brothel that specializes is sexual pleasure of the sadomasochistic variety. The woman have been sterilized and are under constant surveillance, serving their term in this government-run establishment. Their jobs are simple, inflict as much pain and pleasure as possible on their customers. When a new woman arrives to begin work at the brothel, she quickly becomes attached to the three other women who work there. Anyone familiar with Niko Nikolaidis' films knows what to expect from The Zero Years - a provocative and complex film that is both hard to interpret nor forget. While extremely low-budget, the film does a nice job at creating this desolate world using claustrophobic ambiance and harsh tones to convey this world of despair. These are woman who are completely at the whims of the government even to the point of being sterilized. They are living in a world of oppression both mentally and physically yet they still show some form of hope, most notably centered around their dream of having a child. The Zero Years is certainly a challenging film but its political and social messages are certain to resonate with most of the viewers. By the end of the film it's clear that these woman could have escaped the brothel yet they don't. They choose to stay in this hellish institution because they have been overcome by "institutionalism". It's hell but the woman know what is expected of them and it's better than the uncertainty of the outside world, whether it's free or not. Niko Nikolaidis' The Zero Years is a film that isn't interested in telling a story instead it wishes to hit the viewer almost on a subconscious level, demonstrating the dissolve of free will in society.
Night Must Fall opens with the horrific death of a young woman at the hands of Danny, a hotel bellboy. After Danny murders the woman with an axe, he quickly and quietly disposes of her body in a nearby lake. Needing a place to lie low for awhile, Danny introduces himself to Mrs. Bramson, a widow and next-door neighbor to the deceased. Mrs. Bramson quickly gives into Danny's charms, inviting him to stay in her home to help with maintenance around the house. Karel Reisz's Night Must Fall is a creepy and effective horror thriller which attempts to transport the viewer into the mind of a man with psychopathic tendencies. Danny is not presented as a stone-cold killer but a man who walks the line between self-aware and confused in dealing with his psychosis. My favorite scenes in this film are when Danny is alone in his room. These are the scenes in which the viewer is given a window into Danny's psyche, showing the confused and horrifying nature of his mental state. We see a man who is menacing and down-right horrifying yet scared at the same time. Danny is a character that just exudes tension, giving the viewer very little indication as to when or if he will ultimately snap into a blood lust. Albert Finney really is fantastic in this film as Danny, playing him in an incredibly charming way which ultimately makes him much more terrifying. He charms the pants off of every woman in the household from Mrs. Bramson, who is clearly looking for any sort of company, to her daughter and the family maid. The maid, daughter, and widow are all missing something in their lives and the film spends the time necessary to develop each of these woman making their growing infatuation with Danny completely believable. From a visual perspective Night Must Fall is fantastic, featuring great tracking shots, compositions and the best usage of zooms I have possibly ever seen. With an intense score and impressive cinematography, Karel Reisz's Night Must Fall is a tense and rather unique thriller examining both the mind of a psychopath as well as his victims.
Micky Cohen, a ruthless east coast gangster, runs the streets of Los Angeles during the late 1940s. Cohen has paid off all the right people, giving him free reign to distribute drugs, guns, and prostitution with his ultimate goal being to take over every wire bet placed west of Chicago. All of this combined makes it extremely hard for anyone to bring Cohen to justice, with Cohen having his hand in every level of the system from cops to judges. Sgt. John O'Mara, a tough, valiant man who just returned from the war, doesn't fear Micky and with approval from the police chief, one of the few men who isn't corrupt, John sets up small covert police force to go after Cohen, using any means necessary to get the job done. Ruben Fleischer's Gangster Squad is a gangster drama that provide very little substance outside of the fluffy but entertaining gang world which the world creates. The film does have a lot of drama from John's heroism getting in the way of him and his family to the moral ambiguities of fighting fire with fire, yet almost all of the thematic discussions and dramatic themes which the film creates feel lazy and ultimately uninspired. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why I felt this way but I think Gangster Squad is a perfect example of a film that tells the viewer its thematic intentions instead of going out and earning them. Another real issue I had with the film is the digital photography. The casual filmgoer probably won't even notice the difference but I found it to be one of the best arguments for why film shouldn't die. Gangster Squad showcases almost every problem with the digital format, particularly during the night time action scenes. In the end, Gangster Squad is a lot of fluff, but I can't say I didn't enjoy it. The performances all around are enjoyable from Robert Patrick to Sean Penn's quite entertaining turn as Mickey Cohen. Gangster Squad is an enjoyable film that flounders when it tries to be pensive and while I still don't think Ruben Fleischer is very good at directing action, it's a decent way to waste two hours.
