Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Review: Kindergarten Cop (1990)

Director: Ivan Reitman
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Penelope Ann Miller, Pamela Reed, Joseph/Christian Cousins

Arnold Schwarezenegger is a kindergarten teacher in this movie. Ivan Reitman made him a pregnant woman and a kindergarten teacher; what kind of a sick man is this? But rest assured...Kindergarten Cop is definitely a good movie.

I really had to laugh when this movie opened up. I mean, what do we get? A family of drug dealers killing people in a public mall where everyone can see them, and then talking about their operations in a manicure shop? Check. Arnold teaming up with a woman with an eating disorder who has to stop in the car every five minutes, thus devoting more than necessary time of the film's duration to scenes of her puking and going to the bathroom? Check. Yeah, I was pretty sure I was in for a wild ride.

Oh, and there's a ferret, too!

But the rest of the movie is surprisingly really cool, as it unfolds into a cornucopia of personal crises, deception, crime and...well, teaching kindergarten. The movie juggles its themes well and when one plotline wears down, another one gears right back up. The acting is generally good, even from the kids, and the comedy is actually pretty damn funny. Lots of quotable lines and the movie kept me watching for the entire duration. The only real quip I had is that the movie really doesn't take the grittier themes it has far enough. Come on, guys, go balls-out and give us a better crime story to blend in with the excellently written "kindergarten" story. Don't wuss out.

But yeah. Good film, would watch again.

Review: Perfume: Story of a Murderer (2006)

Director: Tom Tykwer
Starring: Ben Whishaw, Alan Rickman, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Hurd-Wood

I think this movie would benefit from a scratch n' sniff card, if anything. That way, at least, we would be able to share the sheer euphoria emitted from Ben Whishaw as he portrays the main character in this movie.

Yes, Perfume: Story of a Murderer, the only movie to star a...the only movie with...okay, no more witty openings in this, I can't do it. This movie is just dark, dark, dark. Telling the story through the eyes of an omniprescent narrator, Perfume is about a young boy with an extraordinary sense of smell who tries to create the world's ultimate perfume through the use of dead girls. It is a twisted tale, thoroughly fairytale-like, and it manages to enthrall with a creeping pace and dark, artistic imagery throughout.

Ben Whishaw is a brilliant actor, and I have no idea how I've never heard of him before. His portrayal of Grenouille is inhuman, the character seeming more like an uncaged animal than a human being. His journey is one of few words, but every expression, every move he makes speaks volumes. Witness his transformation from a dogged-eyed snooper to a calculated murderer. He is deeply chilling and disturbing to watch. There is very little of anything resembling human in his eyes - you can tell he got real into this role, and I respect him all the more for it.

The story does not seem threatening at first so much as darkly sad and disturbing. In the first five minutes, we are fed images of a baby being born underneath a grimy slum fish stand, its uterus cord severed with a dirty knife. We are then shown a series of images like worms, maggots, dead meat from animals, and other lovely things that are the first things our Grenouille smells as he enters the world. The film also contains an extensive orgy and scenes of cannibalism.

Now that I've gotten your attention, aren't you just enthralled to see this movie? Well, you should be, because it is as dark and mystical a tale as they come. Perfume is a slow-burner of a movie, with a lot of time devoted to the killer's upbringing and backstory, and it's really the only way they could have pulled this off and retained the elegant grace of the anecdotal aspects of the story. The focus isn't on the murders, it's on the sweeping, opaque terror that comes in waves with each new act, each build up. There is, as mentioned, a certain kind of elegance about it all, even in the darkest moments.

I really like the attention to detail of making perfume here. I don't know much about it and for all I know the movie could be stretching things in order to make the plot work, but oh, it does work. Dustin Hoffman as Beldini the perfumist gives the second best performance in the film next to Whishaw. Wonderful actor.

Really, there are no shortages of good scenes - the maze scene, Whishaw's ascent up the stairs of the hotel, and his subsequent standing over the girl's bed, and more - and no shortage of subtle terror to be found. Perfume is a master work. See it, be taken in by it and witness the insane beauty it holds.

