Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Indie Review: The Descendants


                   
                       A Rather Humanistic Drama That 'Descends' Deep Into Feelings of Loss

                Even though I am pretty fond of the director Alexander Payne, who gave us films like Nebraska and one of my favorites, Election, I watched this film not knowing what to expect. After watching it, I found myself very absorbed by its story that is something that we can relate to, as it explores how slowly losing a loved one has such a huge effect on us.

                Story:
              The Descendants is about a Hawaiian land owner named Matt King (George Clooney) whose wife got injured in a boating accident and is put in a coma. He is then left to care for their two daughters: 10-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller) and rebellious 17-year-old Alex (Shailene Woodley). After he finds out his wife was having an affair, Matt and his daughters then goes on a search to confront the man she was with as together, they try to wrestle with family demons.

              What I Liked About It:             The thing that I loved the most about this film was just how it realistically showcases the struggles of losing someone close to you. It not only portrays the heartbreak of it all, but it manages to touch upon the struggles of forgiving a loved one for whatever wrong they have done to you. This is something that people can very easily relate to as I'm sure plenty of people have been in the same position as the main characters. I also liked how the film has a neat balance of both comedy and drama. The film isn't overly dramatic yet it isn't doesn't go overboard with awkward humor at the wrong moments. That is pretty much life itself, as it has its depressing moments yet its fair share of light moments and I am quite pleased this won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Plus, the film's direction by Alexander Payne is brilliant, as he hardly cuts away when showing the more dramatic scenes to really allow the audience to grasp the film's realism. The way he directs this makes it hard to believe it is the same guy who did Election and Nebraska, since those two other films have slightly different directing styles, so he is really one to blend into his artistry.

              Another thing I really liked was the acting from the cast. George Clooney really plays against type as he plays a rather less suave and uncharismatic family man and he does it brilliantly. Some of the actors, who don't have too much screen time, like Judy Greer, Beau Bridges, Robert Forster, and even Matthew Lillard, also really shine. But the one actress I would really love to talk about is Shailene Woodley who finds her breakthrough role as the rebellious daughter Alex. Wow, is she amazing in this! She really pulls off a character who has a tough exterior, but underneath that lies sadness and vulnerability. I would say her best scene is when she is tearfully breaking the news about her mother's infidelity. It's very heavy stuff. It definitely doesn't surprise me her future would become bright after this movie as she is a very talented gal.

            What I Didn't Like About It:
            Nothing.

            Consensus:
           Overall, The Descendants is a powerful humanistic drama about the horrors of slowly losing a loved one. It is brilliantly acted, well-written, and amazingly directed. This is one that I would highly recommend, whether you have lost a loved one or not. Those of you who haven't may learn to appreciate and forgive your loved ones after watching this movie. I rarely ever use this adjective to describe a film, but this film is just PERFECT.

Rating: 5/5



Saturday, April 26, 2014

Top 10: Horror Films That Outdo Their Remakes

These days, some of our favorite horror classics in the past are being remade. Some of them manage to match or outdo their original, but there are others that don't. Some of those remakes aren't exactly bad, they just don't really live up to the original. Here is my list of the top 10 horror films that manage to outdo their remakes. For this list, I'm ranking each film from who had the best to worst remakes. Let's get started:


10. Friday the 13th: Starting off my list is the game-changing slasher flick that foresaw the creation of one of the silver screen's scariest horror icons known as Jason Voorhees even if he does show up in the last 10 minutes of the film. While the remake isn't necessarily terrible, I've realized that it isn't exactly thrilling the second or third time I've watched it. Unlike the original, which always sends chills no matter how many times you watch it.


9. The Last House on the Left: The Last House on the Left is a 1972 classic that was a demonstration of  violence coming out of the most unexpected places and was made by Wes Craven before he became the household name in the horror genre he is now. While the remake isn't necessarily terrible, it's just not as memorable as the original and never goes to places as dark as the original did, which makes it seem like a violent yet safer version of the original.


8. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: One of the best horror films that I have ever witnessed, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a piece of genius because it is bloodless and all the killings happened behind closed doors, yet is remembered as one of the bloodiest films ever. When it comes to showing everything, the remake wins in that department as nothing is hidden. I remember being pretty shaken watching the remake, but I don't really see it having the timeless quality the original has. 


7. A Nightmare on Elm Street: Now, when the remake was announced, I was actually very excited because I am such a fan of the original, yet after watching it, I much prefer the original. The original gave us one of cinema's scariest horror movie icons, Freddy Krueger, and always terrifies me every time I watch it. If there is one positive about the remake, it is that it introduced me to the terrific song "All I Have To Do Is Dream" by the Everly Brothers. Everything else, I'm not so sure about. I'd rather people just watch the original.


6. The Wicker Man: Ever since the remake with Nicolas Cage came out, that film has become the subject of Internet memes and such, but I'll bet some people didn't even know that it was a remake. The original Wicker Man is a British film set in a remote part of the British Isles and involves human sacrifice like the remake and has a similar ending, but it is MUCH better. The original isn't necessarily scary, but it is one I've watched quite a few times.

5. Psycho: We all know Psycho because of the infamous shower scene. Even those that haven't even seen the movie know about that scene, I'm sure. But those that have NOT seen it should definitely look to watch that and not the 1998 version with Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche. That one is just the original done shot-for-shot and is just a carbon copy you won't miss. The original, however, will make you look over your shoulder when in the shower after you watch it. 


4. Prom Night: Like The Wicker Man, I have a feeling those that have seen the 2008 remake of Prom Night didn't know it was a remake. But it is a remake of a film released back in 1980 starring the scream queen herself Jamie Lee Curtis and Leslie Nielsen. Unlike the remake, which has a plot akin to the movie Fear, the original has a story akin to I Know What You Did Last Summer dealing with teenagers picked off one by one after accidentally killing a fellow student when they were children. But, if you were to call the remake something else, it wouldn't be any different as it bears no reference to the original and is nothing more than a mediocre cash grab.


3. The Fog: The original version of The Fog is one of the scariest horror films that I have ever witnessed. The genius of it is that the monsters are hidden in the fog and when the killings take place and you still don't see the faces of the villains makes the film quite terrifying. The remake, however, is less terrifying than watching storms shown on The Weather Channel. It is simply atrocious and in no way matches the genius of the original.