The ruthless head of the Mexican drug cartel is being transported to an undisclosed location by the FBI. During this armored escort, the man escapes, heading straight for the Mexican border seemingly one step ahead of the FBI at every turn. The only thing standing in this ruthless criminals way? A small town sherriff and his inexperienced deputies who are forced to protect their town. Jee-woon Kim's The Last Stand is a stripped down cheesy, but ultimately fun action film that is a nice welcome back vehicle for Arnold Schwarznegger. The Last Stand is certainly a throwback style action film which really uses Arnold's age as an advantage. The Last Stand never takes itself too seriously but is able to hold on to some dramatic resonance and tension. Jee-woo Kim's American debut is not nearly as artful as his earlier films but he still bring a lot of energy to the film with his sepia-soaked aesthetic being prevalent. Jee-woo Kim seemed to draw quite a bit from American Westerns as well, with the final 30 minutes or so playing out very similar to a typical standoff sequence, capturing the silence before to storm of violence and death. If you are a fan of Arnold than you should definitely see The Last Stand but if you're not, Peter Stormare gives a great swarmy, hammy performance. Oh, and gotta love the Harry Dean Stanton cameo. The Last stand isn't profound but its a fun, old school action film that is sure to entertain fans of old-school action films.
Bella and Edward have finally cemented their Love for one and other by getting married - in an insanely painful scene to watch I may add. On their honeymoon, the couple are intimate for the first time but the couple apparently didn't use protection because soon after Bella becomes pregnant. This pregnancy unleashes a chain of consequences affecting many of Bella and Edwards' closest friends and family, particularly Jacob, who discovers he is in love with a fetus. Let me just start off by saying that yes, I have seen all of the Twilight films to this point and while the first film provided some rather entertaining moments of the "so bad it's good" variety, the subsequent sequels by and large have been not just bad, but excruciatingly boring. Bill Condon's Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part I is a film in which not much actually happens, outside the blank stares, terrible writing and acting we have come to expect from the franchise. I'm seriously convinced that the film actually puts aside two days just to film the blank stares and terrible reactionary shots. The editing of this film must have been a breeze in that regard - Oh, someone said something! Cut to this blank stare! That's at least how I imagine it went down. Oh, Taylor Lautner, you make a brick wall feel charismatic. I swear this guy is one of the worst actors I have ever seen - He's so bad that I struggle at times to tell whether his character is being sarcastic or sincere though at least he keeps me in suspense right? Probably my favorite attribute about the Twilight films is how glaring it is that the studio doesn't give a fuck about the quality. The CGI in these films are abysmal but why would the studio spend any more than spare change on these effects when they know they will make the same amount of money regardless. One thing I did notice about Breaking Dawn Part I, which I had never noticed, is just how terrible the score of this movie is. It is horrendous, with incredibly odd music choices that don't even fit the scene in the slightest. Honestly I could bitch about the horribleness of these films for hours but I'd rather do something productive, like twiddling my thumbs.
A tragic shooting in Pittsburgh leaves 5 dead and within hours the cops have solved the crime. The man responsible, a ex-military sniper, one of only a few people who could have killed all these innocent civilians with the type of precision necessary. A slam-dunk case and yet the man won't confess, only saying one thing: Get me Jack Reacher. Jack Reacher, an ex-military investigator, shows up in town soon after, digging deeper into the case ultimately discovering that these 5 civilian deaths may not have been merely random but an intricate plan of deception which goes straight to the top. Christopher McQuarrie's Jack Reacher is a well-crafted action thriller that is exciting, intense, and relatively smart. The story is simple, yet intelligent enough to keep the viewer engaged from start to finish with quite a few nice unexpected twists and turns. Jack Reacher is such a fun character - this nomadian type badass who is almost always one step ahead of everyone around him. Cruise plays Reacher well, with a nice balance of badass and smartass. It is an action film grounded in reality but maybe what was most impressive was just how much respect the film showed for deceased victims. Jack Reacher is dare I say almost mediatative to that point, with moments that are surprisingly resonant, especially given the type of film this is. The film recognizes that even action films can be sympathetic and McQuarrie deserves praise for pulling this off effectively. McQuarrie shows a lot of skill behind the camera as well, creating lots of nice atmospheric tension throughout, often using some effective mini-montages to create this tension. Jack Reacher delivers a fun, exciting action film with a charismatic Tom Cruise at full force but how it handles the quiet moments is what makes it one of the best studio action films in recent memory.
One of the great classical love stories of cinema. Jean Vigo's L'Atalante follows a young woman (Dita Parlo) who gets married to a barge captain (Jean Daste). As they sail down the river, Juliette, begins to grow tired of being on the ship. She hears of Paris on the radio, and wants to explore the city. The couple also is accompanied on the barge by a cabin boy and second mate. Juliette appears to have lived a rather closeted life and she sets off to Paris to explore the city, leaving the barge captain desperately wishing for his wife's return. L'Atalante is a film that is really impressive for its time. The shot compositions and locations in which they are filmed are impressive, with a particularly underwater sequence being a gorgeously rendered highlight of the film. The other element that makes the film ahead of its time is how well L'Atalante seems to capture the erotic tension that exists throughout. Dita Parlo is fantastic as the naive, sheltered woman who wishes to explore more. She brings a lot of charm and innocence to the screen. This being said, Michael Simon really steals the show as the second mate who sets out to find young Juliette after he sees the stress Jean, his boss and friend, is going through. His character really is a perfect contrast to the naive Juliette, in that he is a rather old beaten up character whom has seen the world. He brings a very odd, off-kilter performance that at first I found a little annoying, but I really warmed up to towards the end of the film. There is some great use of cutting as the two young lovers are separate, and it really does tell the story tremendously well. Jean Vigo's L'Atalante is a fantatsic love story that beautifully crescendos - a classic film which deserves the praise.
Gilderoy, a British sound technician, is brought to Italy to work on the sound effects of an Italian horror film. From dealing with the language barrier to some not-so-cooperative members of the crew, Gilderoy's task is not exactly easy, particularly factoring in the fact that this is his first horror film. The combination of these variables begins to influence Gilderoy's psyche, treading closer and closer to the nightmarish scenario in which life imitates art. Peter Strickland's Berberian Sound Studio is a beautifully crafted film which attempts to deconstruct not only the Horror genre, but fear in general. There have been many films that attempt to deconstruct the horror genre but while Joss Whedon's Cabin in the Woods merely deconstructs the tropes of the horror genre, Strickland's film is much more ambitious in its deconstruction. Berberian Sound Studio ultimately tapes into the human psyche of being afraid, capturing how ones imagination is what ultimately dictates fear. It is clear that Gilderoy is uncomfortable making this Gore-infused horror film and as the film progresses we slowly and pragmatically see the effects on his mind. He is a man whose job is a primary part of the filmmaking process - exposed to the mechanics of how films are made and yet his own imagination and past drive his fear and paranoia. My favorite aspect of Berberian Sound Studio has to be the craftsmanship of the film. From the audio design to the editing, everything is really top notch. The cinematography features an abundance of close-ups which are used very effectively to put the viewer into the headspace of Gilderoy, really capturing his growing fear and paranoia in interesting ways. Anyone who goes into Berberian Sound Studio expecting a typically horror film is bound to be disappointed as Strickland's film relies heavily on atmosphere and a great performance by Toby Jones, to create this interesting and unique deconstruction.
After breaking up with his long-time girlfriend, Simon moves back home to the
rural countryside to live with his parents. He immediately meets up with his old friend Julian, with debauchery sure to follow. The two thirty-year old men are both unemployed and with no real sense of direction, they concoct a plan to essentially become vagabonds, hitting the road together and seeing where it takes them. Francois Pirot's Mobile Home is a rather unique buddy comedy not only in narrative structure but also in its ability to resonante emotioanlly with the viewer during a few scenes. Julian and Simon are characters that really encapsulate this naïve and immature philosophy of life. They are essentially children in men's bodies who really have no sense of direction. Mobile Home is about two men, particularly Simon, who are looking from escape from their lives, not direction. Simon seems to believe that leaving will somehow motivate him or even solve his problems which is simply never the case. I guess in a way Mobile Home is a coming of age story that works more so than not because of Simon and Julian's relationship dynamics. Simon and Julian really are polar opposites. Simon comes from a world of entitlement, having two rich parents, and seems simply afraid of commitment. Julian, on the other hand, has spent long time taking care of his ailing father. It seems to seek a sense of adventure and escape from his mundane existence but more importantly he suffers from intimacy issues. These two characters think they want the same thing but they really don't which is what makes Mobile Home interesting. Without going into much detail my biggest problem with the film is that I don't think Julian's character never had a realization moment for his ability to final follow through on something. It never showed in the character or on the screen. Not that it's necessary for a film to have a character go through a change, but with Mobile Home that was surely he intention. Francois Pirot has a good sense of comedic timing as a director, yet the film doesn't completely succeed for me because of the aforementioned realization moment.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.