THE DEPARTED [2006] review

February 26, 2007

I wasn’t really motivated to see this movie for several reasons, least of which were very mixed reviews. However, after it got nominated for Best Picture, I thought i’ll at least try it as I usually almost always see all five Best Picture nominees. For the first 2/3 or more of this movie, I was totally feeling it. The pacing was sharp, I was quite riveted and at times I actually forgot that I watching a bunch of movie stars. In a movie like this, it really wasn’t like watching characters as all the actors were so familiar. I wasn’t buying Jack Nicholson as a mob boss for one minute, was wondering why Alec Baldwin was in the movie at all, and enjoying Matt Damon and Leonardo unknowingly battle each other. People said Leo’s performance was better in THE DEPARTED than in BLOOD DIAMOND, but I think I prefer his performance in the latter. I saw more range in that role. In this movie, I really didn’t understand his motivation to so strongly go after the mafia.

The story is very intriguing, with one mobster becoming a cop to be a source of inside info, and a seemingly good kid becoming a cop because he wanted to be a cop, but being asked to live among the mobsters. Watching them each try to find out the identity was good cinema. But then the last quarter of the movie…..it just made everything seem pointless. It left me feeling like, “umm, so why then did I just watch this movie?”

So for me this is a good movie, with a flawed final act that has no business being nominated for Best Picture. I will continue to pull for LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE tomorrow.

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE [2006] review

February 24, 2007

The Universe tried to stop me from seeing LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, but F the Universe. … And I am much the better for it. … IT’s now 2:49am and I can hardly keep my eyes open by my balcony sliding glass door is open to winter and wind and my mind is racing, and the good vibes from seeing this special movie resonate through my whole being. I feel like I’ve been woken up from a great ice encased slumber, and I woke up to tell the Universe to F itself. I literally went out on my balcony a few minutes ago and screamed “F you!!!” … That’s what this movie has inspired me to do.

…All movies I find great have one common characteristic, a memorable, moving soundtrack. … I am listening to it right now and its an ethereal, emotional, American score of European accent that defines being on the Road with one’s eyes bent on the horizon, just trying to get where you are going, letting nothing stop you, not even Death.

…And I could not be stopped.

…There is still nothing greater than the open Road in America.

…Olive is a 7-year old girl who is super stoked to make it into a beauty pageant of some sorts. Trained by her grandfather who snorts H and surrounded by a brother in the middle of a vow of silence, an uncle who just tried to commit suicide, a supportive but frazzled mother and a father who has got 9 steps for those that “refuse to lose.”

What a movie with spirit…..what a movie to rally by. What a movie to show that the human spirit is F-ed in this new century, but damn it it can still find at least one day to triumph! See this movie, then stand on your balcony and scream something! I had no movie to pull for for the Best Picture Oscar, but now I do.

…Those beauty pageant contestants were the most horrific and disgusting things I’ve ever seen on film.

DREAM: “…well, too bad because you’re TOO LATE!”

February 23, 2007

So I walked out into the warm Florida sunshine, I noticed the clothes I was wearing, shorts, button-up chill shirt, unknown summer type shoes, I thought I never dress like this anymore, but it felt comfortable. … I handed her my memo saying to come to this place, and I believe without talking she handed me another slip that looked exactly the same, just with a different location on it.

Now I can’t remember for sure if there was another place I went to next before the final destination. But I think from the desk of the semi-pretty blonde girl, I went directly to the final spot I needed to, or maybe before going to the semi-pretty blonde there was another stop.

So I consult a map on a wall, and realize I have to take a small bridge to the next building to get where I need to. … As I entered the next building, I entered a wide room filled with two pianos, one normal looking and the other like double-wide. … I didn’t see all around the room, just the immediate area around me, although to my left I did notice a big desk and perhaps another door behind it leading to who knows where.

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THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI [1957] review

February 18, 2007

I had been waiting for a rainy Sunday for a long time on which to watch THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, a movie I have slight memories of from an unknown time in my childhood or adolescence. I didn’t remember much of the storyline at all, so I was pleasantly surprised by each turn of the story. As the movie went on, which is quite some time with a running time of 161 minutes, I found myself remembering a few more scenes. … The first third is a test of wills between a proud and stubborn British army colonel memorably played by Alec Guinness and an equally proud and stubborn Japanese colonel. I hardly recognized his voice as that of Obi-Won’s until the end of the film. Neither man was to give an inch, but one of them needs something done. That would be the Japanese colonel, who needs a bridge built by a fast approaching date. If this endentured task is to be done by the British prisoners, it will be done on their terms or not at all.

Another storyline follows an American soldier from jungle to hospital to jungle.

…This is one of those movies that certainly couldn’t get made today. There are no hero shots, no one-liners, just men acting like men in a jungle, with occasional hints at romance with local girls, who all just happen to be incredibly beautiful. A long, slow story that is almost always compelling is allowed to be told in its own time. In this way, there is enough time for the movie to illustrate the Japanese way of doing things, the British way of doing things, and the American way of doing things. The positives and negatives of all three ways play themselves out. This was more impacting to me now than it ever could have been as a child having spent almost 4 years living in Japan and having made several British friends.

After the movie’s methodical pace, the climax comes somewhat all of a sudden, leaving one character only able to utter a single word, twice. Save this one for a rainy Sunday afternoon, a great movie that deserves a proper moment to be watched in.

