This is a magical film that is loaded with some really impressive imagery throughout. Cocteau takes the world as we know it, turning it into a magical realm where mirrors are turned into portals in which the dead can enter the world of the living, and car radios pick up transmitions from this world after-death. It's just an incredibly imaginative landscape which Cocteau has created, being so far ahead of its time. The whole film's vision of life and death is incredibly impressive for the the time, and it really sucks the viewer completely into this mystical world where life and death intermingle. It's a film that makes you really question the balance of life and death and how they are intertwine. The poet's journey into the world of the dead to save his wife was particularly great for me, the judge panel; the gloves, everything about this segment leaps off the screen with such force. If I had one problem with the film it would be that I never really felt a strong romantic connection between our main protagonist, the poet, and his wife, who was killed by lady death. One could certainly argue that this is very important, being the primary focus of dramatic resonance but I found it to take little away from the overall experience. Besides that detail, Orpheus does pretty much exactly what I want out of film; it transports the viewer into another world and while fantastical, it still has many elements which ring true in our own lives.
Walter Hill's Southern Comfort has got to be one of the most unique, bizarre, yet effective war films that I have ever seen. The film centers around a group of soldiers on a training exercise in Louisiana who unwittingly start a small war with the local backwater Cajuns of the area. It's essentially a film about Vietnam where the Vietnamese happen to be backwater Louisiana natives and there is some great commentary there. Being Walter Hill, the film is blanketed in Machoism, with actors like Powers Booth and Fred Ward really chewing up the dialogue. As the film progresses, we see these tough-as-nails men start to fall apart both mentally and physically. We see the dissension in the ranks where the men revert to their primal instincts, causing leadership to be questioned, as this is clearly a film dealing with survival just as well as pretty much any traditional war film. I have always loved films that showcase these weird, strange places that exist in America, away from the typical city or suburban structure, and Hill embraces his environment as dreary, horrifying landscape. Lots of great suspense throughout with the climatic sequence taking place in a small backwater town, a highlight of tension and unease. By the end of the film, these men and all their machoism has been reverted into fear and anguish, clearly a parable for any war.
Ruth Stoops is an irresponsible, unemployed woman who spends most of her days attempting to quench her addiction of inhaling household chemicals. After Ruth becomes pregnant, for the fifth time, she is arrested for substance abuse where the judge agrees to reduce the sentence if she aborts the baby. Ruth agrees, but that night she encounters a group of pro-life activists who take her under their wing, promising to help her while also secretly planning to use her unique case for the greater good of the pro-life movement. Alexander Payne's Citizen Ruth is a satirical look into the ongoing war surrounding abortion that is both hysterical and profound. Ruth is a great character who is perfect for the films intentions, being incredibly clueless and oblivious to everyone around hers true intentions. This makes the tug and pull between both the pro-choice and pro-life groups that much more clear, exposing both groups as manipulative and selfish, only using Ruth to further their cause. Laura Dern is terrific in the role of Ruth, capturing every aspect of this character with this genuine absurdity that is hard to describe. Much like the character of Ruth, Alexander Payne doesn't seem very interested in the moral debate or picking sides, intentionally staying neutral while capturing the circus of this heated social debate. Alexander Payne's Citizen Ruth is a funny and smart look into a the abortion issue, effectively showing how most people aren't fighting for human rights but simply their own desire to be right.
Cheyenne, a former rock star, lives in Dublin, Ireland off his vast fortune. At 50 years old, Cheyenne still dresses 'goth', with little motivation to do much of anything with his life. When Cheyenne learns about the death of his father, a man whom he hasn't been on speaking terms with for years, he goes to New York for the funeral where he discovers his father's secret obsession. His father was desperate to seek out and take revenge on an old Nazi war criminal who brought suffering too many. This leads Cheyenne to the decision to pick up where his father left off. Paolo Sorrentino's This Must Be The Place is a quirky character study that is very much buoyed by a fantastic lead performance from Sean Penn. Cheyenne is a man who is haunted not only by his lack of relationship with his father but also in some of his own past decisions and what ensues is a journey across the Southwest which ultimately brings Cheyenne to a place of peace. Sean Penn's performance is oddly magnetic and the film takes full advantage with quite a few well timed comedic moments centered around how out of place Cheyenne is both from a physical and mental standpoint. While This Must Be The Place is amusing, the film is too concerned with being quirky and unique, leading to the film lacking much emotional resonance. The ending of the film just doesn't feel satisfying, with the film stating many emotional beats but never spending enough time to fully flesh them out. This led me to simply not have much of an emotional response at the ending or even accept Cheyenne's new-found peace. This Must Be The Place is worth seeing for Sean Penn's performance alone but its attempt at emotional resonance more so than not falls flat because of its lack of commitment to the characters' more dramatic beats.