Review: Overboard (1987)

Director: Garry Marshall
Starring: Kurt Russel, Goldie Hawn

This movie starring Kurt Russel and Goldie Hawn is a little more than I expected...although certainly not that much. It's about a hard-assed, fun loving Kurt Russel - I mean, construction worker, who is hired to make a cabinet for this snobby rich bitch played by Goldie Hawn. She's exuberantly over the top and not at all believable, and this isn't helped by the fact that the movie just brushes over her character without clearly defining it. Long story short, she snubs Russel, throws him off her ship and refuses to pay him any money. What a whore.

Well, karma comes-a-knockin' and she soon falls overboard too, losing her memory somehow and washing up on shore in small-town Elk Cove, a place she never would've visited otherwise. Russel decides to kidnap her and make her his "wife" so she can do the housework and take care of the kids to pay off the six hundred bucks she owes him.

See, that's a stupid idea for a plot. I was not excited at all when I first started watching this movie, and the silly, amateurish dialogue and weird-ass comedy didn't help. But I kept watching and sure enough, I see why people like this movie. Its strength mostly lies in the characters, as Russel and Hawn - real life husband and wife - do wonderful jobs at carrying the story and selling it to the audience. Maybe they're not the best actors in the world, but they work for this movie, and you really get to feel for them, as well as Russel's kids.

It's really not a great movie, but it's alright for what it is. It's solid and entertaining and actually gets a lot better, funnier and more interesting as it reaches the middle and end of the movie. Although I still have to wonder how the fuck Hawn's mother didn't know where she was if her husband did. That's a plothole that needs some cement, stat.

Review: What About Bob? (1991)

Director: Frank Oz
Starring: Bill Murray, Richard Dreyfuss

Psychology is a dangerous business, as Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) learns after taking on a new patient named Bob (Bill Murray). Bob has a lot of problems, from his fear of germs to his need for attachment, and although Dr. Marvin is going on vacation, it doesn't stop Bob from calling, pretending he's dead and even coming to visit to try and get himself some help. Surprisingly, though, Bob becomes a lot friendlier and more adept once he spends time with Marvin and his family - to the point where the family likes him almost as much as they like Marvin himself, sending the good doctor into a steep spiral into madness.

This movie is just hilarious. Bill Murray gives a great performance, always funny and charming as hell, even when he's really annoying. Watching him quarrel with the doctor Leo Marvin is side-splitting good, and by far the best parts of the movie are when the doctor is desperately trying to get him to go away, but he just keeps popping up again and again. He tells Bob to leave before the TV crews get there for his spot on Good Morning America? Bob becomes a television star. He commits Bob to a mental hospital? Bob makes friends with the staff and becomes even more well liked. He leaves Bob on the side of the road? Bob hooks up with his sister. It's almost like watching a Roadrunner cartoon, or something - it's the same kind of boisterous, innocent comedy that will never get old. As the movie progresses, Leo begins to get crazier and crazier, never able to foil Bob's "plans" no matter how hard he tries, until he finally gets crazy enough to try and blow him up.

Really, the strength of the movie is just that rambunctious innocence that it has. There's nothing really dirty or scandalous about it at all; it's just good, clean fun. The movie skips along like a rock on the water, compulsively watchable and funny to boot. It's short enough to not get boring and the movie never runs out of ideas. Although I do have to say the ending felt a little rushed. I just know they could have done a lot more with this. The doctor's spiral into madness is kind of rushed, like they were afraid of going too far or something. Bah, I say, go ahead and go as far as you like! That's the beauty of it. What about Bob? Well, Bob is the star of this great movie. Now where the hell is my sequel? This deserves one.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Just a little forewards to anyone who may come across this site...yes, this is a movie review site, not intended to be commercial or advertising the films we review, so there may be SPOILERS abound in any number of reviews. Maybe sometimes it won't be necessary, but this is my disclaimer to anyone who may read these and get upset if something is spoiled for them.

Have a nice day, then!

