Crime dramas are an important genre in Hollywood. Unlike the action-adventure, science-fiction and fantasy genres, it doesn’t use the formula of a down-and-out guy dreaming the big dream who rises up through the course of the movie. Instead it brings something new to the table each time. Whether your sympathetic to the characters despite their criminal nature(The Godfather) or they are scum who help provide a message on why crime is not the correct path in life(Goodfellas), you need to differentiate your movie each time. And that’s what I like about Payback(1999).
The plot follows criminal partners, Porter(Mel Gibson) and Val(Gregg Henry). Val steals Porter’s entire share of the money they stole and it’s Porter’s intention to get it back. The movie doesn’t use morals or ethics to explain the wrongs that Porter is doing nor does it make you sympathise with him, it allows you to make your mind up yourself. He’s cocky, sarcastic and will do anything to get what he wants. But even though what he is doing is wrong, I find myself rooting for him the whole way. In a more dramatic and profound movie, he’d be simply evil. But this isn’t oscar worthy brilliance, this is just sheer fun and like the adventure genre, he does have a goal despite it being a very twisted one.
I won’t dare spoil what happens through out the coarse of the movie because it has so many engaging twists and turns, that you just have to see it for yourself. But I will say this. I enjoyed watching Porter. He’s a criminal, but he’s a likeable criminal. Gibson embodies the character perfectly and it’s a thoroughly engaging movie.
When critiquing a movie, it’s very important to compare it to other films so readers will know whether to go see it or not based on what movies they like. But it’s also important not to be to dependent on other movies in the category because you may judge a film unfairly if it isn’t quite as good as another movie that is similar. Despicable Me(2010) is definitely a movie where you shouldn’t compare to much, but we’ll get into that later.
The plot follows a criminal who plans on shrinking the moon down to a small size and stealing it(don’t ask) so he adopts 3 sisters from an orphanage to help him with his plan. The plot is very bizarre and doesn’t make much sense if you over think it but in a movie like this, it really doesn’t matter. You go to see it if you have kids, if you want to enjoy some humour or if your a fan of any of the voice actors. You don’t go to see it for the plot. And as surreal as the concept is it’s executed well enough for it to never feel to strange.
The first thing that caught my attention about the film is Steve Carell. His supporting roles in Bruce Almighty(2003) and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy(2004) were great but his starring role in The 40 Year Old Virgin(2005) was what made him a star and simply because it’s one of the funniest movie ever made. Since then he’s been giving some excellent dramatic performances in films like Dan in Real Life(2007) and Crazy,Stupid,Love(2011) while still maintaining his comedic roots. His voice talent here is undeniable. He decided to use a very unique accent that could not be applied to any specific race. It’s like a really bad Bela Legosi impression but it adds so much humour to the character and the lines just work. I can’t see him without that accent.
The kids are great to and Jason Segel does a decent job as the antagonist but the actor that surprised me most was Russel Brand. I tend to hate this guy, his performance in Arthur(2011) is one of the lamest things i’ve ever seen(which saddens me as the 1982 original Arthur is a classic) and he always comes off arrogant in his interviews. But here he was actually really funny. Instead of playing an obnoxious millionaire like in all his films, he’s just a mad scientist and he pulls it off rather well.
Now let’s get back to my starting point. There have been quite a few superhero, animated films. The Incredibles(2004) was the first and is in my opinion one of the best animated films of recent times. And just a year after Despicable Me, another one came out Megamind which was decent but nothing special. I think Despicable Me is somewhere in between. It doesn’t quite tell as gripping a story as The Incredibles but it’s filled with plenty of pretty animation, funny voices and great visual jokes. If that’s your thing you’ll probably enjoy Despicable Me. Megamind had all that to but to be honest, it just wasn’t as funny. I found myself laughing much harder at Despicable Me and enjoyed the characters a lot more than Megamind. It’s just the better movie
Overall, Despicable Me is a fun animation. It’s a little slow, at first I thought I didn’t like it but it turned out to be decent. It’s no masterpiece but good fun for a first viewing.
Last year on Friday the 13th, I watched Poltergeist(1982) for the first time. Now that Halloween had crept it’s way around the corner it makes me feel like watching it again(Yet unfortunately I don’t own the DVD or Blu-ray).
The plot follows a peaceful couple living a quiet suburban live who’s daughter begins interacting with ghosts. You may think you’ve heard this plot before but what makes Poltergeist stand out from the rest of the crowd is how the story progresses and the creativity behind all the scares.
You latch on to all of the characters and feel danger for them which always helps in a horror movie because it makes you care enough to feel scared of what’s going to happen. There’s plenty of creepy stuff about the theories of ghosts and where they come from but it knows not to give to much away because it knows there’s nothing more terrifying then your imagination. Yet will all that being said the movie isn’t subtle the whole way through, in fact there is some incredibly over the top moments that add to the horror. They even focus on minor things like the ghost investigators. Each one of these characters had unique personalities and one of them loses there mind because of how intense the situation is. Easily one of the scariest parts of the whole movie.
Aside from the scares, the movie has a lot of mixed emotions. There are several funny moments and I was even moved by some of what was going on. The scene when the mother breaks down into tears in the bathroom can either be scary or depressing depending on how you look at it. Personally, I found it depressing because of how shocking it gets. Instead of her crying into a pillow she is screaming and bawling over the loss of her daughter and the fear of never seeing her child again. Maybe if I watch it again, I will find the terror in the scene as it is very shocking and you have to really think about it to understand what you feel but upon initial reaction, it moved me. With all these mixed emotions, you’d think it might not be able to balance itself out but it actually remains very confident in what it is, a horror movie and the majority of the film does focus on scares.
What really scared me about this movie was the scale of everything. There are moments when you think the film is going to end yet it catches you by surprised and gets more and more terrifying. I don’t think any movie has ever scared me this much but with that being said I don’t know that much about horror films so im not the person to ask when looking for truly terrifying films. I am however appreciative of the genre and recommend Poltergeist to any fan of horror films or just escapism in general. Anyone who wants to watch a horror flick with their friends this All Hallow’s Eve should seriously consider renting this, if they don’t already own it. It’s one of the most bone-chilling movies ever made and an all time classic.
Few films reach the emotional complexity of American Beauty(1999). And when I say emotional I don’t necessarily mean in terms of touching drama but in terms of general emotions and feelings. Happiness, Sadness, Embarrassment. All of these feelings play an important part in life and we’re simply living a journey of endless opportunities. That’s where this film comes into play.
The plot follows Lester Burnam(Kevin Spacey) a 40-something year old on the verge of a mid-life crisis. He can’t find a sense of belonging anymore and his wife, Carolyn(Annette Benning) and daughter Jane(Thora Birch) think he’s a complete loser. Though Lester starts to feel young again upon meeting Jane’s friend Angela and lusting for her as well as seeing carelessness in his 18 year old neighbour Ricky.
Spacey is perfect in the role and gives what I think is the best performance of his career. He does anything to make himself feel young again and just doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him. He can be so funny and wild but also very wise and intelligent. He can be likeable and interesting but also threatening. In an excellent dinner table scene, Lester tells his family about how he quit his job. It’s one of the more shocking scenes in the film and needless to say, it’s brilliant. Spacey won an oscar for his performance and deservedly so.
The film is one of the most powerful I have seen, giving a lot of wisdom on life and all of the beauty of it. However there’s also a lot of funny scenes to. You find yourself laughing hysterically due to the absurdity of Lester’s situation but also sympathising with him because of the stress he’s going through. Certain film’s like last year’s dreadful dramatic comedy, The Dilema get very distracted with what kind of film they want to be, a drama or a comedy but not only does American Beauty blend the two genres better then probably any other film of it’s kind, it also actually creates a certain poetry.
Now let’s go back to the point I was trying to make on emotional complexity. Life has a lot of sadness and drama in it. There’s no escaping those depressing moments that keep you down. But there’s also so much laughter and humour in our every day lives. The blend of comedy and drama in American Beauty makes it feel like a celebration of life and there’s is no better way to describe it then that. What makes it feel even more like a celebration of life, is that although it mainly focuses on Lester, it is very much an ensemble piece. However I don’t have time to delve into all the characters.
American Beauty captures the spirit of life and how we can often find beauty in the strangest of places. It is one of the best films I have ever seen and deservedly won best picture of 1999.