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All reviews - DVDs (10)

PULP FICTION

Posted : 7 years, 8 months ago on 29 October 2009 08:05 (A review of Pulp Fiction (Two-Disc Collector's Edition))

"If Butch goes to Indochina, I want a nigga waitin in a bowl of rice ready to pop a cap in his ass"- Marcellus Wallace

Quentin Tarantino directs and stars in his second major film release after "Reservoir Dogs", a film that was shot very cheap and had some of the greatest dialogue I've seen in film. That is truly what makes Tarantino great. He makes films that are really cool stories, interwoven with conversation between the characters that never fails to inspire laughter. Remember the Madonna conversation at the restraunt in "Reservoir Dogs"? Genious.

There are three stories woven together here to make up one greater picture. Pumpkin (Tim Roth)and Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer), small time crooks looking to find a less dangerous way to make money, Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta) on the hunt for a briefcase stolen from their employer Marcellus Wallace (Ving Rhames), and Butch the boxer (Bruce Willis), who has just been hired to throw a fight by Wallace. Each of these stories has merit on their own, and the characters in each story are well written and plot driving, but the real vision seen through Tarantinos lens is how all these characters coexist and cause and effect is a bitch. The soundtrack to this movie is very disco and motown driven, which is a nice backdrop for what we are watching. The dialogue between Jules and Vince is brilliant, and there are several great performers with very small but poignant roles with wonderful humour. Christopher Walken, Harvey Keitel, Frank Whaley, and Steve Buscemi all have small but memorable roles.

The film does a bit of time jumping which can be a little confusing the first time around, but by the second viewing, you have it pretty much figured out. I continue to enjoy the work of Tarantino to this day, except when he works with Robert Rodriguez, who is an absolute hack, and in my opinion, only really gets work because of who he's friends with. Spy Kids? Really? Anyway, watch this movie when you can really have peace and quiet and immerse yourself in this awesome world of music, drugs, and dialogue comedy. Enjoy.


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DAZED AND CONFUSED

Posted : 7 years, 8 months ago on 27 October 2009 10:16 (A review of Dazed and Confused (Widescreen Flashback Edition))

"All I'm saying is that if I ever start referring to these as the best years of my life, remind me to kill myself"

Richard Linklater directed this cerebral stoner comedy with some amazing talent in the cast, most of whom were known little, or not at all when this movie was released in 1993, including Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Parker Posey, and Renee Zellweger.

It's the last day of school in a small town in Texas, 1976. The upcoming senior class is preparing to haze the incoming freshman class, and Randall "Pink" Floyd is contemplating whether or not to sign a school mandated "No Tolerance" contract in order to be the starting quarterback his senior year. There are no lead characters in this movie, instead this a brilliant ensemble cast. Wiley Wiggins plays Mitch Kramer, an upcoming freshman and star pitcher, who is dreading the ass-paddling that is handed out by the upcoming seniors every summer, and thanks to his senior sister, he's gonna be a major target this year.

After watching this movie for maybe the tenth time, it really stood out just what a special picture this is. What a great time to be a senior in high school. Everyone is partying, and having a good time, and the world was a far less authoritarian place. The characters are really well written, and there is some real genious in the dialogue, and the soundtrack, making you feel like you are right there in 1976, man. Affleck stands out as the second time senior who takes hazing the freshman a bit too seriously, and you wonder if he isn't still bitter about the beating he must have taken his freshman year. McConaughey is stoner cool as Wooderson, a mid-twenties graduate that just can't get enough of these high school girls. Rory Cochran is definitely the highest of the bunch as Slater, who is always high and contemplates some of life's great mysteries. "You ever look at the back of a dollar bill man? There's some spooky stuff goin on back there man. And it's green too!". It still amazes me when I meet people who have yet to see this movie. It's a must watch for anyone in between the ages of 16-25.


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BEING JOHN MALKOVICH

Posted : 7 years, 8 months ago on 23 October 2009 09:35 (A review of Being John Malkovich: Special Edition)

"You see the world through John Malkovich's eyes. Then after about 15 minutes, you're spit out into a ditch on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike!"-Craig Schwartz

Spike Jonze is a very successful music video directore having worked with Beastie Boys, Bjork, and R.E.M. "Being John Malkovich" was his first feature film as director, and it is brilliant both in visual style, and witty dialogue.