Review: A Perfect Getaway (2009)

Director: David Twohy
Starring: Steve Zahn, Timothy Olyphant, Milla Jovovich, Kiele Sanchez

Moral of the story: Don't go to Hawaii for your honeymoon, or else you'll probably get stalked by two drug-addled killers and subsequently killed by them. Yes, something is in the water in the tropical paradise southwards of the States, with bodies turning up and a general feel of unease mucking up the otherwise perfect honeymoons of people like Cliff and Cydney, newlyweds who are embarking on a rather twisted trip...

Yes, this is A Perfect Getaway, a movie that is much better than it rightfully should be. Witness the crystal clear blue oceans, the slightly grey tint of the clouds against the golden sun, the greens and blues of the wilderness and the white sands of the beaches...and then put that against fearful paranoia and intense thoughts of 'who is he really?' I think that's the first advantage this movie has over others. Yeah, at first it looks a little generic, but once the Hawaii landscapes unfold, it's actually a really good place for a horror/thriller movie. It's been done in similar places, but something about this particular setting just balances the wrongness with the pleasant side of the state very, very well.

The story itself focuses on Cliff (Steve Zahn) as the whitest of the white guys ever to exist, a newlywed with his wife Cydney (Milla Jovovich) going to Hawaii to enjoy the scenery. They meet up with a shady couple that Cliff thinks is "suitable for framing." Then, they meet Timothy Olyphant, which would be enough to scare me alone, except for the fact that he actually does a wonderful job in this movie. He's playing Nick, a bad-ass, rough-n-tumble ex-military vacationing with his girlfriend Gina (Kiele Sanchez). Each couple has doubts about one another, and paranoia escalates as the film's runtime does - seen it before, but what surprised me here was exactly how well this is all done.

See, the best part about this film is not the twist, but rather everything David Twohy built up around. I like this film for its subtle character writing. I'm going to have to spoil the twist to really go into depth here, so I'll just tell you that Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich are the real killers, and the rest of the movie was mostly just a twisted cover-up of that fact to fool the viewer. Underhanded? Maybe. But look at Jovovich's character once this is revealed: she is pathetically in need of attachment, and as she puts it, "my need for attachment fits [Zahn's] need for detachment. Let's just admit it." She goes along with his psychobabble about immortality and stealing identities because it offers her the illusion of a real married life, and of love - which she wouldn't get with Zahn in reality. She is forced to get her satisfaction from lies and illusion, and the hints the movie throws at us before the final reveal become crushingly tragic on further viewings.

"It's sick and it's sad," she says, and that about sums up the entirety of the film. Steve Zahn's Rocky character ("Cliff's" real name) is a cold hearted psychopath with no real human feelings - "I love the idea of loving you," he tells Jovovich. "Why isn't that enough?" She asks him to be honest, even if he isn't. She begs him to play along and 'act like a married couple' because all she wants is, well, a normal married life, even if all he's doing is an insane power-trip fueled by murder and bloodlust. The way they play off each other is just brilliant, and it makes the rest of the movie that much more rewarding once it is revealed, and the juxtaposition between their twisted 'love' and the more genuine feelings between Olyphant and Sanchez makes the whole thing that much more gripping and engaging to watch. There's a looooong flashback sequence that establishes all of this, and the great writing and dialogue makes it a real treat to watch even as it deviates from the exciting chase of the rest of the film. A thriller with elaborated depth to the characters and their relationships - who would've thought?

Just the fact that this was elaborated on so much in the revealing of the twist does admittedly make the bonkers climax a little disappointing, but even then, it's still pretty well done and entertains even in the most Hollywoodized moments of the entire film. A Perfect Getaway works because it combines high-octane thrills with in-depth character study to make for a really entertaining film. It does have its problems in the numerous references in the dialogue to 'a twist in the second act' and other things pertaining to Zahn's fake screenwriter personality, and in the weird editing where you get like three panels on screen at once showing different things - but the good things about it save it. And it is stylish enough not to hamper anything too much, anyway.

