Category Archives: Movies

The Good, The Great, And The Greatest

I have had the pleasure over the past few weeks of partaking of a fabulous selection of films, both in theaters and at home.  Along with finally getting around to watching Children of Men, as well as re-watching District 9 last night, I saw three movies multiple times on which I would like to comment.  They are Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, a good movie that achieves exactly what it was going for, Inception, a great movie that fails to achieve what it was going for, and Let The Right One In, a great movie that seems to achieve what it was going for superbly.

Scott Pilgrim is the most straight-forward to write about, so I will cover that one first.  I fell in love with the graphic novels a few months ago, and as such was primed to love this movie.  And love it I did, although I have no delusions that it is, in and of itself, any sort of classic, nor will it even achieve cult classic status.  It is a fine adaptation of the comic, and by-and-large nailed the tone and style perfectly, while making necessary sacrifices to the pacing in order to fit seven evil exes into two hours of film.  Like most reviews that I read, I found the action to get a bit tedious by the end, but the film seems to know when it’s starting to overstay its welcome.  I do highly recommend it to people who aren’t afraid of a little off-the-wall action and intelligent-sarcastic humor.

Inception, from what others have said, seems to be the most mind-blowing thing since the Matrix.  It is a strange film for me, as most films like it (ostensibly high-minded action films, such as the Matrix movies, V for Vendetta, Dark Knight and the like) seem to leave me emotionally satisfied directly following my first viewing, but break down upon closer examination.  Inception bucks this trend by leaving me wholly unsatisfied upon leaving the theater, feeling betrayed by what appeared to me to be an emotionally manipulative ending which lacked true profundity, while at the same time the pieces manifest into a cohesive whole in my head as time goes on and I further discuss the film and read reviews.  There are two ways I can look at this admittedly supurbly directed and acted film (although Christopher Nolan cannot direct vehicle sequences to save his life).  Either the director, Nolan, knew exactly what he was doing, and put the utmost care into placing every detail and bit of imagery, in which case I pretty much proscribe to the interpretation posited by this reviewer (warning, link contains spoilers), or he is extremely sloppy in his execution and description of the film’s internal logic, as he was with Dark Knight and, to a lesser extent, Batman Begins, and the ending is left ambiguous not because it carries any meaningful significance to the filmmakers, but because those kinds of endings are proven to illicit emotional responses from most audiences, regardless of their depth of meaning.  I may not be too cynical yet to give Nolan the benefit of the doubt here, although I feel that Shutter Island explored similar themes better, with a deeper performance by DiCaprio, and I trust Martin Scorsese to put more thought into the details than Christopher Nolan.  Regardless, Inception is a great film that should be seen, although I would urge you to watch it with a more critical eye than you might otherwise.

Now, and this is what I really wanted to get to, we move on to Let The Right One In.  Do you know the feeling of falling in love with a work of art?  Where after reading a book or watching a film or experiencing a piece of music for the first time, that piece permeates your mind, forcing you to look through the world through the lens of said work?  I believe the last time this happened to me was when I saw Psycho for the first time, almost two years ago, and fell in love.  I had similar experiences with Fritz Lang’s M, Isaac Asimov’s The Mule, and the entire Beatles’ catalog on that fateful night some years ago when my dad let me stay up well past my bedtime to listen to those records.  It’s an overwhelming desire to experience nothing but that work.  You wish that every movie or book or album were as good in all the same ways as Psycho.

This is what happened to me with Let The Right One In, the 2008 Swedish vampire film which deserves none of the scorn or apprehension that might come with the label “Swedish vampire film.”  This is a film that is not about vampires, at least not in the Twilight or even Dracula sense of the term.  It is not about what vampires do, or how people fight them, or what happens when a vampire moves in to the neighborhood.  It is more of a tone poem than a narrative, a meditation on what a vampire might represent, rather than how it might act.  It is the best directed film I have seen since Psycho and features a similarly tight economy of action, with nary a wasted frame.  It is an absolutely brilliant film, and I do not want to spoil anything in this so far relatively spoiler-free post, but I will say that I first watched it at 1 in the morning, and was very worried that I would have trouble sleeping after it.  Two hours later, I felt not dread or fear, but euphoria.  I have since watched it two more times, and plan on showing it to anybody who will watch.  It is, quite simply, a film that you can not afford not to see.


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Public Enemies: Hollywood Needs More Movies Like This

I’m no fan of action movies in general. Transformers, 300, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.  For the most part, action of the big boom variety, or the car chase variety, or even the crazy martial arts variety (although it can make for exciting moments, provided the film has enough meat to carry it, i.e. The Matrix).  I don’t think Michael Mann’s Public Enemies really qualifies as an action movie by today’s standards.  There are no giant explosions, no unrealistic feats of physical dexterity or strength, just good ol’ fashion I-shoot-you, you-shoot-me, waste-hundreds-of-rounds-on-the-area-around-you, you-fall-down-eventually.  And I loved every minute of it.

Back in the 70s, they knew how to make action movies.  The budgets were low, the guns were blazing, the blood was cherry red, and they filmed car chases on busy roads without first closing off the street.  The bottom line is, without CGI and bottomless Hollywood budgets, action movies just felt real back in those days.  The only recent films that come close to that kind of down-and-dirty, dare I say, pulp action are the Bourne films, and Public Enemies.

I really want to talk about the rest of the film, about how Johnny Depp took on the role of John Dillinger, Public Enemy Number One, with the air not of a slick, cool, in-control conman, but a man who acts like that on the outside, but inside just feels like a kid in a candy store, and when that part of his character comes out, it makes for the most rewarding parts of the movie.  I want to talk about Marion Cotillard’s Billie Frechette, and how she plays the love interest as an actual character, and does a damn good job at that.  I want to talk about Christian Bale’s reprisal of Batman, sans cape, intellect, and depth of character.  But, really, what sticks in my mind are the countless shootouts, the oh-so-satisfying “rat-a-tat-tat” of the Tommy guns, and the crystal clear view my brand new glasses gave me.

So, in conclusion: Hollywood, less explosions, more small arms fire.  Thank you.

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