Craig Schwartz (John Cusack)is an out of work puppeteer who's dream is to just get paid doing what he loves. Being that puppetry is a terribly difficult field to make a living from, he begrudgingly gets a new job on the 7 1/2 floor of the Merton-Flemmer building as a filist. His girlfriend Lotte (Cameron Diaz) and he have numerous pets at home, including a chipmanzee. Lotte wants kids and feels Craig has distanced himself from her, and Craig feels trapped in his life with her and escapes into his art. On Craig's first day at LesterCorp, he meets, and falls for a sexy, witty co-worker, Maxine (Catherine Keener)who treats him like garbage and he eats it up. She is a welcome opposite to his put-upon, needy girlfriend. One day, while filing papers away, Craig accidentally loses a file behind a cabinet. When he moves it, he sees a tiny door, not unlike the small door Alice encounters in Wonderland. He opens it and see's a long, dark, muddy tunnel, also a reference, perhaps, to the rabbit hole Alice comes across. Unable to quelch his curiosity, Craig slowly decends down the tunnel until the door slams shut, he flies wildly down the tunnel, and lands inside the mind of John Malkovich, playing himself with very cheeky humor in regards to his career and personality. After living as Malkovich for 15 minutes, Craig is dropped onto the New Jersey Turnpike. It's an odd concept for a storyline, but an interesting, and original one, written by Charlie Kaufman, who in my mind, is a brilliant writer (Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Maxine and Craig decide to sell tickets to the "Malkovich ride", and this is where things get even wilder. Lotte takes the trip, and begins to question her existence as a woman, having enjoyed being in the skin of a man so much. Maxine meets, and begins a relationship with Malkovich, but is only interested in him when Lotte is inside. Craig, furious at this and filled with lust and desire for Maxine, enters Malkovich while he and Maxine are together, and soon discovers that Malkovich's brain is not unlike a marionette puppet that he can control. He also discovers that if he focuses on it, he can stay inside and become John Malkovich for good. So he does. But how long can he keep this charade up?

There are many laughs in this film from the excellent dialogue between all these quirky characters, and a real sense of mystery and wonderment as well. Why does Malkovich have a portal? What is the significance of that? Who's life would I trade mine for? If I was the main character in this film, perhaps it would be Being Brad Pitt. This film was quite amazing because it does raise some questions about our lives, and the desire to be someone else. The plot, and the ending can be a tad confusing the first time around, but the second viewing is a real treat, as you start to understand all the complexities with a little more clarity. Kudos to Malkovich for having such a great sense of humor about himself, and Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman, for creating this truly mystifying story.



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SWINGERS

Posted : 7 years, 8 months ago on 22 October 2009 08:08 (A review of Swingers)

"Haven't you seen Boyz N the Hood? Now one of us is gonna get shot."

In 1996, Jon Favreau released a small indie film that cost a mere $200,000 to make, and grossed only 4.6 million dollars in it's theatrical release. Directed by an unknown named Doug Liman, who has since gone on to direct "The Bourne Identity", and "Mr. and Mrs. Smith". It starred Jon Favreau himself, who had small roles in "Rudy" and "PCU", but had yet to have a starring role, and Vince Vaughn, who had no major film roles to his credit yet. Heather Graham, in fact, who has a fairly small role in the film, was the most notable person in the cast. After it's theatrical run, the film was released on DVD, and started to gain momentum. I first saw "Swingers" in 1997, my senior year in high school, after renting it at the local video store. I showed my friends, they showed their friends, and the word was out. There was a new comedy dynamic duo on the scene, and they were ready to blow Hollywoods' socks off.

The film is loosely based on the true life story of Jon Favreau (Mikey), Vince Vaughn (Trent), and Ron Livingston, who plays Rob, Mikeys' friend. These three young men had all moved to Hollywood around the same time, and helped each other through the trials and tribulations of trying to make it in the cutthroat world of acting.