2. When A Stranger Calls: The opening sequence in When A Stranger Calls is one of the scariest opening scenes in the history of cinema and not only features that, but a look into the life and psychosis of the film's antagonist. The remake, however, is just the first fifteen minutes expanded into a 90-minute film and whenever something scary doesn't happen, it just relies on cheap jump scares. Now, the original may not have offered a whole lot of scares after the opening sequence, but as I said, it still focuses mainly on the main antagonist, which rarely happens in horror films these days.


1. Black Christmas: I remember when I watched the original, I had trouble sleeping for a few nights after it was over. The original is a rather quiet horror film as when scary stuff doesn't really happen, the sound of wind blowing still makes you feel uneasy. Thinking about the remake, however, makes me feel uneasy just because of how god-awful it is. Holy crap, is the remake awful. I could go into reasons as to why it is awful, but I'd rather not. I would simply just say watch the original 1974 version and skip the 2006 version.

So, that was my list of the top 10 old horror films that manage to outdo their remakes. If their is anything you'd like to add to this list, then please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Review: The Orphanage

       
                   
        'The Orphanage': An Inventive Chilling Horror Film That Frightens In A Rather Intensely Subtle Way
     
                       We see plenty of horror films with a haunted house setting and a good amount of horror films that deal with scary children. But The Orphanage manages to mold them together while also successfully evading the use of special effects and guts spewing everywhere, allowing the creation of a film that offers something new to the horror genre as a whole.

                               Story:
                      The Orphanage is about a woman named Laura (Belen Rueda) who has an adopted son named Simon with a fatal disease and is looking to run an old orphanage that she once lived in and had handicapped children. However, when Simon makes a few mysterious imaginary friends, things to begin to make a turn for the worse once Simon goes missing and Laura is left on a frantic search for him as she delves into the supernatural.

                     What I Liked About It:
                    One thing that I really liked was how the film almost has a nostalgic vibe to it. It reminded me a bit of horror films from the 70's because of its score and setting in an old haunted house, and I really liked that because I am a sucker for older horror films. Another thing I really liked was the brilliant performance from Belen Rueda as Laura. She pulls off a great performance that doesn't resort to hysterics when she is upset or frightened, and isn't overly sympathetic either. It was neat to have such a great performance be a highlight of the film because very rarely in most horror films these days is there a whole lot of focus on acting.

                     I also liked how the film doesn't rely on jump scares or poorly CGI-ed ghosts to be scary, and make no mistake, this film is very scary. It has its fair share of suspenseful moments, but it is pretty chilling and is NOT bloody or gory, so that's a bonus. I don't usually mind blood and gore, I just hate it when they are both overdone. The film is even executive produced by Guillermo Del Toro, who gave us films like Hellboy and one of my personal favorites, Pan's Labyrinth. He, along with the director and writer, J.A. Bayona and Sergio Sanchez, have such a collaborative creative mind and create something rather inventive with not just the "haunted house" sub-genre, but the "creepy kid" sub-genre as well. However, there aren't necessarily creepy kids, per se, but there is one kid who wears a sack mask that would make The Burger King Man wet himself. If there is one scary scene that really sticks out in my mind, it is a scene where Laura is playing a special game with the creepy kids that involves her counting to three and knocking on the wall, and the camera moves back and forth to see whether the kids appear behind her after each time she knocks on the wall. It gave me the willies after I watched it.

                 What I Didn't Like About It:
                Nothing.

                 Consensus:
                Overall, The Orphanage is a highly inventive yet chilling haunted house film that features a brilliant performance from its lead actress. If you are in the mood for a horror film that doesn't rely on special effects or blood and guts, then look no further than this film, as it quite a suspenseful ride that deserves 2 hours of your time.

Rating: 4.5/5

Review: The Purge

                         
                                          A Masterful Thrill Ride One Should Not 'Purge' 
                                               
                   We have seen plenty of films dealing with a dystopian or not-too-distant future. But in my opinion, we rarely see those types of films that deal with situations that seem realistic and plausible. The Purge definitely does just that and showcases it successfully.

                   Story:
                 The Purge is set in the not-too-distant future where crime has gone down in America because the government allows one night a year known as "The Purge", when all crime is legal and criminals and whomever can "let off steam". One family who arms the security system in their home find themselves in peril when the son lets a desperate homeless man into their home and the people who want to kill him won't leave until they give him up.

                 What I Liked About It:
                First and foremost, I loved the film's concept. As I said, the concept involving crime being legal one night a year so that people can be able to "let off steam" seems like something that can happen and I don't think has ever been brought to the screen before. So, the writer/director, James DeMonaco, gets major bonus points for originality. Not only that, but he manages to take this concept and weave it into a home invasion thriller, which I thought was pretty neat. Also, as the main characters hold the homeless man in their house, they think of surrendering him, but question whether they are different from the "Purgers" they are hiding from, so the film definitely asks some moral questions about what would happen if you were in this kind of position.

              Another thing I thought was interesting was the ending. I don't want to give anything away, but I'll just say the ending is both climactic and anti-climactic. That makes the ending both predictable yet somewhat unpredictable, and I thought that was very neat. I honestly can't give enough praise to James DeMonaco to his originality and one thing that makes me kind of sad is how films with more original concepts, like this and Sinister, get a mixed or just lukewarm reception, while piss-poor films like Paranormal Activity are almost universally praised. Luckily, this film really surpassed its $3,000,000 budget and it did well enough to allow the creation of its upcoming sequel.

              What I Didn't Like About It:
             I'll be honest and say I did have one big complaint about the film. It is that the event that drives the film's story forward is the scene where the family son lets the homeless guy in. That part bugged me because by letting this homeless guy in, this kid endangers his family. Luckily, the film's aforementioned moral questions manage to almost fix this mistake. Other than that, I have no other issues.

             Consensus:
            Overall, The Purge is a thrilling home invasion film with a highly original and plausible concept. I would highly give this a watch if you are looking for a horror/thriller film that offers something new to the table or if you want a thriller with some action.

Rating: 3.5/5

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Trailer Talk #15: Sex Tape, Gone Girl, The Immigrant, Jersey Boys, A Most Wanted Man, Neighbors

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to my 15th episode of Trailer Talk. I have seen plenty of new trailers online and when I saw Noah, but I'll just discuss some of those I watched online. Let's take a look:

Sex Tape: First off is the trailer for the upcoming comedy Sex Tape starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel. Now, I do like Jason Segel and I am a pretty big Cameron Diaz fan, so this one definitely looks like something I would pay to see. This is definitely more of my cup of tea than Diaz's upcoming film The Other Woman. Hopefully, this is a banner year for her as she has not only those two films but Annie coming out around the holiday season. Anyhow, this is also from the director of Bad Teacher, which I really loved and may feature a plot that is far-fetched and deals with a couple that tries to take back their sex tape that was released on the Internet, but I'm not expecting an awards contender and I may see this in theaters.


