Wednesday, December 23, 2009

V For Vendetta - 5/5

Well, I'll be damned. This film could have turned out horrid. Seriously, there are so many elements that could have come across as ridiculously cheesy and idiotic. A story about a man whom spends a solid portion of his life planning for a single event taken from the pages of history to repeat and help set a Britain of the future on a new path. Really? All right McTeigue, hit me with your best shot.

Truthfully, there is still a nice layer of 'other worldliness' to the film that makes it over the top, but it only counter balances some of the great seriousness of topic. It's based on a graphic novel so of course some retention of 'comic book' elements will remain. But with solid as brick wall writing through political and philosophical ideologies with a sense of culture and a clever style and eye from director McTeigue, this film comes off as anything but brilliant. It's this balance of fantasy and reality that makes this a film of universal appeal and yet pure film entertainment too...a potent and perfect combination.

I have to give props to the acting too. Of course the story and the directing are superb as mentioned before, but stunning acting from all parties makes this all the more real. For an extremist terrorist, its hard not to love V in all his elusive and brilliant foresight in this film. Hell, the actor and character have to work with a stationary mask the entire film and still with body language and proper use of voice work we feel as much for him as we do for Natalie Portman (whom gives one of her best performances here too). Even the supporting cast is sick good with Stephen Rea and Stephen Fry stealing a good portion of their scenes with more subtlety then the script should have needed. Again, it was a brilliance of balance.

For a film that is well over 2 hours, this baby flies by when its on and it sticks with you for weeks after watching it. The interesting moral choices made and brought forth in the script (like my violence necessary for peace?) and some of the great character work concerning fear, death, and life this is not only a riveting watch, but an amazing thinker of a film.

This is one of those classics that will forever remain on my list of amazing films. It's thought provoking, edgy, and yet never misses a beat to entertain. One of the best films of balancing I've ever seen. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Gate, The - 4/5

They just don't make movies like this today. There was this 'thing' about the 80s where you could make a movie that was both immensely campy and still ridiculously awesome at the same time and never have to apologize for either. It's one of the reasons I miss the 80s style film and the reason that "The Gate" is such a classic in the genre.

Left at home with the parents gone for a weekend. If you were an 11 year old boy and his slightly older teenage sister, what would you do? Throw a party? Check. Stay up late? Check. Open a gate into Hell? Check. Cause that's what these kids do when an old tree is removed from the backyard and unleashes a series of off the wall/weird as fuck events that threatens to overrun the world with midget demons, visions of terror, and a giant 2 story old world God snake demon. Plot isn't going to be too intense, but its fun to just ride shotgun on this trip into Hell on Earth.

"The Gate" is a fun film. Watching this, its hard not to smile the entire time. I mean watching Stephen Dorff as this 11 year old kid obsessed with launching small plastic rockets and wanting to impress the teenagers just makes me smile. The idea that they learn about the gate to hell and how to close it from the booklet folds of a vinyl Heavy Metal album from "Sacrifyx" makes you smile. The off beat humor (sometimes very dark like with the dog situation and Terry's mom) makes you smile. Hell, even the damn solid pre-CGI special effects is going to slap a big ass grin on your face. Those little demons are both cute and utterly terrifying. It takes talent to ride that line. That's what "The Gate" does best - it has fun the entire time it plays out. Since it's having fun with itself, its almost guaranteed that you are going to have fun too.

Still, its not a perfect film. The logic jumps can be a little large. 'Hey guys, I know we just had to run and hide for our lives...but I thought I would invite the boys over for a party. Surprise! Wait, you want us to leave? Be real, Al!' Damn that part was a little much. And for the most part the film tends to be a little dated for its own good. The plot point of the plastic rockets tends to be a thing of the past a bit too much (although I know they still exist) and the Heavy Metal Satanist pull could work nowadays but not quite as easily. I was relatively surprised with the acting though, which sells some of it, particularly from our three main kids with specific nods to the older sister. Color me surprised indeed.