MONSTER HOUSE [2006] review

February 18, 2007

The word on MOSTER HOUSE was that it was an entertaining movie for both kids and adults. So I was looking forward to this movie as I like haunted houses in the neighborhood storylines that are not also slasher films. However, I was soon disappointed. Hence my great delay in writing this review. I was turned off by the style of CGI animation used. I thought the environment looked great, but the kids themselves looked dead and clumsy. I didn’t care about any of them and they were all too cliched to make any impression.

There are a couple “twists” in the story I guess, which actually seemed kind of evil and maybe not really legal. The best scenes of the movie are all before they enter the house. After that, the movie loses its way.

IDIOCRACY [2006] review

February 17, 2007

Wow, I didn’t plan on watching Mike Judge’s IDIOCRACY tonight. I only did because VOLVER’s subtitles were all messed up. I knew IDIOCRACY was about America becoming super dumb, but I had no idea how far Mike Judge would take it. He was really inventive and creative in how far he took it, but it was so far that it actually hurt my brain watching it. Then just now browsing cnn.com and seeing an article about Britney Spears shaving her head, and just clicking on it, and then reading it, I felt myself being like those people in the movie. I usually try to avoid reading idiot stories like that. I bet 10 years ago CNN would never put a story like that on its front page. Now, it’s increasingly common.

Luke Wilson plays a very average man 500 years in the future where his average intellect is now almost super human. He finds that his perceived intelligence makes doing anything extremely frustrating or extremely easy in the future, super dumb U.S. He has a “painter” companion in this future, someone who watches SNL might recognize.

There are some good, crude laughs in the movie, but afterwards my mind feels like it got coated in lard. Maybe I should read some Shakespeare or listen to a symphony to smarten up again. Don’t operate heavy machinery after seeing this movie!

UPDATE August 31, 2012:

I rewatched this movie with eldest friend Terry and now after sometime think I saw a director’s cut back in 2007 as I feel there might have been some scenes missing from the version I watched this time.  The movie held up pretty well and did not make my brain hurt as much this time as I could manage expectations more.

THE MALTESE FALCON [1941] review

February 12, 2007

Could modern actors memorize all the lines that Humphrey Bogart had to in THE MALTESE FALCON? He even acknowledges his character’s output of words in the movie, asking a stenographer if he’s going to fast. Somehow, the stenographer says it’s no problem and that he’s getting it all. Being a person who writes extremely slow, I would be quite impressed if the stenographer could actually write verbatim all that Sam Spade barked out. Spade, as Bogart plays him, could be the biggest bad-ass in movie history that never fired a gun. Spade is a character impossible to intimidate, who is supremely talented at intimidation himself. I haven’t seen that many film noir movies, but having see BRICK last year, it prepared me for the rapid fire dialogue delivery and P.I. lingo.

The story of FALCON involves only a small handful of characters all trying to not tell each other things, and usually lying when they are forced to talk. It’s Spade’s job to sort through all their stories and make sure he doesn’t wind up the one in the police’s hands in the end. Though he’s in quite a jam, he seems to relish it actually. He uses his wide net of allies in the city, from a driver with plenty of gas, to a hotel manager, but most of all his supremely faithful secretary whom he often entrusts with important missions.

…You can see hints of the famous Bogart facial tick a few times.

…The script, as mentioned, is jam packed with dialogue that is not too hard to follow, but the joy of the movie is watching Bogart enter various situations and throw his weight around. It’s hard to feel the impact of these old, classic movies I think. A certain appreciation can be had, but the impact of seeing a movie some 60+ years after its release having prior seen so many copies of it since is not the same for me as seeing a movie recently released. Or maybe FALCON just didn’t move me that much as I cared little about any character and never buy those two conversations and then a couple is in love storylines so popular in older movies, and even some modern ones.

Still, the movie never drags and keeps you thinking and thoroughly entertained, and contains one of the all-time classic movie lines at the end.

Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens

February 7, 2007

Hamamatsucho, Tokyo, Japan — After visiting an organic festival, I visited Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens with Canadian Mike and his Japanese girlfriend Kumi. This small park is one of about 12 official gardens throughout Tokyo. I intend to visit all of them and have visited about 4 so far. We found this park on a mild, late Saturday afternoon. We had it mostly to ourselves, maybe 4 other couples traipsed around its wintery barrenness, yet we were far from alone as many animal friends were more than happy to see us.

We first noticed all the common pochard ducks (aythya ferina) on the central pond. Such ponds are typical in all Japanese gardens and parks. … Grabbing our attention, though, was a mass of coy-type fish. In particular a whole bunch were swarming into a small nook in the pond’s edge, all pushing strongly against the fish in front of them to get to the edge. At the very edge, lying calmly and unphased, was the largest of all the fish, looking ghostly in its pale color and glazed eyes. I thought of it as the alpha fish. (see video below)

From this bustle, we walked on to the remaining, docile parts of the park, a perfect semi-oasis from the city towering all around. Though the city was not at all out of sight, like most parks and gardens in Tokyo, a strong sense of nature still pervaded over all. I was quite taken with this small park, so much so that I took 71 photos and 3 minutes of video in all!

All the flora was not barren though, as I found a small hillside of stately yellow flowers that looked like mini-daffodils. Before taking our leave, I went off on my own and watched some more fish swim, and stare at the shimmering reflections of the surrounding skyscrapers upon the pond’s rippled surface.

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