Gone Girl: Next is the upcoming thriller that IS a potential awards contender known as Gone Girl, starring Ben Affleck and is directed by David Fincher. Now, David Fincher is a director whose work I have always liked and some of his films, like The Social Network and Fight Club, are some of my favorite movies. So, he is the film's biggest selling point for me. Ben Affleck, I can honestly take or leave, but he never makes me not want to see a film just because he's in it. Since this movie is based off a book, who knows if I might read the book first before I see the movie, but I do really want to see the movie.

The Immigrant: Now onto a much smaller film. Next is the indie The Immigrant, starring Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Renner, and Joaquin Phoenix. All three actors are astounding, so that gives the film plenty of promise. Plus, I like how the film looks, as it gives a sort of Francis Ford Coppola-vibe from back when he made the Godfather movies. I do hope this plays somewhere near me as it does look very promising.            

Jersey Boys: Next up is the trailer for the upcoming film adaptation of the musical Jersey Boys. Now, normally, I do like musicals, which I honestly used to hate. However, nothing about this trailer screams "Go see this!". I don't know why that is. I'm guessing I'm just getting similar vibes to the upcoming James Brown biopic Get On Up, or that the film just doesn't look that interesting to me. Who knows, but I just know I'm not going to rush out to see it. Even though the film does have Christopher Walken, who you can never go wrong with.



A Most Wanted Man: Next is the trailer for the indie pic A Most Wanted Man starring the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman. Not only would I see this because it would be one of my last opportunities to see a film
with Philip Seymour Hoffman along with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, which I already know I'm seeing, but the film looks very good. It deals with a Chechen Muslim who ends up caught in an international war on terror and his true identity of either victim or extremist is trying to be discovered. This film is also based on a novel made by John Le Carre who wrote Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and I loved the film adaptation of that. Hopefully, this plays somewhere near me.


Neighbors: Finally, is the upcoming raunchy comedy Neighbors starring Seth Rogen and Zac Efron. It actually took me a while to watch the actual trailer for this film, and before I finally did, I only saw commercial ads for it. But, now that I have seen the trailer, my interest in this film slowly increased. Much like Sex Tape, I'm definitely not expecting an Oscar contender with this movie, but just something to have fun with and this movie definitely looks fun. I am a pretty big Seth Rogen fan and I honestly haven't really seen anything by Zac Efron, not even High School Musical, but he looks pretty funny in this. This is a tentative one for me because I may want to conserve on my movie theater budget now that the summer movie season is around the corner.


So, that was my newest episode of Trailer Talk and if you have seen any of these trailers, please feel free to write your thoughts down in the comments section and my next episode will come up as soon as I see my next film in theaters, which might be Amazing Spider-Man 2, or if I see more new trailers online. Until then, thanks for reading!

Review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

                             
                         A Rather Haunting Espionage Thriller About A Different Kind of 'Spy'

                      Whenever Americans go for a British thriller, they usually gear towards anything involving James Bond. But Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy offers something slightly different as it is a thriller with a rather nostalgic vibe and has a slow yet intense and suspenseful pace.

                      Story:
                     Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a story set during the days of the Cold War about a group of British intelligence agents who work in a unit known as "The Circus" that was formerly led by a man nicknamed "Control" (John Hurt). When there is talks of a mole within "The Circus" that is working for the Soviet Union, a formerly retired agent named George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is called back into action to find the mole.

                   What I Liked About It:
                  First off, I absolutely loved, and I mean, LOVED, the film's direction by Tomas Alfredson. I have seen one of Alfredson's previous films, the Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In, and this film definitely has the same look as that film. The way he directs this film creates a rather tense and cold atmosphere which really sets the film's mood. Even if the film was horrible, I would still rave about how amazing Alfredson's direction is. Some of my favorite scenes are the ones where the top agents are gathered together in one big yellow room and when they communicate, your suspicions begin to arouse as to who may be the mole.

                  Another thing that I liked was how the film shows us a rather different type of spy. As I've said, we are so used to seeing a superspy like James Bond put on screen, but here, we are given simple British spies that use intellect and wit to save the day rather than gadgets and Aston Martins. One thing that I thought was neat was how they use different code names to label suspects, like "Tinker" and "Tailor". The film even manages to weave in themes involving not just terrorism, but paranoia and anxiety as well. Some of the main characters arouse suspicion of there being a mole within their system working with the enemy. That kind of fear and suspicion somewhat reminds me of how we are today since with many tragedies taking place, like 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing, we are constantly in a state of panic and eventually suspicion.

                 I also really liked the performances from the smorgasbord of British actors. You have actors like Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, John Hurt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Ciaran Hinds, Mark Strong, and Toby Jones. All of whom give outstanding performances, especially Gary Oldman who gives a rare leading performance as the rather quiet and calm yet interrogative George Smiley.

                What I Didn't Like About It:
             I'm not going to lie, at first I thought the film was hard to follow, but things eventually started to pick up. I may actually need a second viewing just to really grasp it, but it is still a very good film nevertheless.

                Consensus:
             Overall, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a quiet, nuanced thriller that features phenomenal direction from Tomas Alfredson as well as brilliant performances from the actors. It not only has a story that is set in the past, but manages to feature themes that are still relevant in today's world and introduce audiences to a different kind of spy that doesn't need fancy guns and gadgets to solve the case. I wouldn't recommend it to everyone as it is very slowly-paced, so it won't be for everyone. But, I would still gave it a shot because you might something you like about it.

Rating: 4/5
                                   

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Top 10 Most Overrated Movies


When a film becomes the whole package: Oscar-winner! Box office smash! Critical acclaim! It usually means that the film is guaranteed to be good, right?..... Wrong! With these 10 films, it is not always the case. Here is my list of what are, in my personal opinion, some of the most overrated movies I have seen. Please note, I don't think all of these movie are bad, just not as phenomenal as they are made out to be. Although, some of these are just god-awful. Here we go:


10. The Dark Knight: I may have this movie on my DVD rack and I certainly see why their was plenty of gasps when this wasn't nominated for Best Picture. Plus, Heath Ledger more than deserved his Best Supporting Actor Oscar. But I would say it is a little overrated for these reasons: (1) I still wasn't as blown away by it as most people were, (2) The Dark Knight Rises was much better, and (3) it is not without its flaws. There are two that still bug me: Christian Bale's raspy "Batman" voice which he thankfully improved in the sequel and the casting of Maggie Gyllenhaal as the "babe" of the film. She's not a horrible actress, but seriously, what were they thinking?


9. Avatar: At first, I was really taken away with the film like almost everyone else was. However, after a few more viewings, I realize that even though the effects were outstanding, the film could still be titled Dances With Smurfs. It is something we have seen before and even though it more than deserved its technical Oscars, it should come as no surprise it didn't get a screenplay nod.


8. Slumdog Millionaire: The first Best Picture winner on this list, Slumdog Millionaire is quite an overrated film that for some odd reason swept the entire awards season when it was released. I thought the ending was too Hollywood, the film was inconsistent with its own themes, and it was marketed as such a feel-good film when honestly, it was anything but feel good. It's funny because I don't ever recall seeing a feel-good film that deals with forced marriage, a kid falling into a sea of excrement, or torture.


7. Shakespeare in Love: Another Best Picture winner on this list, and quite an upsetting Best Picture winner. I don't necessarily think Shakespeare in Love is a bad movie, but I think its biggest flaw is not necessarily that it won Best Picture, but the fact that it won over Saving Private Ryan. While I do give the writers points for trying to come up with something different, I did have some problems. Look at my review of the film, I've explained them there.


6. Life is Beautiful: The only foreign film on this list that won pretty big at the Oscars the same year as Shakespeare, this is one that I have SUCH conflicted feelings about. Not only did I not laugh and cry, like most who saw the film did, but I was just left going "A comedy set in the Holocaust? Huh?". I get that the main character was trying to hide the horrors of the Holocaust from his son, but their were other ways to do that so that he wouldn't have to say to his son "We're all going to die". Thankfully, I watched Schindler's List after this to get the bad taste of this movie out of my mouth. If you want to see an emotionally-gripping movie about the Holocaust, just watch that and skip this.


5. Pulp Fiction: I have a feeling that with the inclusion of The Dark Knight and this one on this list, I won't be making a lot of friends. But, wow, is this movie overrated. Yes, this film was a complete game changer for independent cinema and I still quote Samuel L. Jackson's dialogue from the film. But, this film is just TOO. DAMN. LONG. and it really didn't need to be. I can imagine if I saw this in the theater, I would probably have been like "When is this going to end?". This had quite the opposite effect that Django Unchained had on me.


4. The Twilight series:  I know these films may not have won any Oscars, nor did they score critical acclaim, but they were box office smashes and won plenty of other awards, so they fit the criteria. Where the hell do I even begin with these films? For starters, what these films did to vampires and werewolves is just mind-boggling. Plus, the film's main love triangle only consists of the three leads staring at each other and pressing against each other's faces. Oh, and the main character basically degrades her gender by being unable to exist without a man. I could go on, but I'm not going too.

3. The English Patient: Not only does this film winning Best Picture upset me, but the fact that it won Best Picture and is a god-awful movie. Seriously, you could've taken out the epicness of the film: WWII setting, epic score, numerous aerial shots of sand, etc. you just have a simple love story. When Elaine from Seinfeld saw this film, she pretty much spoke on behalf of bored and irritated moviegoers who had to sit through this epic piece of sh*t. Rather than put up a poster, I'm just going to show you a clip from Seinfeld:



2. Paranormal Activity: Hype can work like a delicious-looking food item being advertised on TV, that looks appetizing, but once you eat it, you realize there isn't much taste. This film certainly proves how hype can be just that. I went into this film with sky-high expectations, but after seeing it, I now wonder whether the people in the movie theater shown in the commercials were paid to act so scared by this movie. Seriously, what is so scary about this film? Some of its scare tactics include slowly moving bed sheets and opening doors. The fact that this movie was a colossal success while more original films like Sinister are only modestly successful, shows just how low we've sunk when it comes to horror.


1. 2001: A Space Odyssey: Before anybody cries foul, I'll just say that Stanley Kubrick is a directorial genius and he does direct this brilliantly. However, the movie is just shots of space and stuff floating with only one minor interesting story involving the famous villain HAL-9000. Seriously, I was bored out of my mind watching this and I don't see why people are praising it to be the classic that it is. I don't mean this as disrespect to the late, great Stanley Kubrick, but good god, is this movie overrated!

Here are some honorable mentions that, fortunately for them, didn't make the list:

Amour (2012)
The Help (2011)
The King's Speech (2010)
Lincoln (2012)
Monster's Ball (2001)
Barton Fink (1991)
Cold Mountain (2003)

So, that was my list of what are, in my opinion, some of the most overrated movies I have seen. If you would like to add your own picks for films that you feel are overrated, please feel free to write in the comments section. But, if you disagree with any of my picks, please be kind. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Top 10 Movies About Sex


Sex. It's a part of human nature and there are some films that focus on the theme of sex and "all the good things, all the bad things that may be". The criteria for this list is films that use sex as their main themes and don't have sex stuff just suddenly thrown in for artistic measure. (Looking at you, Monster's Ball) So, let's talk about sex and the top 10 movies about sex:


10. Blue is the Warmest Color: The most recent film on this list, Blue is the Warmest Color deals with the theme of being indecisive about one's own sexuality as the main character, Adele, spends the film "trying to figure out what she likes", so to speak. To me, that is the same for a lot of people in real life and they can easily relate to Adele and her story.


9. Teeth: Teeth is a little indie gem that I'm sure not many have heard of. It is about a girl who is in a chastity group in her high school who discovers that she has teeth inside her vagina. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but the film itself is pretty serious, as it uses the concept of having a vagina with teeth as a metaphor for sexual control and empowerment.


8. Love and Other Drugs: Another more recent entry on this list, Love and Other Drugs is a demonstration of how love is the biggest drug to be addicted to. The film also shows whether one can have sex without eventually falling in love and features brilliant sexual chemistry between the two lead stars, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway.


7. The Sessions: Not only is The Sessions based on a true story of a man unable to move looking to have sex before his time, but it shows that sex is something that can be celebrated. While sex may venture into darker territory, The Sessions goes into some of the upsides of it by demonstrating a rather uplifting story of a man doing, for someone like him, something that is seemingly impossible.


6. Repulsion: Now onto more darker territory. Repulsion is a brilliant horror film from Roman Polanski about the theme of sexual repression. As the main character finds herself sexually repressed, she slowly goes over the edge. So, in a rather subtle way, the film shows just how healthy sex is to the body and what could happen if we really deprive ourselves of it.


5. Basic Instinct: While the film may be well-known for the famous "vaginterview" scene, as well as other scenes of explicit sex, Basic Instinct delves into a bit more than that. Much like Teeth, Basic Instinct demonstrates how sex can not only be used for being in control, but how it can be used as a weapon, and Catharine Tramell really shows how to do just that without relying too much on the ice pick.


4. Boogie Nights: Those who probably haven't heard of the film might think this film is about disco once they hear or read the title. It does have that, but it's more about porn. It is very much about the porn industry and of course has plenty of sex. Even though I've never actually watched porn, nor do I have the desire to, I do feel the film shows just how porn is a demonstration of sex without making love.


3. Shame: We have seen many films deal with addiction to drugs and alcohol, but rarely do we get a film dealing with sex addiction, and not only does this film deal with just that, but it is absolutely brilliant. It is NOT an easy watch, I might add, but it shows just how sex can dominate our physical being and does it realistically. There is even a "binge sex" scene at the end that one could easily get aroused by, but it is still very tragic.


2. American Beauty: Even though American Beauty demonstrates themes dealing with living in suburbia, there are some underlying themes about human sexuality channeled onto the main characters. You have Lester, the middle-aged man who yearns for her daughter's much younger friend, Angela, who seems to really celebrate her sexuality. Lester's wife, Carolyn, is as sexually frustrated as her husband and to find passion, engages in an affair with her business competitor. But their neighbor, Col. Frank Fitts, deals with a different kind of sexual frustration and repression of his own. I don't want to spoil it for those that haven't seen it, so I'll just leave it at that.


1. The Graduate: Number 1 on my list is the classic with the famous line "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me, aren't you?". The Graduate may demonstrate the generation gap that went on during the time it was made between the older and younger generations, but it seems to have the whole package when it comes to dealing with themes of sex. You have a woman who uses sexuality as means of control and dominance; Mrs. Robinson. There is also the character of Ben, who seems to celebrate sexuality as he engages in an affair with Mrs. Robinson even though their isn't much love to be found in their affair together. Yet Ben in conflicted about who he actually has feelings for once Mrs. Robinson's daughter, Elaine, enters the picture. So, because The Graduate has the whole package of sexual themes, it is the best film that deals with sex.

Here are a few honorable mentions that didn't quite make the list:

Black Swan (2010)
Breaking the Waves (1996)
Election (1999)
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Antichrist (2009)

So, that is my list of the top 10 best films that deal with themes of sex. If their are any films you think I left off or would like to add, please feel free to write in the comments section. Thanks for reading!



Friday, April 18, 2014

Indie Review: Blue is the Warmest Color


                  
             A Beautiful, Artistic Film That Is Like A Palette With Many 'Colors' Thrown Onto One
           
           We rarely see any films these days that don't just deal with homosexuality, but sexuality in general. One other recent film that I can think of which deals with the complexity of sexuality is the 2011 tour-de-force Shame with Michael Fassbender. Not only does Blue Is The Warmest Color deal with themes of homosexuality and sex in general, but weaves those into a coming-of-age odyssey.

                        Story:
                     Blue is the Warmest Color is about a high school girl named Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos) who finds her life change forever as she meets a blue-haired lesbian woman named Emma (Lea Seydoux). The film follows the beginning, middle, and the possible end of their relationship.

                    What I Liked About It:
                  First off, I absolutely LOVED the direction of this film. Director Abdellatif Kechiche manages to incorporate the use of color to represent the different moods of the film and the characters. Throughout the film, the color blue is used and that definitely is symbolic for the character of Adele, as some of her personality traits that are associated with that color include her tranquility and at times trying to gain authority of herself. To some extent, the color represents Emma as blue also represents being a mellow free spirit which is what Emma is. Although, and hopefully I don't spoil it, towards the final act, Emma's hair color that is normally blue is dyed blonde and she reveals her rather tough exterior. So, Kechiche and the actresses all do a marvelous job at portraying of the color used in the film's title thanks to the direction and performances.
  
               The performances bring me to my next point. The two actresses are just phenomenal. Adele Exarchopoulous really brings it home as a girl who is indecisive about her sexuality as she slowly transitions into a woman. Lea Seydoux delivers a wonderful supporting performance as Emma, Adele's partner who is more artistic and liberal-minded, unlike Adele who is more conservative with her future career plans, similarly to her family. The two actresses have wonderful chemistry together in this film and I hope that they really go far after this movie.

               Another thing that I really liked and thought was interesting was how the film is almost a coming-of-age story that incorporates the theme of coming to terms with one's own sexuality and themes of relationships and homosexuality as well. Plus, even though the film is about 3 hours long, I wasn't bored and I found myself absorbed in the character of Adele's story and her emotional journey throughout the film.

               What I Didn't Like About It:
              Nothing.

              Consensus:
             Overall, Blue is the Warmest Color is a 3-hour emotional odyssey with outstanding direction and stellar performances from the two lead actresses. I honestly wouldn't say that I recommend this to everybody for a few reasons: One is that there are plenty of scenes of graphic sex, as well as the length and the fact that it is a foreign language film which means if you were to see it, you'd have to read subtitles. However, it is a very beautiful and artistic film nevertheless that I would recommend to those that love to study film or those that want to see something rather inventive.

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Indie Review: Nebraska



                         A Unique and Colorful Comedy-Drama With A Look As Bleak As 'Nebraska'

                  One thing that is interesting about director Alexander Payne is that almost all of his films are set in Nebraska. Who knows why that is, but setting this story in Nebraska makes a lot of sense as Payne really captures the ordinary, vanilla mundaneness of rural America through his direction. What better place to capture ordinary, rural America than the state of Nebraska? Even though I actually have never been there, to be fair.

                  Story:
                Nebraska is about a geriatric man named Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) suffering from dementia who got a letter saying that we won a million dollars. However, his son David (Will Forte) thinks the prize is a scam, along with his ornery mother Kate (June Squibb). David then goes on a road trip with his father so he can live out his fantasy.

                What I Liked About It:
               First off, I loved the brilliant direction from Alexander Payne. He films the movie entirely in black and white, and that definitely sets the tone for the film, as Payne is showcasing the bleakness of rural, small-town America. Yet ironically, the film has such an offbeat colorful story. It is a comedy-drama that portrays a man with dementia and does it without being overly depressing or having too many light-hearted moments. This is definitely better than a film that came out last year about the hardships of growing old. (*cough* Amour *cough* An overrated French film that won Best Foreign Film at the Oscars last year) Plus, there was a scene that took place at a karaoke bar and that made me pretty giddy since I usually go to karaoke.

              I also really liked the performances from the cast. While Bruce Dern really shines in the lead role, in my opinion, it is Will Forte that makes the film. Forte, who is usually a comedic actor famous for SNL, does a complete 180 and gives a performance of quiet subtlety in this and I love those types of dramatic performances. Comedy may be Will's "Forte" (pun intended), and he's great at it, but I'd definitely love to see him do more dramas as well as comedies. Not only does Forte make the film, but June Squibb almost steals it. June Squibb is great as the flustered cranky wife who serves as comic relief. Some of the crazy stuff she says will have you in stitches.

              What I Didn't Like About It:
             I'm not going to lie, I did have one minor complaint about the film. I thought it was a little too drawn out and a little longer than it needed to be. Luckily, it didn't stop me from enjoying the film, and I really did. Other than that, I really have no other complaints about the film.

              Consensus:
             Overall, Nebraska is a brilliantly directed and well-acted comedy that carries nuanced, underlying drama. It not only captures the bleak realities of rural small-town America, but the spirit of independent film, as it shows with a small cast and a good idea, you can make a masterpiece. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes to study film and anyone that is a fan of indies, or anyone else that just likes to watch movies. This film is a real treat.

Rating: 4/5
    

Review: The Help



                  While It Has Its High Points, I May Still Need 'Help' On My Feelings On This Movie
                
              We have seen plenty of films recently and over the years dealing with the harsh struggles that blacks went through in the past, like 12 Years A Slave, Glory, The Butler, and The Color Purple. All of them showcase different stories and perspectives about the horrors blacks faced, and The Help is no exception. However, this film is somewhere in the middle in terms of its quality.
              
                 Story:
              The Help is set in 60's Jackson, Mississippi and is about an Ole Miss grad named Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (Emma Stone) who aspires to become a journalist. She then decides to look deep into the struggles that black maids go through. Her quest starts with two black maids named Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis), who is very compassionate yet bitter and a more outspoken maid named Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer), then leads to a confrontation with a ruthless high society woman named Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard).

              What I Liked About It:
             The thing that I liked the most, and is definitely the highlight of the film, is the acting. This film won plenty of acting ensemble awards and when watching the film, it's not hard to see why. Much like American Hustle, this is very much an actor's movie. I wouldn't say there is one particular standout in the cast because it is an ensemble piece and everybody just brings in their A-game. However, I'll acknowledge a fair few. Viola Davis really shines as Aibileen, a maid who worked for whites her whole life and while she is kind, she still has trouble finding her voice until she forms a relationship with Skeeter. Bryce Dallas Howard does such an amazing job at playing such a stone-cold ice queen who is like a walking oleander, whereas she is beautiful to look at but everything and everyone she comes near turns toxic. Another actress who really shines is Jessica Chastain who plays Minny's much kinder owner, Celia Foote, who, despite her high status, is an outcast in her town. Chastain brilliantly plays a character who seems very na├»ve yet has a bit of a fire in her that is just burning to come out. Everyone else is just fantastic.

            What I Didn't Like About It:
           While the acting is the highest point in this film, I definitely had some problems with the film. Although I actually had one in particular. That problem is that the film is a bit too sugarcoated. It is meant to show the hardships that blacks went through back then, but hardly ever shows them. I'm guessing the makers of the film wanted stuff to be implied rather than shown. But whenever I see a film that deals with strong subject matter, I always like it when the makers mostly show and don't tell. It doesn't mean I actually want to see scenes of black women suffering, it just means I think the film would've been a bit better if they showed the audience the struggles these women went through to make the audience open their eyes. That's why I thought two other films that deal with similar subject matter: The Butler and 12 Years A Slave, were better because they really have the audience opening their eyes more and going "Wow, people suck!" by just straight up showing them the horrors that blacks went through and possibly giving them a new perspective on how to treat blacks better.

            Consensus:
           Overall, The Help is a pretty modest film that still has outstanding acting from the cast. It is a bit too sugarcoated in my opinion, but it is still a solid film nevertheless. I would recommend this if you are a history buff and want to see a film dealing with black history that is a lighter alternative to a harsher film like 12 Years A Slave.

Rating: 3.5/5

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review: Philomena



                                   'Philomena': A Light-Hearted Yet Somewhat Tragic Biopic
       
                I feel that whenever there is a film that comes out dealing with the Catholic church, it is usually about a priest in some kind of sexual abuse scandal. With Philomena, and this might sound strange, but it was refreshing to see a film dealing with Roman Catholics that doesn't depict that but showcases a different kind of harsh reality.
                    
                     Story:
                   Philomena is about an Irish Catholic woman named Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) who gave birth to a son when she was a young girl that was taken away from her. A British journalist named Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), who was formerly a Roman Catholic and normally doesn't go for more humanistic stories, then aids Philomena on her quest to find her long lost son.

                   What I Liked About It:
                  First off, I liked how the film doesn't sugar coat the issues that it is showcasing. The ones that it does are the Roman Catholic church and the Republican party. You see, Philomena had lived in a convent run by Roman Catholic nuns who forced her son into adoption without letting her say goodbye to him. The film definitely doesn't say to the audience "Roman Catholic church, BAD" like what some religious groups believe. It just portrays a small group of Catholics who are more antagonistic than others. I worry that I might give a slight spoiler if I discuss the film's depiction of the Republican Party, so I'll just leave it that because I do think this film should be widely seen.

                  Another thing that I really liked was the performances from the cast. Judi Dench really shines as the title character of Philomena. Dench's performance is very nuanced as she is very endearing yet almost heart-wrenching and while I was glad Cate Blanchett won the best Actress Oscar this year, I would put Judi Dench as a close, and I mean, CLOSE second choice for the Oscar. Dench was just that great. Steve Coogan is also very good as the rather neurotic Martin Sixsmith and both he and Dench have outstanding chemistry in both the light-hearted funny scenes and even the more emotional and tender scenes as well. Coogan even did a great job writing the script as both he and Jeff Pope are able to not only weave in comedic moments but scenes that might make you weep which don't go too overboard.

                 What I Didn't Like About It:
                 Nothing off the top of my head.

                 Consensus:
               Overall, Philomena is a touching yet emotionally gut-wrenching biopic that I think should be widely seen. Whether you are a Catholic or not, you might still be moved by this story. It might have you going "Damn, people suck!" at the end, like 12 Years A Slave and Schindler's List, but it is a very well-made film.

Rating: 4.5/5

Friday, April 11, 2014

Indie Review: Melancholia



                                A 'Melancholic' Yet Beautiful Film About The End of the World

                     Most films that deal with the end of the world usually are high caliber pictures that involve zombies or plagues and whatnot. However, Melancholia is an apocalyptic film told from the point of view of directing auteur Lars Von Trier and even though there is hardly any action, it is still, quite ironically, beautiful to look at.

                    Story:
                   Melancholia is about two sisters: Justine and Claire (Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg). Justine has just gotten married yet seems depressed and unfulfilled by her marriage, which flusters Claire and her husband who pooled in a lot of money into their wedding. As Justine goes on a downward spiral and her relationship with her sister becomes tested, a rogue planet known as "Melancholia" begins to make its way towards the Earth.

                   What I Liked About It:
                  First off, I absolutely loved the performances from the two leading ladies, especially Kristen Dunst as Justine. Unlike her previous performances, Dunst gives a performance that is more subtle and restrained and I more than happy she collected her fair share of accolades for her performance. Some of the scenes in the beginning where she puts on a face for the crowd at the wedding and immediately frowns when she walks away from the crowd are so realistic and believable. Many of us have probably been in a similar position where we make people believe we are happy but the smile is a mask for whatever pain we are hiding. Charlotte Gainsbourg is equally astonishing as Claire, the sister who is flustered yet tries to keep things grounded as she is stressed about her sister's depression and the planet hitting Earth. One thing that I thought was interesting was that I felt how the two planets were each a representation of the sisters. Melancholia is a symbol for Justine and her depression, and Earth is a symbol for Claire, as she is the sister that is more "full of life", so to speak. One scene that to me really showcases this symbolism is a scene where both sisters are outside and Claire is standing by the moon and Justine is standing right over Melancholia.
                    
                  Another thing that I really liked was of course, the direction by Lars Von Trier and how he manages to weave in themes of depression. Von Trier apparently got the idea for this film when he was going through a depressive episode and learned how people with depression remain calm with stressful situations. Since Justine is the character hit with depression and is even based off of Von Trier, she does remain awfully calm about the end of the world since she is already cynical to begin with. In fact, the more depressed she gets, the closer the planet gets to Earth. One thing that I would like to point out is just how Lars Von Trier is able to successfully tackle different genres and offer his own take on each genre: Breaking the Waves is his idea of a love story, Antichrist is his take on the horror genre, Melancholia is his sci-fi film, and even Dogville is his take on a film that has the feel of a stage play.

                 What I Didn't Like About It:
                 Nothing.

                 Consensus:
                Overall, Melancholia is a beautifully directed apocalyptic film that features magnificent performances from both Dunst and Gainsbourg. If you are expecting a sci-fi film that involves aliens and whatnot or Will Smith coming in to save the day, you might want to look elsewhere. But if you like to study and analyze film, I would put this high on your watch list as this is a true artistic gem.

Rating: 5/5

     

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Indie Review: Drive


                                           
               
                           'Drive' May Not Be Full Throttle, But It Is A Steady And Intense Ride

                Much like another film I just saw about racing, Rush, Drive was a genuine surprise for me. At first I thought it would be mostly action-packed and while there is plenty of action, it isn't a blow-em-up from start to finish. However, it proves itself as an action film with plenty of artistic integrity.

                Story:
              Drive is about an unnamed driver named Driver (Ryan Gosling) who works part time as a movie stunt driver and mechanic, and moonlights as a getaway driver that helps criminals escape scenes of the crime with the help of his working partner Shannon (Bryan Cranston). Driver's next door neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son await the arrival of her husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) who comes home from prison and is in debt. Driver offers his getaway driver service to help him rob a bank, only for it to go awry and eventually, he finds himself in a conflict with a Jewish mobster named Bernie (Albert Brooks) who formed a partnership with him and Shannon.

            What I Liked About It:
           I'll start off by saying I loved the direction by Nicolas Winding Refn. He provides such a unique color scheme and I especially loved the way he directs the violence scenes. He makes it seem like a rather artistic crime film and gives it a Tarantino feel, but in a good way. Another thing I liked was how the screenwriter, Hossein Amini, created such colorful characters. Driver is the romantic yet brooding hero. Shannon is the loveable sidekick who is meek and causes a mess of things. Bernie is the mobster who is rather unpredictable and Irene is the love interest who isn't made to be a yelping damsel to piss off feminists. I especially loved how the actors portrayed the characters. Gosling plays Driver with a rather quiet intensity, meaning he is normally calm then can burst like the snap of a finger. Albert Brooks does a complete 180 from his usual comedic routine as Bernie, except he plays his role with a rather neurotic dark humor. Bryan Cranston is awesome as Shannon and proves why he is one of the best character actors working today. Carey Mulligan also shines as Irene, the love interest, and does most of the acting with her eyes.

          What I Didn't Like About It:
          I'll admit, at first, I thought the film was a little slow, but as it progressed, it got better. MUCH better. I then realized that the beginning was used to introduce the characters and their interactions with one another, and I really liked that. Other than that small nitpick, there is nothing else I hated about it.

          Consensus:
         Overall, Drive is a unique action film with artistic integrity that has a little something for everyone. It has a love story and Ryan Gosling for the ladies, action for the guys, and well-crafted direction for the cinephiles. So, it is like Neapolitan ice cream, it has a bunch of different tastes that make one flavor and I love films like those.

 Rating: 4/5


        

Indie Review: Shame



                    Artistic and Marvelous Film That Might Still Make You Feel 'Shame' When Watching It

               I may not have ever been an addict and I hope that I never become one, but I can still say the film Shame offers a brutally realistic look at just how addiction consumes us and gets the better of us. Not only that, but it shows how it affects our family and those that we love. Except it deals with a kind of addiction that isn't often depicted these days: sex addiction.
       
               Story:
              Shame is about a man Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender) who lives by himself in his apartment New York City and has a secret sex addiction. Brandon's life of solitude is then disrupted by the arrival of his troubled sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) and while she is staying at his apartment, his addiction begins to take a physical and mental toll on him.