With all in all, said and done (what the fuck did I just say there?!) "The Gate" is just a fun film that succeeds on far more levels than it probably should have. The special effects are whack, the relatively simplistic story spins itself nicely, and the acting works for what it needs. Not to mention it takes a few chances that become very memorable concepts and scenes. The tiny demons and the ending King Demon make for impressive plot ideas. "The Gate" works...I kinda didn't want them to close it at the end. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Jennifer's Body - 3/5

It's hard for me to review this movie. Partially because I'm not sure how to write this review. Should I review Jennifer's Body as a horror film or should I review it under the eye as a teenage pop culture film (similar to say how Sixteen Candles was in the 80s). I mean it didn't quite garner a lot of momentum in either direction but its a combination didn't quite mix either to be a great horror comedy. Thus, I'm as torn on how I like this film as the film itself is on what it wants to be.

On one hand, it definitely has this satirical side to it that is definitely there to poke fun at the youth of today. On this side of the film, it actually works quite well. The extreme conditions of both, essentially cliche, characters and even the ridiculousness of the events surrounding them (the supposedly satanic band was perhaps my favorite part of the film considering how non-satanic they were) create this almost fairy tale morality tale that worked for me. The humor was a bit hit or miss, I'm not sure I caught some of the references since I'm no longer of that age, but I understood what they were shooting for.

On the other deformed hand, this film does have its fair share of problems. Both Fox and Seyfried struggle with their acting (the former mostly due to the fact that we actually have to sympathize with her character and watch her grow far more insane with time) and Needy's (Seyfried) voice over narration lacks a lot of charm that could have made that element fun. The pacing lacks in a bit of places, and it meanders into a few tangential places where the metaphors and symbolism don't quite work like they might, and even though the over the top story works for the majority of the film, it falls flat at the end with the climax and eventual battle between the two leading ladies.

The film does ooze a bit of charm here and there and its satirical approach to the genre and story did it wonders from being the teenage horror film it could have solely catered towards. Jennifer's Body definitely could have been a better film, as it does suffer from careening a bit too far into the modern teen horror market particularly towards the end, but it has some great moments. For me, Jennifer's Body sits right in the middle of the ranking. Not great, but not bad either. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Perfect Getaway, A - 3.5/5

Thrillers aren't my usual type. Most of them have great performances and nice tension but usually fail when it comes to originality and payoff. Which is where I am torn on "A Perfect Getaway".

When I thought about it after the movie, it didn't come across as all that original. Two couples on vacation in Hawaii become cautious and paranoid of each other when they find out that there is a killer couple stalking the Hawaiian islands. Really? That's all you got for me? The general concept lacks a bit of zeal. Luckily, most of that is made up for by some pretty legit performances and some stylistic directing (not to mention the beautiful landscapes of Hawaii for a backdrop).

Of our four main characters, it was not surprising to see that Milla Jovovich was the weakest link. She did a fine job but I also think her character development got the shaft when it came to the film. Most of her arc comes in the form of black and white flash backs in the final act of the film, so that it feels rushed and somewhat forced. Whereas, the Timothy Olyphant character has a wonderfully developed back story to match his surprisingly solid acting ability. He is such a talent that just has some of the worst roles out there that he may never get the credit he deserves (hopefully the upcoming "Crazies" remake does him justice) and essentially he carries a lot of this movie on his back.

Maybe I'm the only one out there that felt the twist at the end wasn't all that surprising. I mean, the story tries very hard to make everything a 'red snapper' that I thought it was pretty simplistic to just move the other way. The film does try very hard to make the mystery of the film larger than it really is. Not to give anything away (its the point of a Thriller isn't it?) but if you watch this, than think about the clues they send you.

"A Perfect Getaway" is one of the better Thriller's I've seen in a while, just carried on through the charm or our actors/characters and through Twohy's pretty stylish take on it. The flashbacks seem to be a bit much (they also tried very hard to justify the twist when it didn't need all that much) and the overall story isn't all that original. But this film definitely has a charm to it. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider