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Derivative, pass on this one and watch a rerun of "Fight Club" on basic cable instead
This film borrows way too much from "Fight Club. The visual style,the tone of the narrative voice and certain plot devices are especially obvious. "Limitless" opens in exactly the same point in the chronology that "Fight Club" does, with main character in a similar predicament. But the storyline,among other things, is not nearly as clever or compelling. I guess you could say it just doesn't pack the same punch. (Sorry about that). At times it's just plain boring. Robert De Niro's presence adds some gravity to the production but there really isn't much for him to do with his character, so even he can't rescue this pretty looking failure from itself. You'd be better off watching a slashed version of "Fight Club" on basic cable for the umpteenth time.
The Last Wave (1977)
A mixed bag of great visuals and a blurry plot
This is one of those movies that makes you chuckle at the end because it did not answer any of the questions it sparked along the way. Yet, the more I think or talk about it the deeper it seems. The best supernatural thrillers are those that end with a sense of closure coupled with ambiguity. To me this is more "real" than a film that pretends to have all of the answers. No matter how enmeshed one becomes in the supernatural there will always remain a sense of mystery. Our natural minds just cannot completely encompass the purpose and mechanics of the supernatural world. More than once the Old Testament says of God "His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thinking." In the New Testament Paul wrote that at best we "see through a glass darkly". I believe this sums up the inherent futility of man's attempt to impose his logic on a dimension that has it's own separate logic. It's a language we cannot speak, spoken on a frequency we can rarely and barely discern if ever at all.
Weir succeeds in conveying a sense of consciousness in nature phenomenon. In fact the weather appears to be separate character with it's own distinct visage and voice. This is the films greatest achievement.
The film sets everything up well but ultimately fails to engage us plot. At pivotal moments the key characters motivations are not clear at all. Why does Chamberlains character do that at the end? Why is this place or that thing so special? I really didn't understand the most fundamental plot device until I watched the interview included in the extras. A great film doesn't require Cliff's notes.
I think Weir was trying to give us sense of the supernatural and our relation to it by "implying" it through sounds and images. That's good. It works. This is "real". The problem is that the plot is also merely implied. While I was enticed to watch until the end and pleased with the mood of the film in the end there was no payoff.
A Poor Man's "Brazil"
I love good black comedies. The best example of a true black comedy is "Dr. Strangelove". Although it's plot revolves around the possibility of the complete destruction of humanity it still manages to be funny from beginning to end. The problem with many black comedies is, although they have an absurd basis, they are just to bleak to be deserving of the description "comedy". "Visoneers" does manage to supply a handful of mildly humorous moments. Most of the real humor is generated by Zach Galafianakis body language. But, overall, this one fails as a comedy. That might be forgivable if the film turned out to be as original as it's synopsis implies. Unfortunately as the story progresses it degenerates into a low budget clone of Terry Gilliam's "Brazil". "Visioneers" also borrows way too heavily from other films such as "Fahrenheit 451", "Network", "1984" and even "Idiocracy." Although "Visioneers" is not without some merit, there are much better ways to spend an hour and thirty-five minutes
Synecdoche, New York (2008)
Imagine If They Castrated David Lynch....
I'm beginning to think "Adaptation" was a fluke. Some of the most absurd, surreal films like "Brazil" and "The Machinist" are among my favorites. But others like "The Element of Crime" and "Naked Lunch" I found to be long and annoying. What's the difference between the two groups? What makes a film fascinating instead of tiring? Before I am willing to go through the mental gymnastics the filmmakers must make me a give a crap what happens to the characters. If they do I will follow them to end even if it that end makes no sense at all. I remember when I first saw "Lost Highway". I was a bit baffled but still left the theater with a sense of closure. David Lynch created a great sense of mystery at the beginning of that film. And I did feel an affinity with the characters. "Synecdoche" failed to make that connection. It's also rambling and could have been more succinct. I was so annoyed that I almost popped it out of the DVD about 1.5 hours into it. Kaufman could easily have lost 30-45 minutes in the cutting room. In the end Kaufman does wrap it up and makes his point very clearly. It's obvious what he's been trying to say. But despite the resolution I don't recommend this film. There are a few a few genuinely witty moments but overall it's a neurotic bummer. The whole next day I felt like my brain needed a shower. Imagine if they castrated David Lynch, loaded him up with Valium and gave him a crew. You'd get something like this.
Now that the glass is broken what do the pieces reflect?
When I first saw Bergman's "The Seventh Seal" I was a bit disappointed. Most of the reviews I'd read raved about the surreal visual aspects of the film. Unfortunately I'd already seen the best visuals in the stills that accompanied the same reviews. Perhaps I was disappointed because I was so focused on the visuals that I wasn't listening to the dialog. After seeing "Hour of the Wolf" I am eager to see the "Seal" again, not with fresh eyes but with fresh ears. The language in "Wolf" is extremely poetic and sometimes musical without seeming unnatural. It's rife with great quotes. The title of this review is an approximation of one such quote. Unfortunately I saw this on TCM without the benefit of Tivo. I could not pause or rewind therefore I was unable to verify the exact phrasing. The imagery and symbolism in "Wolf" is less obvious than in the "Seal". Bergman's power to horrify lies partly in his ability to instill the ordinary with intriguingly terrifying undertones. In this respect David Lynch is Bergman's obvious heir. Max Von Sydow is perfect for the lead. It's obvious why he was also chosen to play the Harry Haller in "Steppenwolf". I suspect that "Wolf" was heavily influenced by Herman Hesse's book. Although this is usually classified as a horror film many hardcore horror fans may be disappointed. It's creepy and cerebral rather than explicit or visceral. I recommend "The Hour of the Wolf" to fans of mind benders like "The Machinist" and fans of German Expressionism. Some fans of supernatural thrillers like "The Mothman Prophecies" might also enjoy it. But regardless of your proclivities it's a work of genius. Anyone with a serious interest in film as high art must see "The Hour of the Wolf".
