Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pick of the Week: Chinatown

I have to admit that my exposure to Jack Nicholson movies is limited. So pardon me for my perception that his characters are generally as over-the-top and brash as in Batman, One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest and As Good as It Gets. If this is your only exposure to Jack Nicholson, you have to see this movie. In Chinatown, Nicholson plays Jake Gittes, a private investigator who is hired by Mrs. Mulwray, the wife of the chief engineer of the city's water department, to find out if her husband is having an affair. When news of the affair explodes all over the papers, Gittes is soon confronted by the real Mrs. Mulwray who claims that she never hired Gittes. When Mr. Mulwray ends up dead, Gittes suddenly finds himself conducting a murder investigation for the real Mrs. Mulwray. Gittes soon learns just how complicated the situation really is.

My commentary: Jack Nicholson was amazing in this movie. Compared to the other roles I've seen him in, this one was much more subdued than usual, but his dry humour made the character much funnier than I anticipated. Overall, I really enjoyed this movie, the twists were unexpected and for the most part, not too over the top. I also loved how it was pretty much set as a 30's detective flick. As much as I liked this movie, it probably won't be on my list of movies to watch over and over, but I would still recommend it for a Friday night in.

Rating: ******* (7 out of 10)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bomb of the Week: Made of Honor

Oofta. An infinite amount of estrogen couldn't have made sitting through this film a pleasant experience.When I first caught a glimpse of Patrick Dempsey as Dr. Derek Shepard, Grey's Anatomy was beginning to gain momentum as the "newest medical drama". The ingredients to this overnight sensation were: stethoscopes, drama, and sex, sex, sex. It's no surprise that this role didn't stray far from that formula. Enter the ultimate chick flick... Made of Honor.

Tom (Dempsey) is falling in love with his best friend, Hannah (Michelle Monaghan). He insists on dating the "wrong girls" for all of the "right reasons" when she searches for "Mr. Right" in all of the wrong places. After a trip to Scotland, Hannah returns to The States with a new perspective on relationships... And a new fiancee.

Hannah asks Tom to be her "maid" of honor and ignites a flame under his butt that rivals the Great Chicago Fire.

My Commentary: To spare everyone the agony of sitting through 101 minutes of pure sugar-coated torture... I will NOT recommend Made of Honor to the average cinemaniac. Dempsey plays a guy who never gets his timing right. Murphy's Law is in full swing as our hero tries countless times to prove his devotion to the fair maiden. It's too little, too late if you ask me.

Rating: **** (4 out of 10)

P.S. There is some symbolism in the film.. The hairdo signifies the satisfaction viewers feel after watching Made of Honor. I rest my case.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pick of the Week: The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption is based on Stephen King's novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. The movie follows Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) as he is arrested for his wife's murder and sent to Shawshank State Prison in Maine. Dufresne endures the various hardships of life in prison (such as beatings from the guards and getting roped into the Warden's scams). Dufresne befriends fellow inmate Red (Morgan Freeman), who "knows how to get things" and the two develop a bond that makes both of them realize that the only way to endure the years in Shawshank is to always keep hope alive. "Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies." - Andy Dufresne

My Commentary: While I'm not often a fan of Stephen King, I am nearly always a fan of Morgan Freeman, and this is very possibly his finest performance. Robbins' Andy seems to exude an integrity and hope that begins to rub off on the other prisoners, and even the audience. This is one of the few movies out there that has the right mix of reality and hope, making you feel warm and fuzzy inside without the saccharin sweetness of feel-good-movies.
Favorite Scene: Anything with Morgan Freeman's narration.

When to watch: Anytime, this movie is a classic, whether you want to snuggle up with a blanket and a bowl of popcorn, need a flick to watch with your significant other, or just need something playing in the background while you're doing homework.

Rating: ********** (10 out of 10)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

There Will Be Blood... And Boy, Was There...

Oh. My. Gosh. 

Our heads are exploding and imploding simultaneously.  Thank goodness we don't believe in spontaneous combustion.

The film began with Daniel Plainview (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) mining for silver.  After striking oil, Plainview becomes obsessed with the power and control it brings.  An unfortunate accident (with a bucket and wooden post) brings Plainview unexpected parenthood - along with unexpected success.  He uses his adopted son to play on the sympathies of landowners.  Plainview is approached by Paul Sunday (played by Paul Dano) with an intriguing offer of "oil that seeps from the land." With the help of his son, Plainview investigates Paul's claims and gives Eli Sunday and his family an offer too good to refuse.  Eli, a charismatic preacher (imagine a younger John Lithgow in Footloose), requests to give a blessing at the oil drilling ceremony.  Daniel Plainview gives Eli the brush-off and begins a journey of destruction and insanity.  

There Will Be Blood was nominated for 8 Academy Awards and won 2 for Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Best Cinematography (Robert Elswit).  Critics seem to have a love/hate relationship with this film and now we understand why.  The story, loosely based upon Upton Sinclair's novel Oil!, is incredibly depressing with traces of humor and sarcasm.  We note the humor is somewhat forced and mostly out of desperation on the part of the audience.  Day-Lewis and Dano interacted with epic intensity that, in our opinion, cannot be replicated.  

April's Favorite Scene:  After his son is injured at the drilling site, Daniel Plainview is talking business with some of his associates, when Eli approaches with the intention of asking for the money owed him.  The two end up scuffling in the muddy oil.  Although the scenario is absurd, the intensity of the actors carries the moment without a single laugh from the audience.  
Tiffany's Favorite Scene:  H.W. Plainview, Daniel's adopted son, is injured from an explosion at the drilling site.  Daniel rushes to the scene, scoops the boy up into his arms, and brings him to safety.  The audience is placed in H.W.'s shoes when the film goes silent.  Daniel yells to his son and we hear nothing.  This scene is the catalyst that changes the film's tone from that moment on.

Final Thoughts:  Overall, There Will Be Blood would not qualify for our Top Ten of 2008 list.  We acknowledge the Oscar wins were very much deserved. Day-Lewis gave a spectacularly intense performance and pushed the acting standards to new levels.  Elswit set up jaw-dropping visuals and placed us smack-dab in the grimy dirt of Southern California.  While there aren't nearly as many casualties as a horror flick, There Will Be Blood contains brutal violence.  It is not for the faint of heart.  

Rating:  ******* (7 out of 10)

Coming Soon!

Our first ever commentary: There Will Be Blood.

We're seeing it tonight, so look for our new post soon!

Hey-oh! we say in the Midwest!

If you've stumbled upon our little site, you are in for a treat! If you've come from Musings from Min or April's Weblog, we welcome you to our venture... Film criticism! It will be a hoot! If you have been here before, welcome back and we look forward to your return... After your addiction to this site is assured.