            What I Liked About It:
           First off, the thing that I loved the most about this film, which makes it, is the phenomenal performance by the acting powerhouse that is Michael Fassbender. Fassbender gives a performance that is rather haunting yet vulnerable and does an extraordinary job at playing a rather ordinary troubled human being. Carey Mulligan is also fantastic as Sissy, Brandon's sister who is very emotionally needy and is always relying on others to help her through her troubles. One of my favorite scenes that they had was the scene where Brandon shows up at a place where Sissy has a singing gig and she does a rendition of "New York, New York". As she is singing beautifully, Brandon begins to tear up. To me, that scene shows how despite Brandon being a very troubled man, still deeply cares very much for his sister and that shows how he is a rather misunderstood hero.

          Another thing that I really liked was the brilliant direction by Steve McQueen, who also gave us the Best Picture winner 12 Years A Slave. Most of the film has him doing long tracking shots and to me, it just creates a more realistic feel for the film. Even in the sex scenes, he hardly cuts away. Not only that, but he creates rather interesting color schemes. Most of the film has Brandon wearing different shades of the color blue, which represents both tranquility and depression. There is even one scene towards the end where Brandon walks into a gay bar that has red lighting, which represents guilt, and a scene where both Brandon and Sissy are wearing white, which represents innocence and purity. To me, that makes sense since because it represents a more softer side to their characters.

          What I Didn't Like About It:
          Nothing.

          Consensus:
         Overall, Shame is a graphic yet brutally honest look at addiction that features a powerhouse, hauntingly subtle performance from its lead actor. Now, I'm not sure if this is one I would recommend to everyone because the sex scenes are pretty explicit. But, I would say it is a good film to watch to get some perspective on how hard addiction really is, whether it would be sex or drug addiction, and try to not go down that road not just because of your well-being, but because of how addiction affects your family.

Rating: 5/5

Review: Rush



                                        A More Humanistic Film About The 'Rush' Of Racing

                        Race car driving isn't exactly my cup of tea, and I watched this film with a rather open mind. But, when I watched this film, I was surprised by how this film wasn't necessarily about race car driving, but takes a real-life story about two rival Formula 1 racers and uses it as the template for a morality tale.

                        Story:
                       Rush is based on a true story about two Formula 1 racers named Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) who, back in the 70's, had a heated and intense rivalry. As their rivalry develops, they begin to feel a more competitive edge and the need to be number one as their egos begin to clash on and off the race track.

                      What I Liked About It:
                     First off, I absolutely loved how there is no hero or villain in this movie. The two main characters are more anti-heroes and I even liked how the two main actors aren't afraid to play the more unlikable sides of the people they are portraying. What was interesting about Lauda and Hunt was just how even though something about each of them makes you want to punch them, you still find more admirable qualities to them. Niki Lauda is a driver who, while very arrogant and having an "I'm-better-than-you" attitude, he is still intensely devoted to his job and to his wife. But James Hunt is more of a cocky playboy and while being an excellent driver is more into the luxury of it all, like the sex and partying. However, he almost tries to move away from that by settling down and getting married like Lauda. So, I loved how there are gray areas to be found within the main characters and that makes the film more humanistic.

                   I also really loved the performances from the cast. Chris Hemsworth really shines as James Hunt and I don't recall seeing any traces of Thor in his performance, so this is almost a complete 180 from his performance as Thor. Daniel Bruhl was phenomenal as Niki Lauda and I'm not sure if I can say words about just how good he was. However, one actress I'd love to discuss is one that has little screen time but makes the most of it. That actress is Olivia Wilde, who plays Hunt's supermodel wife Suzy Miller. Wilde has maybe about 2 to 3 scenes, but when she is on screen, in my opinion, she has a large presence. Another thing I liked was the direction from Ron Howard. I feel that when you watch this film and the look of it, you wouldn't expect it to be a Ron Howard movie. He directs it with such flare and energy, that it makes the film quite an entertaining thrill to watch and not just a unique character study.

                 What I Didn't Like About It:
                Nothing.

                 Consensus:
                Overall, Rush is a genuine surprise that I just couldn't help but love. It is not only entertaining but features a humanistic story and outstanding performance from the two lead actors, Hemsworth and Bruhl. If you watch this thinking it is just about race car driving, then you will be shocked as it is a morality tale that just happens to be about two real-life race car drivers. This one I would highly recommend!

Rating: 4.5/5


   

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Retro Review: Vertigo (1958)


                                 'Vertigo': A Subtle Thriller As Intense As The Fear of Heights

                       I have made no secret about this but one of my biggest fears is acrophobia, which is also known as the fear of heights. Before watching this film, I figured it would be about the main character dealing with his acrophobia, but surprisingly not and that definitely made the film more interesting.

                       Story:
                     Vertigo is about a former policeman named Scottie (James Stewart) who retires after an accident involving a fellow policeman and his fear of heights. He is then called back into action by a colleague named Gavin (Tom Helmore) who asks him to investigate his wife Madeline (Kim Novak) who believes she is being possessed by her great-grandmother. Along the way, Scottie finds himself becoming infatuated with her.

                     What I Liked About It:
                   Since this is a Hitchcock film, I would normally talk about the direction first, but I won't here. His direction was of course outstanding, but I'd rather discuss the concept first. The film is somewhat of a noir thriller as it deals with an average Joe being caught up with a femme fatale, has some ambiguous supernatural elements, deals with one of humanity's most common fears as well as the theme of "chasing old ghosts", so to speak. So, major kudos to the person who wrote the original story the film is based on and the visionaries who made the film, especially the late great Hitchcock. Now onto his direction. In this film, Hitchcock manages to use dizzy camera shots to make those who watch the film feel how Scottie feels when he is getting vertigo and I thought that was a nice touch.

                   Another thing that I really liked was the performances. James Stewart really shines as the dynamic Scottie, who as the film progresses becomes more obsessive yet hopelessly in love. He doesn't necessarily play George Bailey, but he certainly doesn't play Norman Bates. Kim Novak is also fantastic as Madeleine, the object of Scottie's affection. I found Novak to be both haunting and towards the end, heartbreaking. But another actress I'd like to acknowledge is Barbara Bel Geddes who plays Scottie's confidante Midge. Bel Geddes is rather enigmatic as Midge and kind of has you wondering what is up with her.

                   What I Didn't Like About It:
                  Nothing.

                  Consensus:
                Overall, Vertigo is an intense thriller that more than earns its reputation as a classic. It has romance, intrigue, horror, and great performances, especially from Stewart and Novak. This is one you do not want to miss. I have a feeling it may leave some confused, or feeling "dizzy", if you will, but it is worth the two hours.

Rating: 4.5/5