Mikey (Favreau) is six months removed from his six year relationship from the love of his life. After that relationship ended, Mikey left New York to go to Hollywood. As a stand-up comedian, he has heard that sitcoms are "handed out at the airport" in L.A. Since arriving, however, he has found that roles are not easy to come by, and getting over your girlfriend is damn near impossible. Especially when it's all you think and talk about. Trent (Vaughn) is Mikeys' smooth talking, charismatic friend who is desperately trying to help Mikey get over his ex, and realize his potential to get laid, and have a good time. It comes really easy for Trent, and Mikey always comes off as the uncomfortable third wheel. Rob (Livingston) is Mikeys' friend from back East, who has followed Mikey to Hollywood with the same dream to pursue, also struggling.

This movie is mainly about the dynamic involved in different friend groups, as well as a looking glass into Hollywood nightlife. There are so many quotable lines from this film, which is one of the things that helped it blow up, and we also get some great insight into the world of dating. How to pick up "beautiful babies who want to party", at any social event, or nightclub, or bar just by following Trents' simple rules of engagement.

The real driving force of this film, and what made it so memorable, was the dynamic between Vaughn and Favreau. It's obvious watching this film that these two are perfect comedic soulmates and will always compliment each others style. Considering it has been 13 years since "Swingers" debuted, and "Couple's Retreat", which I have yet to see but am very excited for, stars these two gentleman together again, as they have been several times now, it's clear that these two may very well just be the new Matthau and Lemmon.


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ANTWONE FISHER

Posted : 7 years, 8 months ago on 22 October 2009 05:59 (A review of Antwone Fisher (Widescreen Edition))

"It don't matter what you tried to do, you couldn't destroy me! I'm still standing! I'm still strong! And I always will be."- Antwone Fisher

"Antwone Fisher" is based on the true story of amn by the same name, which is what makes this film so compelling. Mr. Fisher was working as a security guard on the Sony Studio Lot and when people heard his life story, everyone told him it would make a fantastic screenplay. They were right. This film was directed by Denzel Washington, and gives us Derek Lukes' first role on the big screen. You may also know Derek Luke as "Boobie" Miles in "Friday Night Lights".

Antwone Fisher was born in a women's correctional facility in Cleveland, Ohio, and given away to an orphanage where he was taken in at two years old. His father died before he was born, so he really had no one. The woman who takes him in is an evil, vile, woman who physically and mentally abuses the young boy in terrible, disturbing ways. His older foster sister abuses him as well, and Antwone suffers through this until he moves out as a teenager. Back to the shelter, then out on the streets. After a short time with no direction, Fisher joins the United States Navy, and is stationed on a battleship in California. He struggles constantly with what I felt was post-traumatic stress, and the slightest disrepect toward him is met with furious outrage, which lands Fisher in a Naval Psychiatrists office. Dr. Jerome Davenport (Denzel Washigton), is dealing with issues of his own in his marriage, and when these two meet, it is life changing for both of them. After a very stubborn battle of silence by both men over weeks of appointments, Fisher begins to unravel his terrifying tale of youth. The two men form a very strong bond over time, and Dr. Davenport finally decides that it is time that Fisher seek out his birth mother, and find out if he has any other relatives to speak of. Fisher and his girlfriend (Joy Bryant) travel to Cleveland to see if they can find Antwones' family.

This story was so touching. In a way, it reminded me of "Good Will Hunting", in that the two storylines are fairly similar, and I was very impressed with the performance of both Derek Luke, and Malcolm David Kelley, who played Fisher at age 7. Kelley plays Walt on the popular t.v. series "Lost", and he shows decent range here in a very challenging role for such a young man.

The growth we see in Fisher from a scared, antisocial ball of anger, into a charming, caring young man is truly inspirational. If this man, who fought so many demons and went through more hell than most of us could ever imagine, can reinvent himself and find hope and joy in this life, then there is hope for all of us.


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THE APOSTLE

Posted : 7 years, 8 months ago on 20 October 2009 09:01 (A review of The Apostle)

" I may be on the Devils' hitlist, but I'm on Gods' mailing list" -Euliss "Sonny" Dewey - A.K.A. The Apostle E.F.

Most people know Robert Duvall as an outstanding actor, appearing in critically acclaimed films such as "The Godfather", "Apocalypse Now", and "To Kill a Mockingbird". Very few are aware that he also has four films under his belt as director. "The Apostle", I believe, is the cream of the crop. Duvall also wrote this script and shopped it around for years before fronting four million dollars of his own money to finance it. You can tell it is a labour of true love upon viewing.

Euliss "Sonny" Dewey had a near death experience as a child and was prayed upon by his church and survived. Ever since that day, he has been on fire with the spirit of the Holy Ghost, and only lives to pass the word and save souls. The only problem is, he's human, just like everyone else. He has sin in his heart, and struggles with many demons. When his wife decides to end their marriage, he prays loudly and at great length about what direction he should turn. However, in a moment of passion and anger, Sonny loses his family and his church in one fell swoop. The one thing he does not lose is the desire to preach the gospel. So, he sets out on a journey far away, to find a quiet town where he can hopefully go unnoticed by authorities and set up a new church and find hope in the work of God.

There are very uplifting moments in this film, and it is satisfying to see a man of God portrayed in such a real, honest way. Just because you lift a Bible and preach the Word of God does not make you invincible to sins of the flesh. Although that may be what most preachers try to convey. One thing did bother me about this film, having been a church goer in the past, and experiencing the shock of discovering that your Pastor has real sin in their life, and even at one point seeing a Pastor overthrown for his indiscretions, I wonder if some of the lives Sonny touches may not be worse off after hearing about his past. Will any of his followers turn from God, because they felt betrayed by the very man that led them toward Jesus? Or, will they see that all men have faults and that the heart of the man is greater than his mistakes, and continue a life of faith? These are the questions that we are left to consider after seeing this great performance, with Farrah Fawcett portraying Sonnys' wife and June Carter Cash as his Momma. Billy Bob Thornton has a fairly short but poignant part in the film as a lost man looking for answers, but filled with fear and anger.

I enjoyed this film and have seen it three or four times now. The pace can be a tad slow, and if you are uncomfortable with evangelical or "charismatic" religion, you may be a tad put off by some of the church scenes. But if you have an open mind, this is really worth the watch.


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AMERICAN HISTORY X

Posted : 7 years, 8 months ago on 19 October 2009 07:33 (A review of American History X)

"One in every three black males is in some phase of the correctional system. Is that a coincidence, or do these people have, you know, like a racial commitment to crime?" - Derek Vinyard

Tony Kaye has not made any other films that have been as widely recognized as this in the United States. Which is shocking to me considering the absolute brilliance of this film both in mood, and character. Another shocking fact that I learned while researching this film to write this review is that Edward Norton and Tony Kaye very publicly feuded over editing control which led ultimately to Kaye demanding that his name be removed from the credits and replaced with the name Humpty Dumpty. I am not sure exactly why Kaye was so displeased with this film, because I felt that the editing in particular was one of the strongest reasons I enjoyed this so immensely. I have seen this film a handful of times, and it still brings an array of emotion from me on every viewing.

The story begins with Daniel Vinyard (Edward Furlong), a 17 year old boy, in trouble at school for writing an essay about "Mein Kampf", in which he attempts to tell the story of Adolf Hitler as a civil rights hero. We begin to learn why Daniels' mind is so warped by flashbacks. These scenes are shot in black and white which gives the film a very documentary style feel that drew me even closer to the characters. Three years prior to Daniels' controversial essay, his older brother Derek (Edward Norton) was arrested and incarcerated for vigilante justice against african americans stealing his truck. Derek is a white supremist, complete with swastika tattoos, and a shaved head. Once Derek is imprisoned, he begins to see the world from a different point of view. He immediately befriends other white supremists, knowing that no one makes it in prison alone, only to find over time that they are hypocritical morons, who really don't share his views of society, but are simply trying to fit in somewhere. As he begins to try and distance himself, prison life gets increasingly difficult, and he finds himself learning more about the people he has hated so long by working side by side in the laundry room with Lamont(Guy Torry), a small time crook who loves to talk. Derek vows to change his life and attempt to help his younger brother see the error in their thinking as soon as he is released. Only Daniel has gotten so deep into the life that changing his thoughts proves to be an extremely difficult, and dangerous task.

Edward Furlong did a nice job here, and this is one of the few movies of his that I can say that about. Beverly D'Angelo plays their ailing mother, and Ethan Suplee portrays an equally ignorant friend. Edward Norton, however, was the heart and soul of this movie. You take the journey with him from his fathers' racist comments as a child, to his fathers' subsequent death fighting a fire where he was killed by a black drug addict, and you see past the hatefulness into what could actually make someone believe these things. When Derek is giving his arguments to his family in a heated dinner conversation, you actually, shamefully, catch yourself almost buying it, which is a great testament not only to the script, but to Nortons' amazing delivery.