All in all, a success! Now to keep looking over my shoulder and distrusting everyone to make sure they're not out to kill me and steal my identity...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Review: Race to Witch Mountain (2009)

Director: Andy Fickman
Starring: The Rock, Carla Gugino, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig

Have you ever wanted a movie with compelling themes, wonderful acting and characters with depth to them? Have you ever wanted a movie in which extraterrestrial space themes are explored and given new insight into? Maybe just a movie where the humor is at least competent? Well, if you answered yes...the exit door is to your right.

Race to Witch Mountain stars the Rock as a taxi driver being hounded by the mafia, two blonde kids as space aliens with no personalities and Carla Gugino as an alien nut trying to be 'serious' about her craft in a convention of sci fi nerds who would rather talk about crop circles. Because that right there is just a formula for success! The movie starts off with the Rock driving his taxi, probably cursing himself for ever taking that Tooth Fairy role and having to drive taxis to get money when no studio will hire him anymore. Witness the awe-inspiring strangeness of the two Stormtroopers from Star Wars that get in the taxi...okay, what? I mean WHAT THE FUCK?! In the first two minutes of the movie you give me this? What kind of a hellish ride are we in for?

It turns out that they're just people in costumes, imagine that, there for a sci fi convention for all the other nerds in Las Vegas. Yes, this is about what passes for comedy in this film. Along with bumbling FBI agents and annoying geeks who flirt with apparently any women that come up to talk to them. Heinous.

Carla Gugino gets in the car after the stormtroopers are kicked out, and then the real movie begins. Basically the story is that this flying saucer has crashed out at Witch Mountain, and the FBI gets a hold of it - but wait! Where are the inhabitants? Apparently they get into the Rock's taxi while he's kung-fu fighting and playing Dukes of Hazzard with the mafia, and they tell him to drive them to this old house where they can find something or other to help them out - I don't know, my mind is too busy being blitzkrieged by the colorful action scenes. There's this Predator ripoff bounty hunter guy out to get them. Their back story is basically that they have to come to Earth to get air for their poisoned atmosphere, or something. Oh, and the two kids have special powers - mind reading for the girl and...well, this weird thing where he can solidify or liquidify his molecules, or something. I have to admit that second power is pretty cool, and lends to probably my favorite scene, when the kid lets the mafia truck crash into him and it just kind of explodes while he's still standing there, unharmed. But the characters still aren't that interesting, and the backstory is just skimmed over in a few seconds.

And how about the Rock in general? His acting is as cardboard as it gets, and so is his character. Ooh, he's playing the 'nice, good looking, muscular guy with a shady past that has a lame sense of humor and makes dumbass jokes when he does something that might otherwise be cool'? Count me in! Although maybe I shouldn't make fun of him. After all, any guy that can defeat a whole lab of FBI people trained for hectic situations with just one other person in tow...is probably not anyone I want to fuck with.

Yup, there's your movie. Shiny, lightning-speed action scenes, a taxi driver being chased by the mafia and, oh yeah, probably the least impressive movie space ship I've ever seen out of something that actually had a budget. It looks like a flaming bagel, or maybe a Beyblade. This movie is stupid. There's no real substance to it, the plot is phoned in and the characters aren't that interesting. But in all reality, I guess it could have been worse. This is a pretty harmless movie for all its stupidity, and sometimes it's kind of funny, even if it's just in spite of itself. Compared to some of the other shit I've reviewed...I'll take this any day.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Fog of War - Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003)

Starring Robert S. McNamara
Directed by Errol Morris

The Fog of War is a documentary featuring an interview with former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, who tells his side of the story involving the major events of the 20th century and the role that he played in them.


This is a fantastic documentary. It allows people to understand why the late defense secretary made the controversial decisions that came to define his career. What unfolds is an intriguing look into how a war should and should not be operated. It discusses the sacrifices that are involved and dives into the question of whether conflict among human beings is inevitable. It is also a personal story about a man approaching his nineties and wanting to redeem himself in the eyes of the history. It does not take a stance on whether Robert McNamara was right or wrong concerning what he did or the lessons that he gives in the documentary itself; it simply tells his side of the story (granted, with editing and creative control issues involved) and allows people to decide for themselves. This is all enhanced with telling archival footage and strong symbolic imagery, which is accompanied by great music from Philip Glass.