After the death of his strictly religious parents, Darkly, a young and lost man, wanders aimlessly through the woods. On deaths doorstep from exhaustion, Darkly is rescued by Jude, a truck driver. Jude brings Darkly to the house of Callie and Clay, a young married couple who live in a quaint old home in the middle of the woods. As Callie nurses Darkly back to health, he begins to develop sexual feelings for her, which threaten to turn violent when Darkly is exposed to the love which Callie and Clay have for each other. Philip Ridley's The Passion of Darkly Noon is an off-beat fairy tale for adults which turns an observant eye on a troubled young soul. Conflicted by his parents strict teachings and his sexual feelings, Darkly attempts desperately to suppress his feelings, which ultimately leads him to become even more troubled. Being almost entirely from Darkly Noon's point-of-view, the film does a great job at capturing this deeply troubled man. There are surreal moments where we get into Darkly headspace but maybe the best example is simply how the film presents Callie. Callie, the object of Darkly's affection, is almost always shown in an angelic light, with many sequences where she is back-lit by the sun itself, effectively capturing how Darkly Noon views this beautiful woman. While the transformation of Darkly and the building sense of dread is certainly interesting, Darkly Moon's transformation does come off a little hard to swallow. He goes from quiet and calm to unstable and angry a little too fast for my liking, and the film could have spent a little more time building up this lustful relationship. While The Passion of Darkly Noon is overwrought and a little too hard to believe, its examination of a young man's inability to understand his feelings is fascinating and fun.
Jeff Chang is a stereotypical Asian college student with his Straight-A grades and medical school future in front of him. When his two best friends Casey and Miller surprise him with a visit on his 21st birthday, they are disappointed to learn that Jeff has a very important Medical school interview scheduled courtesy of Jeff's strict, overbearing father. While reluctant at first, Jeff caves into his friends peer pressure and embarking on a booze-fueled night which none of them will ever forget. 21 and Over is a brash, formulaic college party flick which borrows heavily from The Hangover in both formula and character. Much of 21 & Over is centered around Miller and Casey's attempt to get a very drunk and passed out Jeff Chang home to his apartment before the interview. The film falls into pretty much every trope of this genre, with the typical high school friends growing apart stuff and the random love interest, though the film does throw a somewhat random, dark twist into the mix. 21 & Over is certainly raunchy and while it doesn't bring much new to the table the film does have a few cleverly absurd moments of drunken chaos. In fact this film relies much more on chaotic situations then well written jokes to entertain, which in turn hurts the film during the lulls of absurdest humor. The characters just aren't very original, being predictable in their actions because they are walking stereotypes. Much of 21 & Over just feels like a bad impression of better films, with Miles Teller's Miller feeling very much like a carbon copy of Seth from Superbad. 21 & Over is somewhat entertaining and fans of the genre are certain to find it serviceable, though forgettable.
World class magicians Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton have ruled the Las Vegas strip, performing live to massive audiences for over 10 years. Lately Burt and Anton have grown to loathe each other, with Burt being more interested in the fame then the magic. Add to that fact the arrival of street magician Steve Gray, and the pressure on the duo leads to their explosive split-up. With Burt's fame and fortune crumbling in front of him, he begins to remember why he wanted to a magician in the first place. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a rather run of the mill comedy effort which relies on the comedic appeal of Steve Carrell and Jim Carrey to carry the film. Like most comedies, the film is very hit or miss with a few jokes missing the mark on a cringe-worthy level. The film is at its best when it simply lets its actors play, with Jim Carrey's portrayal of main antagonist, Steve Gray, being the most amusing part of the film. This over the top parody of street magicians represented through Gray is really the highlight of the film from a writing standpoint, with the film being very bland overall. The film does show a little heart centered around Burt's need to reignite his passion for the magic but the film never really goes far enough to become sentimental. While it's rather typical in all mainstream cinema, the love angle between Burt and Jane, played by Oliva Wilde, is incredibly forced and unnecessary. It's just incredibly lazy writing to the point where it made me wonder why they even bothered with the angle in the first place. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is not a film I hate nor liked, but simply another instantly forgettable comedy that brings nothing to the table outside of what is expected from the talent involved.
