DONNIE DARKO [2001] review

August 6, 2006

DONNIE DARKO is a strangely fascinating crazy movie. This isn’t a movie made to be easily understood. It’s definitely a WTF movie. I couldn’t even look at one of the characters, that image was too disturbing, had to block the screen with my hand when that character, Frank, was on screen. Scenes in the movie range from laugh out loud funny caused by teen rebellion to rage inducing against the conservatism of the burbs, to mystical mind travel through time all very nicely tied to a great 80’s soundtrack.

I am now a Jake Gyllenhaal fan. Having first taken notice of him in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, and now DONNIE DARKO, I am interested in seeing his other movies. Jena Malone played the perfect high school girlfriend. It made me think how that’s what I really want, a girlfriend like you had back in high school. Such a simple beauty. Tragic and beautiful.

The story includes elements of theoretical physics, determinism vs. free will, religion, and changing fate. What it doesn’t include are unimportant things like what do Donnie’s parents do for a living? Why don’t the parents care that the kids swear at the dinner table?

THE DESCENT [2005] review

August 4, 2006

These are the words that stick in my mind after viewing THE DESCENT. I am not into horror movies, but I wanted to see this one. You have to prepare yourself before watching this movie for the workout, for the hardcore punishment you are going to take. You have to be prepared to feel utter despair and hopelessness for the situation the characters find themselves in. Slowly, but well paced, the viewer realizes more and more the predicament the characters are in, and why. The back story is not much, but enough to provide motivation for all involved.

The directing, camerawork, and editing are all top-notch, which is needed when filming in such claustrophobic conditions. The establishing shots for the ride to the cave, note perfect, the establishing shots upon entering the cave, note perfect, the camerawork in the tomb like crevices of the cave, note perfect. When camera gimmicks are used, they are highly effective at portraying what the character is actually seeing. … No nonsensical quick cuts so you don’t know what’s what. Clear, concise editing of all the action.

The story has 6 British women going on a supposedly easy caving expedition in North Carolina in an attempt to cheer up a character who lost her husband and daughter in a freak car accident. Once inside, the particular skills of each woman become life saving, be it the anthropological and medical skills of one character, the rock climbing skills of another, and least of which the steady and confident leadership of the stand out performance by Natalie Mendoza’s character. The camera loves her, even covered in grime, and so do I.

…As they sink deeper, so does the viewer’s fear. Tension is applied for a long time, and released just in time so that you don’t lose your mind yourself. … The last shot of the film will burn into your mind.