Forest Gump with Progeria
There isn't a single plot point in this pig that doesn't correspond directly to "Forest Gump." The best imagery was also stolen from "Gump". Those deep south accents were too charming to lose so Fincher just moved the bulk of the action over a state or two. Instead of "Life is like a box of chocolates, You never know what you're gonna get" there is "You never know what's comin for you" or something like that. It really doesn't matter. Instead of a floating feather we are given a fluttering hummingbird and balloon for good measure. Fincher moved the story back a few decades so instead of the Viet Nam war we have WW2. Instead of shrimp boat we have a tugboat. There is the sudden unexpected windfall. And at the core is the on again, off again relationship with the wild, "damaged goods" childhood sweetheart. Of course the star crossed lovers finally get together long enough to conceive a child but, tragically, one of them abandons the other all too soon. Etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum. Brad Pitt's credibility wears off as he is slowly stripped of his make up. The epilogue feels like a United Way commercial. However, overall the production is glossy and visually well constructed. Usually I will give a film at least a 5-7 if the technical aspects are as good as these. But I was so appalled I am reluctant to give it any stars at all. The only reason I sat through the whole 2 hours and 46 minutes is so I could discuss how bad this really is. A friend defended "Button" by stating that this movie is "like 'Magnolia'. You either love it or you hate it." I disagree. I hated "Magnolia" but at least it had an original script. David Fincher's cred is spent as far as I am concerned. I can't believe he got away with it.
The Wrestler (2008)
Predictable, Artsy Rocky Sequel
Despite its much-touted performances the Wrestler simply did not connect with me. Darren Aronofsky is definitely one of the best living directors. I am certain that history will bear this out. However This is without a doubt his least successful effort to date. The story line is predictable. The characters and plot have been rehashed from a host of existing movies revolving around washed up athletes, rock stars, celebrities and workaholic dads. At best it's an artsy "Rocky" sequel. I'm very happy for Mickey Rourke. He's finally found his comeback vehicle. It's his story, not the film itself, that's created and sustained the entire buzz. But neither he nor Marisa Tormei nor the cinematography was enough to carry this film. This is a great argument that, in film anyway, the sum of the parts doesn't always equal the whole. It just doesn't add up.
Salinui chueok (2003)
The Film That Couldn't Decide What It Wanted To Be
This film vacillates between comedy and drama. Given the subject matter one could assume that this falls into the realm of dark comedy. I love dark comedy but it just doesn't come off that way. Most of the cops are complete buffoons. I kept expecting the one in the middle to crack the heads of the other two together a la Moe. One minute they are running around like Jackie Chan and Chris Rock in "Rush Hour" the next minute they are immersed in a gruesome autopsy. The story is based on real events. I hope that the writer took liberties with his portrayals of the police. If this is accurate it's very sad. I am left with no respect for the Korean police and disgusted by their methods. Is it "48 Hours" or is it a true crime version of "Seven"? I don't know and neither did the director.
Electra Glide in Blue (1973)
Surprisingly good film with a unique visual style
Robert Blake stars as trooper Wintergreen, the last honest man policing the desert around his tiny western town. He is a short man who wants to prove that he measures up by transferring to the homicide division. Righteously angered by his experiences as a detective he realizes that he is already a better man than those he'd hoped to emulate.
This is a surprisingly good film with a very unique visual style. Interior shots are often very close. We see only parts of the characters bodies, inanimate objects and the mundane details that compose an average day. There are many ways of interpreting this. Some shots seem to be taken at Wintergreen's height, allowing us to see through his eyes. It isn't until Wintergreen dons the uniform that we see him as a complete person. Most exterior shots are wide. Wintergreen then becomes insignificant against the panoramas of the American badlands despite the uniform. By the end of the film he is completely lost in the landscape.
Blake manages to project Wintergreen's insecurity very well. It's refreshing to see him play someone other than the cocky "Barretta" or an innocent man on trial for his wife's murder.
There are obvious parallels to "Easy Rider" that may disappoint some viewers. But these are intentional, inviting us to see the flip side of the antagonistic relationship between law enforcement and the counter-culture.
I had previously not heard of this film. I guess it has been buried under Blake's somewhat undeserved reputation as a poor actor. It makes me wonder what might have been if Blake had made better career choices. Overall this film was a pleasant surprise and I do recommend it.
Paradise Now (2005)
Entertaining but incomplete film with high production qualities.
This is an entertaining film with high production qualities. The story revolves around two would be suicide bombers. Maybe I am wrong but I got the impression that the film makers wanted to make us understand (not justify) why young men with their whole lives ahead of them would choose this path. We see the forbidden parts of the city through a fence, Israeli soldiers checking papers etc. The two main characters are very genuine and even likable. Through their eyes we look upon the forbidden zone through a fence, watch Israeli soldiers checking papers etc. Like many young men all over the world their lives are in limbo and they have few choices. Still I am not able to understand how these two average Joe's suddenly become would be suicide bombers. I guess we are supposed to believe that most suicide bombers are nice young men not brainwashed fanatics. A link in the chain is missing. It just isn't credible. Maybe if they knocked over a liquor store with a water pistol instead? That I could believe.