I went through a wide spectrum of emotion from anger to adrenalized, to broken hearted and embarassed, and as the credits rolled, I contemplated my own thoughts and actions and how they may be percieved by other cultures. That is the mark of great filmmaking, when you are left pondering your relation to the story at the end. If you haven't seen this film, do yourself a favor, and see it. But prepare yourself for an intense journey.



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Year One

Posted : 7 years, 8 months ago on 19 October 2009 04:07 (A review of Year One (Unrated))

First off, I must say that I had heard many detractors saying hat this movie was beyond cheeseball, schlocky crap with fart jokes, and gross out humour and was not even worth watching. I, being a Michael Cera fan and for the most part enjoing the films of Harold Ramis, refused to listen to them and added it proudly to my Netflix queue. I then waited weeks while other patrons watched it ahead of me, anxiously anticipating the day I would find that red envelope in my mailbox. It arrived today and as I sat down and began watching I saw that there was a lot of dumb humour but I was also rather enjoying myself. For about 45 minutes. The storyline and characters had been set, and the plot thickened as Jack Black and Michael Cera wandered from their tiny village to explore the world beyond. 'The Wheel!!! Ooooh Ahhh!!'. A few chuckles, even a few out loud laughs. Then the story got increasingly more convoluted and by the time Oliver Platt shows up, (Whom I usually adore, by the way) I had lost all interest and began to wonder who was winning the Falcons game. That game, as it turns out, was far more interesting, and I turned off Year One about 3/4 of the way through to enjoy it.
I used to love Jack Black. High Fidelity, Shallow Hal, and Orange County being my favorites. But I have grown so tired of his schtick. Like Will Ferrell, his movies have lost all intrigue for me. Lesson learned. As for Michael Cera, I fear he is on a similar path. To this point, I have thoroughly enjoyed his uncomfortable nerdy cool. Superbad, and Nick and Norah were great, but I'm just not sure I can take much more of the same. I'm ready for more. As for the works of Harold Ramis, here's hoping he makes a comeback from this tragedy.


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Assault on Precinct 13

Posted : 7 years, 8 months ago on 17 October 2009 09:15 (A review of Assault on Precinct 13 (Widescreen Edition))

"Assault on Precinct 13" is a suspense thriller action movie. The first scene is great, and it pulls you in really quickly. I love it when a movie shows some storyline before they roll the credits. Ethan Hawk is a bit too similar to his "Training Day" character for my taste, but luckily, I enjoyed him very much in that film. Laurence Fisshburne is cold blooded killer casual cool, and I love to see him in just about anything. John Leguizamo and Ja Rule play 3rd rate thugs...Really? Ja Rule? Could have done without him. Maria Bello and Drea De Matteo add some sexiness and also get a little ass-kicking girl power going. Gabriel Byrne plays the bad guy, and his performance is a tad boring as he sort of overdoes the whole, "I'm a professional, I stay cool" thing. There are a few nice twists and aside from the fact that 90 minutes of the movie take place in one building, I was still enthralled throughout.
No personal thoughts on this one, it's not exactly thought provoking cinema, just good popcorn fun. Thought to leave you with if you see it...Who's character is more appealing in this...Maria Bellos' innocent doctor, or Drea De Mateos' sexy tomboy?


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300

Posted : 7 years, 8 months ago on 16 October 2009 10:44 (A review of 300 (Single-Disc Widescreen Edition))

While I enjoyed this movie, I do not share in the mass-hysteria that seemed to follow it's release. I felt that it was visually stunning, the score was beautiful, and the story was intriguing. Some faults I found were that the pace of the movie did seem to drag a bit, as dialogue between fight scenes was a little weak. I loved Gerard Butler as King Leonidas, and would recommend this movie to anyone who had yet to see it.
My personal thoughts on the film were that it seemed to speak to today's generation of young men. We are no longer raised to be tough, embattled men with pride and honor. We are not taught to defend our women and our communities with our whole hearts. In short, what it means to be a man has changed so dramatically over the course of history. It is a shame that we cannot all be like King Leonidas.


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