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Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Tree of Life a Terrence Malick Film - Reviewed

In the opening scenes of "The Tree of Life" I immediately thought of the movie the "The Thin Red Line"  Both films are so lyrical with dream-like, artistic scenes that risk losing a more mainstream audience at every turn.

The resemblance between "The Tree of Life" and "The Thin Red Line" is not a coincidence.  Terrence Malick is credited with writing the screenplay and directing both films.

When I finished watching "The Tree of Life" I knew it was an excellent move but I struggled to explain why. For a minute I thought I would be at a loss for an explanation just like when I reviewed "Synecdouche, NY"   I think I figured out Malick's film though and will give it a shot.

The story of this film does not follow a straight path at all.  The film follows the family through what is likely 1950's and 1060's and jumps to the 2000's from time to time. We know the family loses a son in what I can only presume is the Vietnam War but the film does not confirm this. The plot and scenery is very ethereal. It does not follow a linear path.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

See The Sea Film Review-Short Movie

A woman is staying at a semi-secluded beach town. She lives alone in her  cottage with her baby. Her husband is away on what I presume is business. A strange hiker asks if she can stay on the cottage property for a few days. You know something is upsetting about this hiker but you aren't sure where all this worry is going to lead.

The hiker is an odd one but over the course of this film you find that the woman is not exactly straight-laced herself. There is something unsettling about both woman. Both seem to lack a certain compassion, yet have small social desires. The odd relationship of these two characters really made me concerned for the safety of the baby. This is an unspectacular baby. The film does not try to make the baby more sympathetic than any other baby. It is just a baby and sympathize with the child simple because it is a child. A child in the middle of two strange bedfellows.

Small Potatoes Who Killed The USFL - Movie Review

I was just a young teenager when the United States Football League played from 1983-1985. The USFL was considered an underdog rival to the National Football league even though they did not play during the same time of year. The NFL played football in the fall and the USFL played in the spring.

I remember the USFL pretty well and rooted for their success like anyone who roots for an underdog (and loves football year round)

ESPN put out a short film that delves into what happened to the USFL and what caused the league to go out of businesses. The film is called "Small Potatoes Who Killed The USFL" This short documentary was part of ESPN's 30 for 30 television series.

"Small Potatoes Who Killed The USFL" was made in 2009 but looks like it was made in the 1980's. The sound track is dated (even for 2009) and the split screen effects seem so old-school cinema- tacky. It documentary is cheaply shot. Sounds horrible right? Somehow I loved it. The 80's camera work, special effects, music and subject matter made it feel like I was watching the USFL back in the 1985 again. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Warrior Film Review – MMA Movie

Two estranged brothers run into very hard times. Each brother has very different problems but their path to recovery is the same. They both enter into a championship mixed martial arts event. Ultimately, they must fight each other for the title and the winner-take-all prize.

When I first heard of this mixed martial arts genre film I thought is was going to be another shallow, violent, fight flick. I was thinking along the lines of "Bloodsport" with Jean-Claude Van Damme. Bloody and predictable. The underdog good guy enters into some seedy, underground world of fighting, a friend gets killed, and the underdog goes on to win the title, the girl and gets revenge for his fallen buddy.

Warrior is not that kind of film. For an MMA movie it really was not violent in any disturbing way. There is no revenge motive. The characters are developed wonderfully and the acting is terrific.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Rise of The Planet of The Apes Review

Rise of the Plant of the Apes was not a horrible film, but it certainly never lives up to its potential.

A Pharmaceutical company tests drugs on apes. The apes are given a drug that can reverse Alzheimer's symptoms.  By taking the drug, apes become very intelligent. Their intelligence reveals to them how badly they are treated and how to revolt against humans.

The cast is never given the opportunity to give great performances. I thought their roles could have been adequately played by lesser actors.  James Franco does a nice job but really isn't given a script that lets him exploit his acting talents.  This is no "127 Hours."  His character, while very likable, is flat and uninspiring. The role is beneath him.

Franco's character has a girlfriend too. This actress is forgettable. I don't know her real name and won't bother to look it up. She's very beautiful but adds absolutely nothing to the film. I kept waiting for this character to contribute something, anything to the movie but there was nothing.  She is hot looking though so I suspect her character was meant to reassure the audience that the likable, leading man is truly a heterosexual and that's about it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tiny Furniture Movie Review Lena Dunham Laurie Simmons

I never came home from far off University but it must be strange for a college student to move back in with their parents  after graduation. The former student has all the urges to be an independent adult, yet without income and maturity they are trapped under the rules of their parent's home. The child (or young adult) feels contempt toward their parents rules and, at the same time, self entitled to their parents unconditional love.

Tiny Furniture stars Lena Dunham as Aura. She's a college student that has returned home. Like so many she is struggling to adjust.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Margin Call Film Review - Moore Spacey Irons

"Margin Call" epitomizes the financial collapse of 2008. A venerable investment firm, built on thin-as-ice investments, is now worthless. The company decides to deceive their customers and sell these worthless investments before anyone realizes they are junk. In the process, the institution destroys itself, possibly its customers and a handful of players make a lot of money.

I've heard this is based on the Lehman Brothers failure but I do not know if that is true.

Margin Call is packed with talented actors. Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, Paul Bethany, you name it, they just kept pouring out of the woodwork as I watched this film. Even Mary McDonnell ( from the Kevin Costner film "Dances With Wolves") appears for 3 minute bit part in the film.

The acting, of course, was excellent. The big names and recognizable faces no doubt drew people into the theaters. From an acting/directing perspective I only found one scene disappointing (an overly contrived scene where human resources is firing Stanley Tucci's character, Eric Dale).

I did wonder if they really needed so many all-stars for this type of film. It seemed a bit overkill but I don't care. I don't pay the salaries, I just want a decent film.

City of Life and Death Film Review - Nanking Massacre

"City of Life and Death" is based on true events surrounding the Nanking Massacre. I had never heard of the Nanking Massacre and I feel guilty about my ignorance.  The massacre occurred during the Second Sino-Japanese War.  The film is set in 1937. The Japanese invade the then-capital of China, Nanking.  The Japanese army breaches the walls of the city and commits mass slaughter and raping of the population. The Chinese army at Nanking is doomed and its  population is left to suffer. 

City of Life and Death was released in 2009 and completely shot in black and white.  The black and white really supports the bleak and somber mood of the film. The movie is harrowing. It is full of death, despair and hopelessness.

I read a bit about the Nanking Massacre after watching the movie. The film is violent. There are many scenes of indiscrimanent killing and raping. The actual massacre, by the accounts I've read, was far more cruel and lethal than this film was willing to portray.

The violence in City of Life and Death is not gratiuitous. It could have been by all historical accounts far more vicious but it elects not to be.  I suppose there is a point in cinema where raping and violence needs to be controlled. Not by sensors per se but by good direction and writing.  Too much violence and the audience becomes numbed or perhaps walks out, which does no justice to the victims at Nanking.