When McNamara died in 2009, many people saw him as an intelligent man, but one who would always be known for his role in Vietnam. I do not know how many of them saw the documentary, nor do I know if it would have changed their minds at all. I admit that I did not know about Robert McNamara before I saw this documentary; now that that I have seen it, I know a lot more about him, but still do not know how I really feel about him. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this film because it illustrates how complex one person can be, and in a larger sense, how the world itself can be.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Review: The Hurt Locker (2009)

Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty

Magnificent - simply magnificent. The Hurt Locker is a wonderful film on several levels, from being a great war film to a greater character study. There are a lot of reasons why this movie is great, so...let's not waste any time, then. Let's just get started.

For one, maybe it's just because I haven't seen enough war movies, but I just love the whole idea behind this movie. It's about a bomb squad in Iraq, focusing specifically on three guys in the team in the dregs of their perilous forty-day mission to disarm the area of various bombs. It's really exciting. The tension is just electric. You will be on the edge of your seat - this is some seriously fiery, intense stuff. As they go out and risk their lives, you feel like you're risking yours. There's something incredibly drawn out and tired about this, and people who aren't watching with their full attention might mistake this for boredom, but really it's just doing what any war movie does, setting the atmosphere. War isn't glamorous, it's tiring, parching and incredibly dire, and this movie makes you feel all of that. So it works.

The characters are the second main drawing point. There's Sanborn, who is cautious, soldierly and wise, Eldridge, who is younger and not exactly happy about having to risk his life every day, worried about dying in Iraq, and Thompson. Thompson, who...gets blown up a few minutes in, and is replaced by Sergeant Will James, who is the protagonist of the picture. He is a very well written character, one of the best I have seen out of mainstream films of recent times. The writing is just fantastic, the acting is wonderful and as such, the character becomes incredibly fascinating and engaging. The emotional draw is there, and he really just feels like a real life person who this could have been a documentary about.

I mean...this is just amazing. It's nothing but distilled cinematic wonder. Character development and suspense. There's something very human and real about all of this, that other movies I see out of Hollywood do not have. Sergeant James is depicted as a daredevil, going into dangerous situations without armor and removing his helmet to concentrate without his teammates talking in his ear. In one particularly memorable scene, he leads his squadron down dark alleys to chase the men who he suspects of killing the young Iraqi boy whom he had previously forged a friendship with. As Eldridge is assaulted, James' solution is to shoot him in the leg to surprise his attackers and get them out of there.

A dire plan, and it shows his biggest character flaw in his mad thirst for thrills, but that's what makes his character so good. He talks apathetically about his home life, and when he gets there, after his session is over, he can't seem to get back in the groove of things. The quote at the beginning of the film said 'war is a drug,' and that turns out to be true at the end as he steps back into the fray for an undefined amount of time. It's his calling - everyone has a place in the world and this is his.

And the other two guys are almost on that same level of greatness, character-wise. They really play off each other well, with their insecurities and motives clashing and making you feel like you're right there with them. I especially liked Eldridge's last lines as he's being carted off after being shot by James. "Thanks for saving my life...but fuck you for dragging us out on your little missions just so you can get your adrenaline fix!"

I think if I had to pick one scene as my favorite, it'd be the last bomb they had to disarm, attached to the guy. Everything about this scene just bleeds tension and suspense, and the way it unfolds is like watching a ticking Armageddon clock. It's just a great scene, and a satisfactory last action scene to go out on.

The Hurt Locker is a wonderful film. Say it's not accurate if you want, say it's too romanticized or whatever, but that's the thing - it's a movie. So what if it's a bit overblown? This is a great movie, with character writing as superb as it gets, exciting action scenes and a pace and motif that rewards the patient viewer. Every scene leaves an impact. The movie is powerful like a power surge to the entire body. See it, see it now.