Cotty, Brit, Candy, and Faith have been best friends since grade school. Currently in college, the girls live together in dorm, bored with their mundane lives, desperate for a real adventure. Though the girls are strapped for cash they view Spring Break as their ticket to escaping from their lives which leads Cotty, Brit and Candy to rob a diner to fund their trip. When the girls arrive in Florida for Spring Break they feel like the world is their oyster until a serendipitous encounter with Alien, a gangster rapper, threatens to change everything. Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers is a pulse-pounding, stylistic trip into the superficial world of youth driven culture. With Springer Breakers, Korine captures the mysticism of spring break, presenting it as this euphoric state of peace with each girl looking for something different out of their spring break experience. The film's early narrative drive centers around Faith, the most innocent of the girls, who is thrust into this hyper-sexualized world of booze, drugs and sex. What's interesting is how about halfway through the film Korine seems to get bored with this narrative-fueled approach, turning Spring Breakers into this quazi-existential experience. Candy and Brit have no limits to the "fun" they want to experience and what ensues in the second half of the film is their neon-soaked exaggerated reality. The vivid, bright and blurry aesthetic of Spring Breakers perfectly captures the Spring Break experience of these girls, with Korine routinely using various stylistic decisions like hazing up the lens for example, to visually capture Faith, Candy, Brit, and Cotty's point of view. Spring Breakers' biggest fault is probably its lack of emotional resonance in dramatic scenes. I never really found myself caring about these characters even when it seemed we were intended too, with Faith's character arch being the best example of that. One cannot write a review of Spring Breakers without mentioning James Franco, who as Alien, really steals the entire film. Franco completely loses himself in this flamboyant and over-the-top character, providing so many memorable scenes from both a comedic and horrific standpoint. With a loud, chaotic soundtrack and neon infused visuals, Spring Breakers is a cinematic experience and commentary on the superficial emptiness of a youth-driven culture looking for "adventure".
The Seven Year Itch is a light-hearted examination of the temptations which a married man can be forced to deal with after being in a marriage for an extended period of time. The film is the story of Tom Ewell, who sends his wife and kid away for Summer Vacation while he stays behind in Manhattan to work hard and support the family. When an incredibly attractive girl moves into the apartment above him, his fantasies are pushed to the point of being real, putting strain on Tom to remain faithful. Like most of Wilder's films this is a goofy, fun little romp that really doesn't do much on a deeper philosophical or dramatic level. A good chunk of the film has Tom Ewell's character repeatedly talking to himself and rationalizing things in his own head; while this is a rather amusing it does kinda get a little bit ridiculous and uses so much internal dialogue that it basically comes off as lazy film-making. The idea of when the wife is away, the men will play which includes smoking, drinking and picking up girls is a fun concept for sure though. My favorite segments were when we were visually shown what Tom was thinking through these imaginative perceptions, in which we see Tom as he views himself or as he wishes he was. It's a fun, goofy film with a light-hearted little message but I wouldn't say its anything exceptional by any means.
After a mysterious plane crash over central London, strange occurrences have begun to pop up all over the city, leaving London in a state of chaos. Completely unaware to this fact are Charlie and Mark, two friends headed to a storage locker to pick up Charlie's stuff after a terrible break-up. Unexpectedly on their arrival, they are greeted by Mark's ex, Shelly, and two of her friends. When the power goes out these five individuals soon discover they are trapped in a dark maze with a vicious predator on the loose. Johannes Roberts' Storage 24 is a pretty generic Sci-fi monster movie that never does enough to distance itself from the pack. Storage 24 has some pretty good horror bits but it borrows heavily from the Alien franchise and just doesn't bring anything new to the genre. While the horror is decent and the film is plenty violent, the character narrative centered around a love triangle that unfolds between Charlie, Shelley, and Mark is just poorly written and dis-genuine. The film does a decent job of exploring the dynamics around Charlie and Mark who have to fight together to survive but clearly don't care much about each other are all well and fine until Mark's character wonders off into the realm of unbelievability. Storage 24 certainly deserves credit for being a lean and well paced film but it's just incredibly cheesy and not in the self-aware type of way. There are so many sequences throughout this film that made me laugh and it sure didn't seem to be the filmmakers intention. The best aspect of the film has got to be the brutal nature of the violence, with this creature really pulverizing its victims in gore-inducing fun. Overall Storage 24 is totally average, bringing nothing new to the table with its derivative story and decent creature design, suspense, and horror.
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